The Business Diaries - The End of the Season & Space Edition

All photos by Erin Witkowski

It seems a little strange to be writing about the wrap up of our maple sugaring season several weeks after it is over. One of the things we have all learned about sugaring is that you love it so much when you are in it, but you are so glad when it is complete. I guess I needed to step away from it for a few weeks and process it all before I was ready to share. Plus, spending the last five weeks writing a book has monopolized my time.

I should interrupt this post to share that I did finish the book and on time! So, I am going to throw a bunch of numbers at you, but I think it sums things up pretty well. Last year we tapped about 800 trees and made 130 gallons of syrup. This year, we tapped 2700 trees. We also added a vacuum system that increase production without damaging the trees. So, based on last year, to be equal, we should have made about 480 gallons of syrup. With the addition of the vacuum system, we were hoping to make 600 gallons. We did our business planning on 500 gallons of syrup. We made 830 gallons. So, we are working on to figure out this new, but good, change in conditions. Actually, we could have made more but we couldn't keep up with the rate the sap was running.

Turns out our trees are so good, that our equipment is actually too small (knocking on wood right now!). We are now faced with determining what type of investment we would need to make to size up our equipment and if it is feasible or not. However, the biggest problem we are facing is space!!! 830 gallons of syrup is A LOT of syrup. Right now it is in large food safe drums. It will need to be put into glass bottles which takes up even more space. We have been looking and looking at spaces for months now. The truth is, we are no longer able to fully run the business out of the house any more. Between syrup storage, shipping and receiving and products for the shop, our basement is in chaos and the sugar house is full. Plus, we are reaching the point where part time help is going to be necessary and we don't have any place to put them. We need to expand our capacity, both in space and our ability to get things done. We have looked at old barns. Actually, one in particular we looked at MANY times. In the end, the investment to upgrade the space to our needs was just too high. We have looked at land. We even looked at an old house last year built in 1850. In the end, nothing has been the right fit. We even have considered, back and forth 726 times, building another structure here. You can't beat the commute in my opinion.

In the end, we are stepping back and choosing to trust. Each step of this journey has seemingly been met with decisions that were comfortable to make and made sense. Each of the ideas and locations we have looked at have just not felt comfortable yet. So I am willing to wait until it does. In the meantime, we are going to need to bootstrap the business a little bit more. I see basement and sugar house organizing in my future. I want to get those type of time suckers out of my everyday and focusing on growing the business and selling 830 gallons of syrup, our home decor goods and running our blog. Oh yeah, and there is that little detail of bottling 830 gallons of syrup! Lots of investigating going on in that department as well. We spend most of our day today labeling and packing our first wedding favors order (yeah!). We were so excited to pull this order together, but know that we are going to have to come up with a more time efficient solution. We are working on some custom wedding favors for a very special customer. This involved finding a custom bottle, which involved having a cap custom made. The price is great - per cap. But we have to buy a WHOLE bunch of them. As a result though, we have a really great cap to work with in terms of functionality and we found a new resource for all of caps. Plus, the most exciting thing is now all of our caps will hopefully be able to be white instead of the gold ones on our mason jars. My hopes in sharing with you today is to be transparent with this part of the business. There are so many good things and we wouldn't change our path. We just wish there was a guide book or a mentor to turn to sometimes. Every single step is a new things to figure out. With each new thing we figure out though, there is growth and learning. I am hoping that you are still enjoying the sharing of our "Business Diaries". Let me know if there are other questions or areas you would like me to cover! Thanks so much for reading!