Goats with heart: the entrepreneurial spirit runs deep at Island Hill Farm
It all started with Lucy the goat.
When Flory Sanderson re-invented her working life after going through a major family crisis, it was a simple, single goat named Lucy that opened the barn doors to an exciting and rewarding new calling.
Located just northwest of Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Sanderson and her husband Rob have been operating the Island Hill Farm for nearly five years. Business is good and it’s just as much about the pleasure as it is about the bottom line.
“We have a really unique barn set-up; there are chandeliers over the bunny houses and chicken coops, just a very relaxed atmosphere,” says Sanderson. “If you’re visiting, I want you to have an experience like no other.”
It is a business born through passion, vision, and perseverance, and it is a long way from the retail management background from which Sanderson came.
“I left my job and took the jump,” says Sanderson. “I believe totally in what I’m doing. If I start small and remember who I am, I’ll overcome any obstacles.”
From counting cars to diversification
Now Lucy is joined by 80 other goats and Sanderson has gradually expanded her goat-farming business: a petting farm, birthday parties, summer camps, school tours, senior citizen’s groups, corporate team-building events, and yes, even weddings.
“My donkey Gavin and my two goats came to the (last) wedding,” says Sanderson. “I had to be diversified to supplement my income.”
The petting farm was the first step in a steady process of branching out into new ventures.
“The petting farm was OK, but I was counting cars and sometimes I’d be waiting hours for the next visitor to come,” says Sanderson. “Now we need someone to park cars.”
The latest and greatest offering out of Island Hill Farm is soap (10 fragrances!) made from goat’s milk. Sanderson also has a distribution deal for her goat’s milk with local PEI Chef Jeff McCourt, who uses it to make gouda at Glasgow Glen Farm, a nearby artisan cheese outfit.
A true pioneer
One thing is clear: if you cross the Confederation Bridge this summer into PEI and you don’t visit Sanderson’s farm, you’ll be missing history in the making.
What started off as a small petting farm is turning Sanderson into something of a modern pioneer, as she will be the very first woman in PEI to market goat’s milk off the farm.
What’s next for Sanderson? The sky really is the limit at this point, since she is turning a profit and creating a buzz for her business.
“If someone says you can’t do it, prove them wrong,” says Sanderson. “Everything I do comes to life, so anything is possible.”
If you’re looking for a dynamic and heart-warming small business to visit this summer, Island Hill Farm should be at the top of your itinerary.
“When you come here, you feel very welcome. I want everyone to feel welcome when they visit my home,” says Sanderson. “To me, my home is my extended barn.”
For start-up entrepreneurs of the future, Sanderson is an inspiration and offers a wealth of useful advice and insight into overcoming challenges and making a vision a reality.
“Start small, have a vision, and diversify yourself,” says Sanderson. “People being happy and sharing in what I enjoy? That’s out of this world.”
Admission to Island Hill Farm is $5 for the petting farm.
Birthday parties are a $40 fee, plus $5 per person.
Quotes for experiential team-building events are available.
Don’t forget to check out the ShopSmallBiz directory for more great business listings.