This is a business owner who has reached out to Slow Money NC.
Business Owner: Sue Stovall
Paradox Farm Creamery
Location: West End, NC
Tell us your story. What is your business idea? Tell us your plan. I am the owner of Paradox Farm Creamery, a farmstead goat cheese producer. We are in our 6th year of commercial cheese production. Our cheese is sold at local farmer’s markets, restaurants and small shops. We are in the position where to become financially sustainable we need to grow.
Currently we produce 4 types of fresh goat cheese, 3 raw milk aged cheeses. We also purchase cow’s milk from a local dairy and regularly produce cheese curds and cheddar. Some of our fun value added products have included fudge, ravioli and cheese cake.
I have a full time cheese maker who has been with me for 4 years and is committed to our success. Our farm hand has been with me for a year and is additionally committed to our mission. We use part time employees and WWOOFERs through the busy season.
Last year I purchased an old tobacco barn, moved it to the farm and restored it in hopes of putting a cheese cave inside and using for storage outside. With poor timing I have recently launched a crowd funding campaign. Fundraising for the cave during a time of catastrophic weather doesn’t sit well in my heart, so I am in search of other funding assistance.
A cheese cave allows us it extend our selling season. We age our cheeses 60-120 days. When fresh milk is not available during the winter, the aged cheese will continue to allow for the sales to support the animals and staff year round.
We are also planning a change in our herd. I have realized that I farm by heart. When you raise animals for food production you embrace your animals as family, making allowances for less than optimal production. I have found a few Saanen does for sale. My intent is to re-home some of our smaller does to families that want to homestead. The Saanens with produce much greater quantities of milk with fewer mouths to feed and animals to maintain.
With the increase in milk production we would also like to upgrade our current 30 gallon cheese making vat/pasteurizer to a 45 gallon vat. Our dairy friends have a used vat for sale.
Other ways we are increasing exposure for our products is with additional events on the farm. We just hosted our first ever pairing event. 30 people bought tickets to send a few hours with us in a cocktail like environment. Twice a year we host an Open Farm Day, the fall event is October 8th. In the spring we welcomed over 600 friends to the farm. We sell cheese, host vendors, food and wine trucks and tour the farm and dairy. This past year we also began to charge a $5 parking fee. It is otherwise free to the public.
We have a wonderful product, a great community outreach and employees to support. Farming has it’s moments.. but some of the moments are what I live for.
Please briefly describe your commitment to sustainable food systems in North Carolina. Paradox Farm uses NC resources to feed our animals. We purchase from local hay producers and have recently ordered grain from a NC mill.
We are vendors for the local co-op, farmer’s market and restaurants. The local Food Corp volunteers over the years have been able to work part-time for us during their tenure in Moore County Schools. We are members of the local Farmer’s Cooperative and have supported the recent opening of the Sandhills Agri-inovation center. On the personal level I make my family crazy reminding them that the food I am about to serve them is local and where it comes from…now if I could get them to practice that as well.
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? Our average sales for 2014-2016 is $60,000/year. We are not yet sustainable. The last three years I have spent down my personal savings to keep the farm running knowing it will take hold. On paper projections we look great! Farming reality is less predictable. I am beginning to work with the Women’s Business Center NC. With their assistance I am confident I can find the holes in our operations systems.
Have you borrowed money before? Is there a balance still due on that loan?: We borrowed $13,000 a few years back from Farm Credit to purchase our Polar King refrigeration unit and bucket milker system. That loan is payed back in full. I have minimal debt for my home (<50K) and no outstanding notes on the dairy.
Do you have people who would vouch for your credit worthiness? Yes! I bank at First National Bank in Southern Pines and also with Fidelity in Aberdeen.
Tell us about your business background. Have you been in business before? My first career was as a physical therapist. I was self employed through most of my almost 40 years in practice. I employed as many as 25 employees at one time with multiple clinics and locations. I retired from that practice in January 2016.
What is your timeline for this project? I am ready to go on the cheese cave and the goats. The cheese vat will be available in mid to late October.
Come visit and taste our cheese – and I’ll show you where the magic occurs!