How Red Clover Herbs & Market Came to Be
The Short Version!
by Tim Vosika
Liesl and I have been asked a certain question quite a few times now….Are we a franchise? The Short and long answer to that is...Nope…Maybe someday, but not yet. What used to be in the space we now call the other home was a shop called Herbs for Health. It was, primarily, a Nature’s Sunshine outlet (we still carry Nature’s Sunshine Products). Herbs for Health was brought to Idaho Falls by Frannie (the longest owner in our current location), and then she sold that business to Nancy, who then liquidated the remaining assets to us when Nancy was ready to retire from it. So, we did not purchase rights to that business – we had to start a new one with only the beginning assets we acquired. And to boot, Liesl and I did all of our own graphics including the signs and logo. Getting into this shop was not part of any immediate plan, it was an opportunity that approached us. We were not interested in trying to force another business. It was a cool solution to a problem we were having. And, it was all done cashless! But that is another part of the story, to be told at a later time.
Flagstaff, Arizona, is the original, minor, kick-off point for Liesl's Herbs. Liesl had developed a great tasting herbal tea blend and was giving it away to friends and acquaintances that were sick and needed help. In 2007, I had gone back to college at NAU (after our painting business failed during the economic crisis) and we were living on a very tight budget – so we could only give away so much herbal tea before we would run out and wouldn’t have any more! Some of the families started drinking the herbal tea blend daily and were insistent that they wanted to pay for the blend. We had little choice, so Liesl’s little home hobby herb business was born. At the time, she only brought in enough funding to keep her little business in fresh herbs.
Idaho Falls is the original, major, kick-off point for our herb business. After friends of ours convinced us to move here in 2011, jobs were hard to come by. I had to take temporary jobs, or jobs where I had to travel to be at, such as working on the painting crew at the LDS Boise, ID Temple renovation. Or, I had to work in Canada, Missouri, and Texas for a dome construction company. Liesl was also looking for work, too. Initially, she began going around to different shops to see if they would place the tea blend in their stores, but a better idea came, albeit one that was far outside our comfort zone. This idea involved taking the tea to the Farmers’ Market. You see, your friends and family can tell you all sorts of good things about your product, but you really don’t know how good a product is until you take it to the streets and let strangers try it. The Farmers’ Market was too hard to get into at the time, but the Artisans’ Market across the street let us in (I was back in town and was able to help). A good friend of ours named Lescley, gave Liesl (and me) the courage (Lescley seems to be fearless) to go and take our one-and-only product to the Market. With 500 dollars from a tax return, and some borrowed equipment...to market we went. In less-than half a season (we started in July), we payed ourselves back, returned the borrowed items, and bought our own equipment. Eventually, the next season we made it into to the regular Farmers’ Market, and it went over very well. It went well enough that we were just able to pay our living expenses with it - and that was only 4 hours a week of sales time.
Early on in this article, I mentioned a problem we had to solve. The problem is that when people want or need something, they can’t always wait until Farmers’ Market is open on Saturday morning to get it. So, people would call on the phone and Liesl (sometimes me too) would go and meet them in various semi-convenient parking lots in town. It was happening more and more, and was getting very inconvenient for us and the customers. Looking for good locations to place a product is harder than it seems. However, one day, a guy named David Hay, who had bought some of our Red Clover Blend from us and loved it, told Nancy about it and she called us from her store called Herbs for Health. At first, our blend was placed there on consignment, next thing you know, we had a regular business to to run (without going into all the little details). Now, we sometimes open our store for marketeers to place their products on consignment. It’s our way of paying that forward. So, the solution was to own our own store with regular hours, open six days every week. And, both Liesl and I have regular jobs that bring us home every night!
Now the real work begins! We operate our store with no loans (except what we owed for the asset liquidation – which is almost payed for) using Dave Ramsey’s methods. Slow growth is good – it helps us to keep from making the really big mistakes, and we know what the actual health of our business is. We are not surviving artificially on OPM (Other People’s Money). So please, tell all your friends about us. We have some great ideas on the direction we want to take this business. We would also love to hear from you about what you would like to see from us. We have a website and a Facebook page. Soon the website will be renovated to become phone compatible. By the way...Red Clover is 2 1/2 years old this month!