~ Dawnbreaker Farms ~

This is a business owner who has reached out to Slow Money NC. 

Business Owner:  Ben Grimes
Business Name:   Dawnbreaker Farms
Location:   3200 Breeze Rd, Hurdle Mills, NC 27541

How did you hear about Slow Money NC?: Originally I heard about Slow Money NC from some internet search years ago following my discovery of the concept of Slow Money and Woody Tasch’s book. Most recently I was reintroduced to the subject via a presentation by Carol Hewitt.

Tell us your story. What is your business idea? Tell us your plan.
My name is Ben Grimes and I am a fourth year farmer. Having grown up in Seattle to the parents of serial entrepreneurs I come at farming from the perspective of being a viable entrepreneurial business. Though my passion lies with tending and nurturing soil and life I realize that without profit serving as lifeblood my business is dead.

Since 2013 I have carefully grown the business and reinvested much of the farm’s profit into expanding and growing enterprises which are firmly establishes. Those being pasture-raised chickens, pigs and turkeys. At this juncture I wish to push some lifeblood into a new venture – grassfed lamb. I have dabbled with sheep in the past and recently butchered the 7 breeding stock that I have kept and managed for several years. My goal for 2018 is to purchase 20 Katahdin-Dorper feeder lambs. These lambs would be purchased in April as four month old weaned lambs from Back Creek Farm in Statesville, NC. I would raise them on grass alone until December when they would be butchered for sale at farmer’s markets, buying clubs and wholesale channels.

Please briefly describe your commitment to sustainable food systems in North Carolina.: As an urban kid from environmentally conscious Seattle I have always been drawn to environmental causes. I religiously recycled, took public transportation and reduced my consumption of consumer goods. Somehow that lifestyle never translated into the food I was eating until I came across Michael Pollan’s “The Omnivore’s Dilemma”. That book opened my eyes to the environmentally disastrous food system that I was wholeheartedly participating in. I had no idea my food choices were leading to systematic exploitation and degradation of the same earth that I worked so hard to preserve. Overnight I began seeking out alternatives of how to create a more sustainable food system.

After many years that path led me to start Dawnbreaker Farms which has the three pronged mission to regenerate the ecosystem with livestock, generate a profit and livelihood for the farmer and teach others to do the same.

This commitment runs deep in everything that we do from the management of the animals, to the grazing patterns we employ and the way we treat farm guests and employees. We ambitiously strive to use this farm as the practical launching pad for the regeneration of our land, economy and our culture.

What will your sales be? What do you anticipate your profits/your margins will look like? How will you make the money to pay this loan back?: The gross sales off of 20 lambs are projected to be ~$13,400 with the net profit being ~$4,700. This net is after all expenses paid including land and labor costs. There is a spreadsheet which has been shared with Slow Money NC which shows the breakdown of my projected numbers.

Have you borrowed money before? How much did you borrow? From where? How long was the term? Is there a balance still due on that loan?: Yes, I have borrowed money from several places in the past. These include family members, credit cards and banks for mortgage. In all I have borrowed about $20,000 to grow this business. I also have a mortgage of just slightly more than $200,000.

In more recent times I have eschewed all forms of debt and worked assiduously to eliminate all debt from my life and business. I am now at the point where I have no personal debt except the mortgage (which is a quasi personal/business liability). The farm still has some debt but that is being hammered away at with laser intensity. As of this moment the farm has paid off all but $6,000 of it’s debts, minus the mortgage. (By the way, mort=death and gage=grip i.e. mortgage = death grip. Think about it…)

Personally, I feel that I can not be free with debt hanging over me and was loathe to ever assume more debt to grow my business. But when I heard a presentation from Carol Hewitt it changed my perspective of a Small Money P2P loan from the average debt that strangles our culture to one that fits within the larger farm’s context of regenerating our economy. By working together a farmer and lender can mutually participate in the advancement of food, farming, economy and ecosystem. In this light of societal advancement I humbly approach Slow Money NC and potential investors with a funding request.

Do you have people who would vouch for your credit worthiness? Who are they?: Yes, beyond family members who I have borrowed money from the best source would likely be the local feed mill who is my largest farm partner in terms of expenses and centrality to the functioning of my business. I source all of my feed through them as well as a good amount of general farm supplies.

I have been working with this mill, the Hurdle Mills Farm and Feed Store, since 2013. We have worked on 30 day terms, which were recently increased to 60, and they are extremely flexible during the fall before Thanksgiving when the farm is extremely cash strapped. Having seen my honest approach to business and steadfast diligence in payments Michael Dixon, the owner of this mill, would be an excellent person who could vouch for my credit worthiness.

Tell us about your business background. Have you been in business before?: Coming from a family of entrepreneurs I have been immersed in business practices my entire life. Most directly my parents owned and operated the first flagship Birkenstock store in Seattle, WA. It was through watching them that I learned about inventory management, marketing, caring for employees, the importance of integrity and engagement with the wider community.

For several years overseas I operated as a private English teacher going house to house teaching English to children, youths and adults. Although I didn’t see it at the time this was my first business. Although much simpler than my current businesses I learned communication skills with my customers and income and expense tracking.

In recent times I have two businesses which are central to my time and income. Primarily is Dawnbreaker Farms which has been in operation since 2013 and is the business for which this application is written. Of all my experiences operating this farm has been the largest opportunity to learn about sound business practices. I have managed all aspects from production to marketing to bookkeeping.

My second business is Dependable Poultry Processors which started only last fall with the demise of the state and region’s only inspected poultry processing facility. Dawnbreaker Farms had already invested in equipment, infrastructure and labor to process our own poultry on farm. When the state opened up the exemption to allow for on farm processors like ourselves to process commercially we jumped on the opportunity. The creation and operation of this second business has been a positive learning curve for me. Although not as profitable on the surface as the farm it operates on an entirely different cash flow. To generate a profit for the farm I must first purchase, raise and slaughter the animals -a process which takes at the very least a few months of expenses. With the processing business there are no expenses until I open the doors and I get paid the same day.

All of my life experiences to this point have put me in a position to thrive in the entrepreneurial setting. I enjoy the opportunity to produce, market, grow and engage in this business and the community that it is a part of.

Are there other lenders involved in your project or business?: Outside of the business debts already mentioned there are not lenders involved in this project of business.

What is your timeline for this project? Would you like it to start in a month? 6 months? A year?: I would like this project to start in April when the weaned lambs become available.