Mind & Soil Year 1 - 5 Reflections on Mindful Gardening
Wow - what a year it has been!
It seems like just yesterday I was stuffing my first load of worm castings into the back of my VW Sportswagen and slithering up the windy sea-to-sky Highway to my garage in Squamish - where I have since spent countless hours packaging our worm castings and getting them off to customers all across Canada.
With coming to the close of our first year in business (and the end of the calendar year simply being a more reflective time), I wanted to share 5 of my reflections on the first year of building Mind & Soil and working towards our mission of introducing 1,000,000 individuals to Mindful Gardening.
Reflection #1: Mindful Gardening Mission-Market Fit
One of the greatest joys of this first year of working on Mind & Soil has been building a community of more than 15,000 individuals that also deeply believe in the mental health benefits of gardening and use gardening as a mindfulness exercise in their day to day. The number of messages we have received from individuals who have turned to Gardening while coping with Stress, Grief, Depression, Anxiety and beyond has been incredible. I’ve come back to those messages time and time again when going through a tough week or running on empty at the end of a big push.
What excites me most about this is that it’s what I’d consider Mission-Market fit (I’m not sure if that’s an official term and if it’s not I’m coining it!). What I mean by this is that I deeply believe our mission of introducing a million individuals to Mindful Gardening has resonated with a huge community - so much so that we have already have more than 1,000 customers using our Worm Castings and organic amendments all across Canada!
I believe this is so powerful because the world will change, new products will come to be, obstacles will emerge - but we can always come back to and center ourselves around this mission. It endures. And starting with a mission that endures gives us the ability to be working on it for years to come.
Reflection #2: Incorporate Mindful Gardening believers into the business
Early on in building Mind & Soil I got a few individuals involved in very small manners to help with some projects here and there. However, there wasn’t that deep connection to what it is that I’m looking to build.
They hadn’t felt just how calming, soothing, and restorative gardening can be.
So at that point I had a bit of an epiphany - what if I were to turn to our community of gardeners who believe in gardening’s mental health benefits and try to find support for building the business right from within the community.
Sure enough, our very first customer, Mike, has become my business partner on the venture. I introduced him to gardening during a challenging time in his life and he’s felt equally inspired to now bring gardening’s calming, peaceful, and restorative benefits to a million individuals.
Likewise on the photography front, a friend introduced Ashley to Mind and Soil and shortly thereafter she was capturing all of our visual content. An avid gardener herself, Ashley fell in love with gardening in the midst of the pandemic and it truly became her sanctuary.
I’m so pleased with this shift I’ve made and the individuals it has connected with. When we think about “Right Person, Right Role,” I now look for that deep connection to mindful gardening and personal stories on how gardening has helped an individuals mental health before incorporating them into the business.
When the going has gotten tough at different points over the course of the year, we have been able to bring ourselves back to our shared mission and it’s so incredible to immediately feel all of us being on the same page and working towards the same common goal.
Reflection #3: Cash flow challenges
However, as we’ve brought individuals into the mix and (attempted) expanded our production capabilities to sell a greater volume of worm castings and gardening kits - we have also experienced a significant increase in expenses. A year ago our only costs were essentially just our costs of goods sold.
Now, to be operating Mind & Soil at the scale we are, it takes about $250,000 to break even. That’s a lot of worm castings and gardening kits that need to be sold!
As the leader of Mind & Soil, this is the one part of the business that weighs on me and keeps me up at night. And a big part of this is because I frequently find myself in a bit of an internal dilemma.
I know the financial pressures is causing me anxiousness and stress, so I could alleviate that by decreasing our costs (i.e. picking up some part time work to not have to pay myself a salary). On the other side of the coin, if I want to introduce 1,000,000 individuals to Mindful Gardening there will be stretches of financial pressure so is this just my work to be doing to get comfortable with managing our Profit & Loss, keeping a close eye on cash-flow, and working creatively to find ways to cover our costs in service of our mission?
I see merit in both approaches and as a result of that flip-flop on what the right approach is. This flip-floping likely increases the amount it weighs on me as there is something freeing of finality and having a decision made. This continues to be the biggest challenge that I struggle with as the leader of Mind & Soil and am certainly all ears to the experiences of any other entrepreneurs out there!
Reflection #4: Mindful Gardening on a longer timescale
In those moments of angst and restlessness around how to cover our expenses, I’ve found one of the most reassuring exercises to be simply zooming out and looking at our adventure on a longer time scale. A quote that really resonated with me has been:
“We overestimate the amount we can accomplish in 1 year. But significantly underestimate the amount we can accomplish in 10.” - Sean Cannell, Think Media
When I look at Mind & Soil over that 10 year timeframe, I couldn’t be more excited about where we’re at.
Well, it comes back to that first reflection of having Mission-Market fit. That isn’t going away anytime soon. And in the first 12 years we’ve found some really amazing ways to introduce individuals to gardening’s mental health benefits, so I literally can’t even imagine where we’ll be in 10 years!
What’s most important on that front, is that we give ourselves the ability to be exerting energy and effort towards the Mission over the course of the coming 10 years. For the time being that will absolutely continue to be with our worm castings and organic fertilizers. Increasingly we’ll also explore into the gardening kits world as I believe providing everything a gardener needs is an amazing way to help make it easier for the first time gardener. And lastly, we’re beginning to explore into how we can create a new more modern gardening club - The Mindful Gardening Club.
Reflection #5: Kaizen, Kaizen, Kaizen.
Lastly, the final reflection from this past year is that what I’ve found such great peacefulness in is the Japanese concept of Kaizen - small 1% incremental improvements each and every day.
This is the only email we send every single day. At the end of the working day we’ll simply reply on our Kaizen thread and shed light on something that we improved in the business that day. Not a task that we accomplished, but rather how we improved accomplishing that task.
On the video front, 6 months ago I had never put a video together or used any video equipment. Over these 6 months I’ve compounded little learning on top of little learning and now I’m really proud of where we’re already at with our video content - and once again can only imagine where this will be in 1 year, 3 years, 5 years, 10 years from now.
The same thing goes with our worm castings, seedling mix, the gardening kits that we are about to launch for 2022 and all the supporting processes around these tasks. By the time we come up, just as I am right now, it’s pretty incredible to see the ground that we’ve covered!
Your support of Mindful Gardening
So with that being said, I’m really excited about what rests ahead in 2022!
Simultaneously, I’ll continue to wrestle with the financial pressure and I’m sure we’ll continue to have little hiccups and speedbumps along the way.
What I want you to know is that as we encounter those obstacles, it’s the messages of encouragement, notes of how much light, joy or hope we’ve brought you, and on-going support from each and every one of you that truly fuels us.
So please, don’t hesitate at any drop a question on one of our YouTube Videos, send a message of encouragement to our Instagram, or simply share with us the challenges that you’re working through in your own adventures!
Here’s to 2022!
PS - A few other videos you might enjoy:
How gardening helped my mental health