Marsha Louk founded Laurel Fork Farm in 2007 in Jenningston, West Virginia.
Tell me about your current business. What are you doing exactly?
At Laurel Fork Farm, we hand milk our goats twice daily to get the best, hormone free milk which is the most important ingredient in our soaps and lotions. We are doctor recommended and use only the best God given ingredients we can find, most grown right here on the farm. We make lots of other products, all fresh from the farm.
How did you come up with your business idea?
My husband is lactose intolerant so this is why we go the dairy goats. We ended up with a surplus of milk and I started making soap with it for Christmas presents and other gifts. Before I knew it people were calling me and trying to order it! It's really mind boggling how it took off so fast. We are really blessed.
What were you doing before this, and is this your first business?
I worked for in management of a local ski area. This is not my first business. I owned and operated a petting zoo and horse stable but when I got pregnant with my second child this was too much. I still have a lot of animals but now we enjoy them on our farm.
For women entrepreneurs, what specific advice would you have for young women who would like to become an entrepreneur? Are there specific advantages, disadvantages to being a women business owner?
As a woman entrepreneur in today's world I think that there are more resources and opportunities in the small business world. There are more organizations out there to help and guide you. I haven't really run into any road blocks because I am a woman.
Green business is all the rage right now. Has it really been practical for you as an entrepreneur to incorporate green business practices?
Oh yes. Fresh from the farm is what people are looking for. God given ingredients and all natural is my whole business.
With the current economy in a slump, what cost saving tips would you have for a new entrepreneur?
Grow with your business. Don't buy equipment until you absolutely need it and are guaranteed that it will pay for itself. It's easy to get caught up in all the marketing ploys out there, I've found that good old word of mouth is what sells my products the most, and I sell all over the US and am now selling in other countries. Don't get me wrong I do advertise, but I rarely pay for it!
What have you done that has been very effective in helping to grow the business?
I have two markets for my business that I feed into, the gift shop and souvenir market, and the spa and health market. My soaps are cute and desirable yet I have doctors prescribing it to patients for skin issues. When one market is down the other carries me through.
What advice would you give to somebody else who wanted to start a similar business?
Follow your heart. I had a burning desire to work from home and be more flexible for my family and still work with my animals. You can do anything you set your mind to.
Thanks for the inspiration, Marsha. Good luck with your business!