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Lemons to Lemonade [Entrepreneurship
Posted on April 3, 2020 @ 09:51:00 AM by Paul Meagher

Seems like we have alot of lemons on our hands in the form of self-isolating confinement and social distancing. While that stresses alot of people, to get over that stress you may have to start looking for positives aspects of this situation.

The main positives I see for entrepreneurs in this time of social-distancing is that it gives us time to focus on some valuable work like book keeping, business plan writing, reading, coding, learning new skills, renovating buildings, ordering supplies to get ready for projects, creating and expanding online networks, designing a new product or service, and perhaps figuring out how you want to finance the next direction in your business. Seeking funding to finance a new business idea without having done any groundwork (i.e., plausible investment pitch, business/financial plan, minimal viable product, business registration, website) is less likely to result in a successful financing deal. Now may be a good time to work on laying some of that groundwork.

This is the time of year when I prune 1.5 acres grape vines I planted at our farm property. I will be making lemonade of this slow down to do some pruning next week. I will also be making some lemonade by learning horticultural skills for creating new woody plants. I have experience creating new grape vines using cuttings from my existing grape vines. Ideally, these cuttings are taken from grape vine prunings when the vine is still dormant so you don't harm the host plant more than you have to. I believe the same approach and techniques can be applied to additional woody plants like haskaps (Lonicera caerulea), highbush blueberries (Vaccinium corymbosum) and black currants (Ribes nigrum) that are growing in my suburban back yard. I could fail at creating new woody plants, but now appears to be the best time to do this propagation work to maximize the likelihood of success.

Yesterday I created cuttings from some older haskap bushes growing on our property. I filled a black tote with a soil mixture of bagged peat moss and bagged manure lying around my back yard from last year. I soaked the rooting end of the cuttings in a cup of water. I added a couple of drops of rooting hormone to that water and let the cuttings soak for a few hours. Then I planted all the soaked cuttings densely into the soil I placed in a plastic tote (see photo below). I dipped the rooting end of the cuttings in rooting hormone one more time before placing them in the soil. I then placed the tote on a heating mat I purchased online this year for around $60 that will maintain the soil at a particular temperature (20 C or 68 F). I placed a glass pane from a sliding window on the top of the tote to seal in the moisture, create a humid environment, and keep my 2 cats from jumping in. Some of the buds look like they are starting to leaf out today but I'm more concerned that the root system spring to life rapidly to support the development of these leaves.

Today I will be starting a couple more experiments using some cuttings from a highbush blueberry plant and a black currant plant in my back yard. The same planting and growing conditions will be used.

If some of these cuttings eventually become new plants they will be valuable to me in two main ways:

  1. The new plants are valuable for my farm as something I could plant, give away, barter, or sell.
  2. The acquired knowledge and skills on how to grow new plants from existing plants sets the stage for acquiring more horticultural expertise with other plants and different growing techniques.

Much of the relevant horticultural knowledge and techniques can be found on YouTube and other online resources. Self-isolating confinement offers me time to consult these resources while doing small-scale experiments to test ideas. These growing experiments don't take up much room. Growing salads and herbs in totes might be more practical for most people looking for a faster return on food growing efforts.

Like most people I was caught flat-footed by the sudden shutdown of business as usual. It seemed like alot of gloom and doom and for many it still is and it is possible it will become much worse before it gets better. If you are an entrepreneur and your business is slowing down now that sucks in many ways, but it may not be all bad. This is an opportunity to address intellectually challenging work that might help get you ready for the next chapter. You can get certifications, do business planning, create personal/business forecasts and budgets, work on your online presence, do renovations, get up to date on your business bookkeeping, and learn some new skills. My horticultural example is meant to show that we can use this time to acquire valuable new skills that can make and/or save money.

For some, this slowdown is a time for business emergency planning and there is a very real need to act soon. If that is the case, perhaps Steve Blank's five day plan will give you some ideas on what you might do to react more quickly to the current situation. In many ways this requires figuring out, on an accelerated timescale, how to make lemonade from the lemon situation we currently find ourselves in.

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