How to cultivate a small business that’s resilient.

Cultivating a resilient business that will stand up under pressure is just like growing a plant. In order for a seed to sprout, it must be planted in rich and healthy soil. As the founder of Ivy Leaf Farms, an urban farm in Houston, TX, dedicated to creating neighborhood wellness and food equity, I know how essential healthy soil is for hardy plant growth and all sustainable agriculture. Likewise, for a business to prosper and remain resilient in challenging times, it must be rooted on a solid foundation that includes three key pillars: a mission statement, business rapport, and leadership. With these components, you'll establish the bedrock needed to build a successful company that can weather adversity.

Creating a growth mission statement.

Establishing a mission statement is the first way to small business resiliency and keeping your business grounded. A mission statement is a short statement that highlights a business's overall goal, target audience, products and/or services. A mission statement also serves to identify the goal of the company's operations, what kind of product or service it provides, and its primary customers or market.

When I launched Ivy Leaf Farms last year to alleviate food insecurity in my neighborhood, I wanted to establish a mission statement that reflected the company's core values: sustainability, people, and growth. However, I realized that our original statement was constricting and didn't encompass the company's ultimate goal to completely transform Houston's Sunnyside neighborhood. So, we went back to the drawing board to compose a statement that gave the company enough leverage to grow with the ever-changing neighborhood. We eventually came up with "Ivy Leaf Farms is an urban farm rooted in complete neighborhood wellness through food equity." This new mission allowed us to work beyond creating a food system and partner with mental health professionals and clinicians to build the community mentally, physically, and emotionally.

Below are the questions we asked ourselves to develop the new growth mission, which you can use to create your statement.

  1. When you close your eyes and think about your brand/business, where do you see your business in 1-2 years?

  2. Where do you see your business in 3 - 5 years?

  3. What is your business end goal (e.g., to open a retail location, sell a million products by 2045, feed 100 members of my community, build a platform to be bought out by a larger company, or leave a legacy for my family)?

  4. Suppose you were dating your business, and you broke up. What would be the reason? Is there something you need to change within yourself or does your business structure require modification? (Asking odd questions like "would you date your business?" helps you think of your business as the moving body that it is.)

  5. If your business had an evil twin, what kind of activities would they be doing? Think about who/what your business is absolutely not.

  6. What problem does your business solve? If it does not solve a problem, who or what is your target customer? How does your business assist them?

  7. Now, write 2 - 3 sentences using what you now know about your business. Use this to draft your mission statement.


Building business rapport.

Having a good business rapport is another essential key in your business resilience strategy and success. Business Rapport is the process that establishes and creates a connection and culture between your business and your target customer. Maintaining and facilitating your business rapport's growth allows you to continue operating and establishes a sense of community and harmony amongst staff and customers.

Ivy Leaf Farms' business rapport is simple: we are fun, fresh, and never oversell our capabilities. Our business rapport is the love, safety, and happiness we give to anyone interacting with the farm.

When creating your business rapport, think about the feeling that your product or service gives customers. That feeling is what makes them open their wallets and support your business.

Here are a few questions to think about as you outline your business model:

  1. How do you want your customers and/or clients to feel when they experience your business?

  2. Does your product/service aim to change consumer perspectives?

  3. Does your business make the lives of the consumer easier? If not, can it?

  4. If you were a customer, what would you tell your best friend about your experience visiting/interacting with your business?

  5. What is the core strength of your business?

  6. What do you hope to accomplish with your business?


Servant leadership.

Servant leadership is the third fundamental principle in building a resilient business. True servant leaders run their companies from the front lines, making decisions that are team-focused while knowing that if they tell their team to run, that they, too, better have on running shoes.

According to Forbes, "servant leadership occurs when the leader's main goal and responsibility is to provide service to their people." When making decisions at Ivy Leaf Farms I do not ask anyone to do anything that I am not willing to do myself. I would never ask someone to till a field or build a fence if I could not put the sweat equity in myself.

A good servant leader also sticks to their word and over communicates with the members of their organization, and their clients.

To become a better servant leader, think about the following questions:

  1. What defines you as a leader?

  2. What does service mean to you?

  3. What do you admire about your leadership skills?

  4. What do you need to work on as a leader?

How your business reacts to outside stressors directly reflects your business's foundation, which is why it must be cultivated and rooted on a bedrock of solid leadership, principles, and values. Create and utilize a growth-centered mission statement, build a trustworthy and honest business rapport, and foster servant leadership skills to establish business resiliency. When in doubt, remember to remain open and ask the important questions to yourself. Never be scared to pivot or adapt to the new world or realizations of your business plan. Challenges in business will come and go; remember to ride the wave and grow through it all.

About the author.

Ivy Lorraine Walls is a budding farmer, community entrepreneur, and creative visionary in Houston, Texas. In 2015, Ivy began her journey selling apparel that praises and captures the essence of black and brown communities through Shop The Ivy Files.

Her passion for creating change and a sense of community helped her develop social networks such as Undisputed Excellence, Jeeping While Black, and Ivy Leaf Farms.

As a graduate of Prairie View A&M University, with a Bachelor's degree in Biology and a minor in Chemistry. Ivy previously worked as an Infection Preventionist. With the opportunity to work closely with Covid-19 patients during the current global pandemic, she quickly realized the importance of expediting her farming mobility ventures.

As a Jane of many trades, Ivy Walls hopes to continue nurturing her community while nurturing the world one initiative at a time.

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