If you are looking for a feel-good book, I highly recommend Redefining Rich: Achieving True Wealth with Small Business, Side Hustles, & Smart Living by Shannon Hayes of Sap Bush Hollow Farm in upstate New York. Shannon is also the author of The Grassfed Gourmet and Radical Homemakers and is the daughter of long-time Holistic Management practitioners, Adele and Jim Hayes. Shannon and her husband, Bob, with help from daughters, Saoirse and Ula, are now the managers of the farm and their café. Redefining Rich is the saga of their lives in quest of true wealth as they spurn the constant push to participate in an extractive economy.
Even if you are past the age of starting up a business, I recommend Redefining Rich as a reminder that there are many people out there who are using their creativity and passion for the environment, social justice, and their community, living lives of meaning and contentment. But, of course, where Redefining Rich really shines is as the “Entrepreneur’s Guide to the Galaxy of Small Business Challenges & Opportunities.”
Shannon takes us on a quick journey of her efforts to go down the normal route of leaving the farm, going to college (getting a PhD) and getting an off-farm job. But when she does the math and calculates what they would have to give up to go work somewhere else, it doesn’t add up, and she and her family decide to stay, redefining what rich means to them and getting to experience the true wealth of family, community, fulfilling work, financial security, and the opportunity to help heal the planet instead of destroying it through the extractive economy.
Shannon is quick to point out that in order to make the finances work, they had to right size the farm with a succession transfer to her and Bob from Adele and Jim as well as get the café running to create an opportunity for value adding and working with inventory on the farm. To make sure they still had a good quality of life, the café is only open on Saturday and the whole family pitches in to make it work. They also run an AirBnB as additional income.
The key to creating a “Life-Serving Economy” and true wealth, according to Shannon, is to shift from a perception of scarcity to one of abundance and then use that paradigm to cultivate and reinvest in your vision of what true wealth means to you beyond financial security. Ultimately, that shift is a shift from fear to love. Shannon also makes the distinction between ownership and possession. While Shannon may “own” the land, it is really her daughters, and decisions need to be made in a way that honors future generations and what they can inherit.
Sap Bush Hollow Café is an hour from Albany in the small hamlet of West Fulton, which had started to decline, making an investment in a building purchase and developing a café risky. But, as Shannon, points out, this reinvestment in the community meant other small businesses emerged that have helped the café and the community as a form of rural economic development.
Shannon mentions that she and Bob wrote their Quality of Life Statement (QOLS) and put it on their fridge where it has been a touchstone for their decisions and helped them address the challenges that inevitably arise in life. Those challenges can also bring meaning to life as you wrestle with how to keep moving your life in the direction you want to go. It also helps you learn to say “No.” If you start getting off track it brings you back. Of course, you still need to do the other planning that goes along with any business, but it all gets done in the context of your QOLS. She has a worksheet with questions to help you develop your QOLS.
If you have an aspiring entrepreneur in your life, giving them this book may fire them up to take the next step and start their own business. She makes owning a business look like the great option it is for those who have a passion to do so and demonstrates the potential for a higher net income than if you are an employee.
Ultimately, as Shannon notes, love keeps farmers and ranchers on the land. She encourages people to develop their business to engage in the life serving economy that can feed your community and you. The passion for your work is what will give you the motivation to do the planning and hard work necessary to create a business that can be successful through challenges and lean years as well as the rewards that you don’t even know are there.
To order Redefining Rich go to: https://benbellabooks.com/shop/redefining-rich/