Six months ago, I launched a micro-farming business.
What I mean by that is that we got two white hens.
A neighbor offered them to us for free, and I thought it would be fun to get fresh, free-range eggs every day. I was a little nervous and also excited as I carried them home in a quivering cardboard box last November.
We built them a coop, fed them well, and then excitedly checked daily for eggs.
But, day after day, we didn’t find any.
I ask for advice from a few chicken experts. I got various possible explanations for why they were not producing: the winter was too cold; we were not feeding them enough grains; we did not have a well-appointed “laying box”; snakes were coming and stealing their eggs (!); or, could it be that they were not hens, but roosters?
Based on their advice, we did what we could to fix the situation (though some biological facts are not within our power to change :)).
However, six months later there is still not a single egg in sight.
On the other hand, an unexpected benefit came out of our chicken venture. My children adore the chickens, who accept their energetic attentions with absolute docility. My kids spent many hours feeding, petting, playing with and lavishing love on the chickens over Pesach vacation.
At least we were getting some free animal therapy out of the deal!
Last week, my daughter’s kindergarten class paid a visit to our garden and all the girls clamored to play with the chickens. The assistant teacher came over to thank me and then mentioned that her husband is a shochet and can help if we are looking to make some very fresh chicken soup this Shabbos.
A whole new world of possibilities opened before my eyes. Maybe we should cut our losses and shecht these chickens? Then we could get some chicks, which would be fun to raise and would hopefully lay eggs when the time comes.
But how could we eat these girls??? They can be quite grotesquely cute at times.
Today it occurred to me that my failed chicken venture is a lot like a business venture that doesn’t go as planned. Like most entrepreneurs, I’ve had a few of those over the years.
When I start something new, I’m filled with excitement and confidence in my impending success. I push my nerves aside and take the plunge.
But it usually doesn’t take long to realize that all is not going as planned. My venture does not produce the “Golden Eggs” I was expecting.
I seek the advice of experts and it’s helpful. I tweak my messaging, I invest more in marketing, I repackage my offering. But I discover there is no magical solution to my unique business problem.
I go deeper and try changing my business model. That can be so much work, it’s almost like starting over, and I don’t know if it will pay off. But I have to try!
I consider giving up many times. I dream of starting something completely new, something different and better… but it’s not simple to give up on something I’ve invested so much in.
The more I think about it, the more I’m amazed by the parallels between my chicken venture and some of the more challenging business problems I’ve faced over the years.
I realized that my “micro-farm” is a business venture in every sense. It’s just the stakes are much lower than usual.
I guess that’s another unexpected benefits of these two white hens – they encouraged me to take an honest look at what happens when my business dreams do not come true.
Whenever I read an interview with a successful entrepreneur who makes it sound like their career was a trajectory of success, I know that they are telling tales.
Failure is something that we all deal with regularly – not just in the past before we “found what works” (as some business gurus would like to tell you).
It’s an integral part of being the kind of person who is willing to take a risk and make their dreams a reality.
Failure is difficult.
And now, onto the next adVenture!
PS. This afternoon my daughter asked me to help her find one of the chickens, who was hiding. After a lot of searching, I found her well-hidden under a fallen tree branch, guarding her treasure.