7 years ago I moved home from New Orleans with an idea and a rudimentary business plan. I quickly realized the plan required two things: capital and staff. The capital is an ongoing struggle, and has been resourcefully patched together through loans, grants, and family sacrifice. The staff part of the equation is what I’d like to focus on today.
Our team started in 2014, when I hired Andy Stubblefield, a friend from high school. From there, our staff grew slowly until we opened the processing plant about 3 years ago, at which time we brought on several employees. With a growing small business, one is never prepared for the myriad challenges that each new phase presents. We had to come up with an employee handbook, get workman’s comp, file W-4’s and I-9’s, calculate tax withholdings, and navigate benefits (and how to possibly afford them). We had to develop policies for per diem compensation, pay advances, overtime for salary and hourly employees, vacation days, sick days, funeral days, maternity/paternity leave, health insurance, 401k plans, direct deposits, the list goes on and on. We had to figure out how to give support and resources to our staff without a Human Resources department (or even an HR individual).
Additionally, having a large payroll in the face of intense financial stress can really test your principles. It's easy to espouse values when your livelihood isn’t on the line. I find that my internal conversations have shifted dramatically since I was in college: untethered idealism has been shackled down by the reality of debt and financial stress.
Running a business tests you in every way, and almost begs you to be hypocritical. The thought I keep returning to is this: if I have to stay in business by underpaying and exploiting people, then I don’t need to stay in business. This thought notwithstanding, balancing principals with a bottom line is a never ending struggle. One must do right by their staff while also pushing them to achieve as much as possible with limited time and resources. For me, it has involved the almost daily exercise of admitting my mistakes, apologizing for them, and trying to move forward.
We are able to move forward because of the folks who show up here everyday ready to do their job. HPP continues to pivot, grow, evolve, and invent new sources of revenue as others dry up. A normally challenging landscape has become volcanic during COVID. Staff members have found their role changed almost overnight, resulting in a murkier sense of direct responsibility and structure, and an intensified sense of urgency. Despite these challenges, the Home Place team has more than rolled with the punches, they have carried the company through the insanity of the last 7 months with a solutions driven mindset.
A collection of human beings trying to achieve anything together is usually a mess. We have varying perspectives, personalities, opinions, skill sets, which can compliment but more often clash with one another. When we manage to collectively achieve something, whether it is 1000 people or just 14 in our case, it is a feat of listening, learning, compassion, and hard work. I am grateful that the Home Place team continues to work together to keep us alive and thriving. Each member of the team upholds our principles while working hard to bring food to your table.
We’ve just updated our staff page so you can learn about each individual who makes HPP possible! When you shop with Home Place, you are directly supporting these individuals, and through them our local economy. Creating viable jobs is a pillar of our mission statement. With your help, we continue proving that it's possible to raise food without exploiting people, mistreating animals, and destroying the natural world. After you’ve finished reading about our wonderful team, feel free to click on over to the Monthly Box page and sign up!