Visionary, Faith Walker, Innovator, Entrepreneur Extraordinaire, our Matriarch Gerrie never imagined a dream she didn’t set intention to make manifest.
This ode to Gerrie and her glorious, Harvester Pine Straw bears witness to the potential we all have to manifest greatness while navigating life’s peaks and valleys . . .
I don’t know how it came about exactly, but somehow in the late 1980s my Mama, Geraldine “Gerrie” Barwick, got it in her head she could/would build a landscape supply empire by selling and distributing bales of Florida transported pine straw to Atlanta’s wealthiest business and residential community developers.
For the record, I should say this 5 ft 2 in, chocolate brown dynamo, born in 1941 to hard-working parents (Willie C. and Fannie Louella Barwick) in Cincinnati, Ohio knew absolutely nothing about operating a landscape supply business or even what a bale of pine straw was.
What Gerrie did know, was that someone who knew the business of moving pine straw believed with her natural charm, selling abilities and entrepreneurial grit, she could make a really good go of it . . . and mannn did she!
In no time, my Mama taught herself the business of hauling/back-hauling/selling pine straw, identified potential customers, carved out her niche (Gerrie guaranteed her product deliveries and quality) and opened the home-based doors of Harvester Pine Straw for business.
In less than 2 years, without the benefit of online sales (these were pre-web days), expensive marketing campaigns or established “good ole boy” Georgia networks, my Mom grossed over $250,000 in sales. There was EVERY reason for Harvester Pine Straw to grow into the empire Mom imagined.
So why didn’t it? Well, a few things happened:
- Limited family and friend business support. Though we all, my 20-something year old self included (I was a hot, entitled mess), were happy to spend the bounty yielded from Harvester Pine Straw, we were not willing to apply the same degree of dedication Gerrie did; a requirement for bootstrapping and building a new business. Mama needed more support and deserved our contributing to the success of our family business. We totally failed here.
- Poor Fiscal Management. As I said, this was all new for Mama; both the business and the yield. Making money is only part of the equation; preserving and growing it were THE missing essentials. Way too much shopping; not enough saving or investing.
- Dependency on one (1) revenue stream. Had Gerrie had the support she needed (point #1), she would have most likely created new opportunities and expanded existing ones. She spent so much time building HPS solo, multiple revenue streams never became a reality.
- Unexpected family illness. After just a few years in business, our family was rocked by the cancer diagnosis of Fannie, Gerrie’s mom. Being the loving and loyal daughter she was, Gerrie turned all her attention to supporting Fannie through crisis, and her budding business activities quickly came to a halt. The rest is truly, history.
Why am I sharing this now? Because when you know better you do better. And in life you are not losing, you’re learning.
We are Gerrie’s descendants, her baby girl and grands. We are FOREVER inspired by her fearlessness, faith and pure, UNDENIABLE genius. We take lessons from both her business victories and struggles; accepting the role we—okay I— played in them and commit to doing better . . . for Gerrie.
There isn’t a time seeing a tractor trailer full of pine straw doesn’t bring a smile to my face, as well as the realization that had I stepped up and carried Harvester Pine Straw forward for just a few more years, the INTERNET would have arrived by the late 1990s to support our client growth and market reach. Imagine that?
You live. You learn. You grow.
We will get it right this time Mama. Promise.