Kathy O'Hara of runnerbean.com
(This is one of four segments of the July Valley Business FRONT cover story on Micro-Business. Three more profiles follow this one.)
Owner: Kathy O'Hara
Type of Business Runner-Bean.com is a Web-based farmers market; Greens to Go is a hoophouse producing salad greens
Financing: Owner’s retirement account, a brother and a friend
Total employees: 2
Kathy O’Hara was having a time of it finding a college-level teaching job, but had run a market garden in Goshen for 10 years prior to moving to Roanoke. “This was a natural extension to support myself with something I knew about,” she says.
"I like working with farmers and I like creating networks of people. Finding solutions to tangible infrastructure problems is challenging and interesting. This is such a new area that it will take some creativity to match farmer capacity with market demand.”
Kathy has had to work at marketing what is new: a Web-based food market. Runner-Bean has not yet fully succeeded and “I suspect I need much better marketing skills,” she says. “I depend heavily on my Web designer and the communication has not always been productive or timely.”
Greens to Go is doing well, “both productively and financially.”
Marketing and time management are the major challenges. She is concentrating “on keeping good financial records so I can track my progress. So far, so good.” <
The businesses are “too small an operation right now to sustain me, but hold promise for expansion. I've had a lot of support from VT Earthworks in making that work, and from Tom Tanner at the Small Business Development Center in Roanoke. I couldn't do this by myself.