Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in food and beverage but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Rachael Laenen, Director of Farming and Operations at Kimball Ranches - El Hogar, located in Santa Paula, CA, USA.

What's your business, and who are your customers?

Our multigenerational family farm grows avocados in Ventura County in Southern California. We have 150 acres of Hass avocados which we sell to our local packing house and through our online direct-to-consumer business. We pick, pack and ship bespoke boxes of avocados to all customers all across the US.

Tell us about yourself

I am the sixth generation of my family to farm in Ventura County and the fourth to grow avocados. Before my farming career, I worked in Formula One and international motorsport, managing global sponsorships for some of the world's most valuable brands as well as delivering high-level events and hospitality. I spent six years working for the Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team, where I won three World Championships and rose to the rank of Head of Events and Hospitality. I then returned to California to work for my father, growing avocados. Our grove was devastated by the Thomas Fire in 2017, and I have been on a steep learning curve ever since as the ranch recovery operation continues.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

I say our biggest accomplishment was accomplished as a team as our family and our employees worked side by side to recover from the Thomas Fire. We have replanted over 15,000 trees and continue to rebuild the entire business. My biggest accomplishment personally was bringing in over $1,000,000 of grant money and government disaster recovery funds allowing us to construct a 910,000-gallon water tank. The water tank allows us to be more efficient with our irrigation and power usage and lets us fertilize with precision.

What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?

The hardest challenge we face as farmers is Mother Nature. We can do everything we can to run a successful and precise operation. However, we are at the mercy of the weather. We also face increasing pressure and costs from ever-increasing regulations. We strive to grow the healthiest and safest food while being good stewards of the land to protect our legacy for future generations. The public perception of what we do is often negative and not reflective of our farming practices.

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

The biggest tip I would offer is to make sure you find something you love. The dedication, time, and effort it takes to run your own business will only be sustainable long term if you are truly passionate about what you are doing. Always operate with integrity - when you are in trouble and need help from colleagues or suppliers, they will remember how you do business. Loyalty goes a long way, be kind to everyone.

Where can people find you and your business?


If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.

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