This installment of Celebrating Geauga Small Businesses comes from Kerry Willman of WH Farm INC.

Geauga County Public Library: When was WH Farm INC founded? What does the name mean?

Kerry Willman: We were founded in April of 2018. WH Farm INC The W stands for my last name, as well as my husband and two of my children. The H is what three of my children hold as their last name’s initial.

GCPL: What is the story behind your business? How did it begin? What challenges did you face in getting started & how did you overcome them? What challenges do you face in your day-to-day operations, and how do you overcome them? What is your favorite part of owning a business?

KW: This farm began in my head many years ago as a fantasy. The first time I read Little House on the Prairie I was hooked. Instantly, I was Laura Ingalls Wilder, living on a small farm, raising animals, growing my food and living a simple life! Of course, I was really about eight years old, living in Painesville City in a tiny yard, lucky to have a dog as a pet and not growing anything other than flowers. Still, I imagined how it could be.

If the thought of ever actually living on a farm crossed my mind it was immediately replaced with the naïve thought that the only people who lived on farms were people who grew up on them. Their family had started them generations ago. I always believed that while people left farms for city life, that no one left city life for farming.

Fast forward about 30 years and five children later here we are! When my children became involved in 4-H and we met families that owned livestock on many sizes of land we realized that we could do this! So it happened. With passion, luck and a whole heap of help we moved away from the city and to a very small, but very workable piece of property!

Much to the dismay of my husband, we wasted no time accumulating livestock and poultry, dogs, cats, etc. A small barn, a small pasture and a bigger dream. We are going to use every square foot of this property to make this a sustainable and profitable farm.

Money is always a huge obstacle! I don’t have a dime of “start-up” funds. I have slowly been accumulating products and ingredients using what is available after all the bills are paid! Space is another issue. While our home is fairly large it doesn’t have a separate area for me to leave work out. It is a continuous cycle of work, clean up and repeat.

My favorite part of owning and running this business is going to markets and festivals. I absolutely love meeting people and talking about my products. I love hearing that people love my soaps and I love seeing photo’s of little ones wearing the hats I have made.

GCPL: Why did you decide to start your business? What inspired it?  

KW: This goes back to the previous question. I was inspired by Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books and truly this life began in my head years ago! It came to be this year as I had set a deadline for myself. I said that when my youngest started kindergarten that I would go back to work since sitting home all day with no kids seemed rather selfish of me. But then I thought of all the school functions, and sporting events I would miss and I realized the time is now or never to start the business. The farm was planned out some 30 years ago. But the soap happened by accident. I love the old fashioned way of life. I love learning how people lived hundreds of years ago. So I thought I would make some soap. I took some of the tax return from this past year and invested in some basic soap making supplies. One posted picture on Facebook led to another and people were wanting to buy the soap! I love creating it and when people wanted to buy it I was ecstatic!

GCPL: What kinds of training and education did starting your business require (College, trade shows, seminars/conferences, etc.)? Have you ever used the library to help with this? What resources did/do you find most useful in helping you to start, grow, and maintain your business (Books, software, training materials, databases, etc.)?

KW: I have had zero formal training in any way with regards to my business. I have a certificate in wedding and event planning as well as a certificate in floral design. But soapmaking, crocheting and knitting, gardening and animal care have been a learn as I go process. Numerous YouTube videos and hours on Pinterest for inspiration have gotten me this far!

GCPL: What advice do you have for people who want to start a business?

KW: I feel like the only advice I can give is to go for it! If you truly want something don’t let people or negative thoughts of being “too busy” stand in your way! When any negative thought creeps into my head I immediately tell myself to keep going. I have five children, all in a variety of activities. I have a home, garden, 27 animals, dinners to make, places to go and I can do this. If I can, you can!

GCPL: What are you currently reading?

KW: It will not come as a surprise I am sure. But I keep a copy of one of the Little House series by my bed. My favorite right now is On the Banks of Plum Creek.

Follow WH Farm INC on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, and keep an eye out for them at local markets and festivals!