Nicole Gennetta of Heritage Acres Market: From Avocation To Vocation; How I Turned My Hobby Into A Career
Progress Over Perfection — People get caught up in making every detail perfect. In reality, this isn’t feasible. It is better to put things out there that may not be perfect than to lose progress fretting over the details.
As a part of our series about entrepreneurs who transformed something they did for fun into a full-time career, I had the pleasure of interviewing Nicole Gennetta.
Nicole Gennetta is the founder of Heritage Acres Market and the Backyard Bounty podcast. Combining her passion for raising animals, beekeeping, gardening, and learning, Nicole created an online educational resource for new and aspiring hobby farmers. You can learn more about Nicole and her business at HeritageAcresMarket.com.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a bit about your “childhood backstory”?
It’s an honor! Thank you for having me.
Growing up in Colorado, I always loved nature and the outdoors. We had a few chickens and a small garden, but that was about it. My mom’s coworker had honey bees, and I was always fascinated by that. As a young teenager, I volunteered for several years at a raptor center- a rehabilitation facility for injured birds of prey. All of this accumulated into my desire to have a hobby farm of my own when I “grew up.”
What was the catalyst from transforming your hobby or something you love into a business? Can you share the story of your “ah ha” moment with us?
To be honest, I had no intention of turning my website into a business. I had no desire to be a cliche blogger.
For the majority of my adult life, I served my community as a Firefighter/Paramedic. At times, the job would be slow, so I created the website to fill the time. I have always been interested in technology and computers. I also really love learning and teaching, so a website seemed like a good platform for me. My goal was simply to combat the rampant misinformation about backyard chickens that I was constantly finding online and help new chicken owners succeed.
Fast forward a few years, and I was involved in an on the job injury that led to a career ending medical retirement at the age of 32. This was my “ah ha” moment. I wanted to turn my hobby, which by this time had a decent foundation, into my new career.
There are no shortage of good ideas out there, but people seem to struggle in taking a good idea and translating it into an actual business. How did you overcome this challenge?
I think that if you are interested in something, there are thousands (or more) of other people that are interested in the same thing. The internet has been able to connect people of all interests, no matter how unique they may be.
For example, I love backyard chickens and beekeeping, but there is certainly no shortage of others in my niche. And that’s ok! The internet is a big place with enough space for everyone. I was worried that people would not want to read my articles because there are other much more notable websites my space. But I have found that my readers appreciate the way that I deliver information. Some of the information may even be similar to that found on other websites. But my perspective and presentation resonate with some folks better.
So, my advice for those with an idea is to just go for it!
What advice would you give someone who has a hobby or pastime that they absolutely love but is reluctant to do it for a living?
I think it is ok to have a hobby or a pastime and let it be just that. If you are happy with things the way they are, then just keep doing it. What is “right” for one person may not be “right” for you. Not every hobby needs to become an income.
It’s said that the quickest way to take the fun out of doing something is to do it for a living. How do you keep from changing something you love into something you dread? How do you keep it fresh and enjoyable?
I have found that I have good days and bad days. The only time I have felt burnt out is when I have a lot going on in my personal life or if I have been working exceptionally hard on a project, such as writing a backyard chicken health book. After a month of 16 hour days on the computer working on the book, I needed to take a week off. My business is truly my passion, and most days, I can’t wait to dive in and start working on it.
When I feel burnt out, I find that a break, learning a new skill, or temporarily working on a different target gets me back on track. For example, when I was done writing my book, I needed a break from writing. Instead, I took some time to learn more about SEO. This was a good distraction that still benefited the business.
When all of that fails, I remind myself that I can just toughen up and do the work or go back to a day job. That usually gets things into gear.
When you have “bad” days and feel burnt out, give yourself permission to take a break. If your business is your passion, you’ll be ready to get back to work after some time.
What is it that you enjoy most about running your own business? What are the downsides of running your own business? Can you share what you did to overcome these drawbacks?
I most enjoy the freedom. I can wake up when I want, wear what I want, and work when and where I want. I also love being at home with my family, farm, and my dog.
The biggest drawback is that the work never ends. It doesn’t matter if you are on a tropical vacation, work never leaves your mind. Your success and your failure are the direct results of your actions (or inaction). A business needs constant work and can never be put on cruise control.
To overcome these drawbacks, I had to learn that I can only do so much on my own. Also, by trying to do everything myself, I was limiting my growth. The single most significant thing I have done is bring on some amazing people to help. My assistant is phenomenal and handles things for me when I do take a vacation. She can take care of the day to day things and monitor for something critical. It has allowed me the ability to take a break and relax every once in a while.
Can you share what was the most striking difference between your actual job and how you thought the job would be?
Honestly, I thought being self employed would entail sleeping in, working from home in my pajamas, and afternoon naps. I also thought that without a boss, I would also be less stressed. Boy, was I wrong.
I also found that I had to learn several new skills and concepts. I would never have expected that there would be so much to learn to run an online business.
In truth, I am working, or thinking about work, every minute of every day. Including the weekends, evenings, and on vacation.
And I am far too busy for afternoon naps. Or sleeping in.
I am definitely not complaining, and I love what I do, but it is certainly NOT what I expected.
Has there ever been a moment when you thought to yourself “I can’t take it anymore, I’m going to get a “real” job? If so, how did you overcome it?
I cannot say I have experienced this yet, but I am sure I will at some point. While making the leap to self employment was terrifying, I really can’t imagine my life back in a structured 9–5. I am a very independent person, and freedom is so important to me, I can’t fathom giving that up.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I have certainly made several mistakes along the way, but unfortunately, I can’t say that any of them have been too humorous.
If I had to pick my biggest mistake in general, it would be that I saw my business as a hobby for the first four years. Once I made the mental shift that this was my business, things came together in a magical way.
Who has inspired or continues to inspire you to be a great leader? Why?
I find myself regularly inspired by Gary Vaynerchuck. From the outside, he seems to be a great leader. He believes in kindness and empathy and helping others succeed. I have used him as an example in my business. I have a few freelancers that help me with different projects. I try to express my appreciation regularly and offer them tools and resources to better themselves and their works. When they can improve, so will the work they provide. Sure, some will decide to take on new projects after learning these new skils, but I hope to help improve their lives, which has a trickle effect. When one person succeeds, so does their family and their community.
How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
One of the key points in my Vision Statement is, “Education is the foundation of our work. We are dedicated to providing fact-, research-, and science-based information. We believe that education is the key to inspire positive change and success.”
I genuinely believe in the “If you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. If you teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime” philosophy. I also believe that helping others succeed and become self sufficient is one of the best ways to support individual growth and propel a positive change.
When one learns to become self sufficient or starts a hobby farm, in many cases, they then become stewards of the land and often share excess produce with others. These make positive impacts on the individual, our environment, and the community.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
- It’s Harder Work Than You Think
I touched on this one earlier, but having your own business is a ton of work! I envisioned short workdays and several vacations, but in truth, it is long days with never ending to do lists.
2. Progress Over Perfection
People get caught up in making every detail perfect. In reality, this isn’t feasible. It is better to put things out there that may not be perfect than to lose progress fretting over the details.
3. Find And Take Reputable Courses
When I first started, I didn’t realize how much I didn’t know. Come to find out, I needed to learn a LOT, including many new skills. I also fumbled my way through growing the business. I gained momentum when I took a course from someone who had been successful and explained precisely what I needed to do. I was able to learn from their mistakes and follow their roadmap, tweaking minor details as they applied to my business. I wish I had started with that course from the beginning and not four years in.
4. You Can’t Do It Alone
Don’t get me wrong, you can succeed on your own. But eventually, you’ll plateau. One person can only do so much, and everyone has weaknesses. I found that outsourcing the things I wasn’t good at left me more time to do the things that I like and enjoy. That made my days more enjoyable and helped the business grow as well.
5. Always Say YES
When an opportunity comes up (like this amazing interview), always say yes and figure out the details later. You never know what one experience may lead to.
What person wouldn’t want to work doing something they absolutely love. You are an incredible inspiration to a great many people. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
If I could inspire one movement, it would be kindness.
You honestly never know what the other person is going through. Even if they have a smile on their face, they may be experiencing tough times. I have also found that often times the meanest people are the ones that have the worst situations or feel really bad on the inside.
I challenge anyone reading this to compliment at least one stranger every day. Compliment their smile, their attire, or their service. Not only will you make their day brighter, but it will make you feel great too.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Many years ago, I read the quote, “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”
While the source of this quote is debated, I found it to resonate with me as a young teenager. At times I felt like I didn’t really fit it, and I was always a little different than my peers and rarely had the same interests. I was shy, introverted, did well in school, and loved computers and reading books. When I didn’t fit in, sometimes I would feel inferior or stupid.
Fast forward to adulthood, and my lack of fitting in actually helped me to develop skills that enabled me to start and grow my business. Once I found where I belonged (as a self employed business owner), I was no longer a fish trying to climb a tree.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
If I could pick one person in the world to have lunch with, it would again be Gary Vaynerchuck. Not only is he a successful businessman, but he teaches kindness and empathy. While I have never met him, he seems to be a sincere and humble person who uses his success to improve the lives of others. I find his business practices very inspirational, and I would love to meet him and learn how I can do better in helping others.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.