We were recently featured on the Wisconsin Small Business Development website as a Success Story. Last spring I worked with the University of Wisconsin-River Falls SBDC to help build a business plan and financial projects for a USDA grant application I was working on. I was able to work with a consultant to get this project done, and ultimately, then earn the grant.
Here’s an excerpt from the feature:
Leslie Svacina started Cylon Rolling Acres in 2013, and the whole family has gotten involved. Her husband, Scott, as well as their children, Cody and Cady, lend a hand at this unique farm business. Leslie noted the lack of availability of goat meat at local grocery stores and the growing market for this product as the industry becomes more global. Her business helps address these issues by raising goats and selling the pasture-raised goat meat.
Since there is not an established federal marketing order for goat products, such as there is for beef, Leslie uses her blog and social media to help others in the industry on their journey, so they do not have to start at square one. She offers several training courses to educate people on how to raise and market goats through her website: www.grazingwithleslie.com. She is even currently writing an e-book titled Goat Meat Primer.
The book helps farmers understand nutrition and cooking methods for goat meat, as well as cultural aspects associated with those who most commonly eat goat meat. Her social media and website efforts offer transparency about the processes in use at Cylon Rolling Acres, and these complement the relationships she builds in person with customers, farmers and other industry stakeholders.
Since the business first started eight years ago, much growth has occurred. Originally, Cylon Rolling Acres only offered wholesale products but grew to add direct-to-consumer sales as well. Leslie also added just-in-time inventory of cut meat and bundled/bulk meat sales options. Some specialty products are now available too, such as sausage, gyro meat and snack sticks. In 2020, when COVID-19 hit, even more changes emerged.
The wholesale market dropped, so she needed to focus on direct-to-consumer sales. Leslie already had an e-commerce website in the works, but the pandemic drove the online sales option to be launched sooner than planned. She also added on-farm pick-up services for no- and low-contact sales. Some of the pandemic relief funding through PPP, EIDL and an SBA loan available through the county helped to fund a walk-in freezer that was valuable for managing inventory during the pandemic.
Other funding came in the form of a USDA grant, which the UW-River Falls Small Business Development Center (SBDC) helped Leslie to obtain. Consultants at the SBDC helped her prepare a third-party business plan and financial projections for the three-year grant cycle that were necessary for the grant application.
Another group, M5 Entrepreneurs, helped Leslie through their Small Business Accelerator program. Leslie said, “The online class that was part of this program was a great resource to help build out my business plan with a budget. I was able to use that business plan to apply for and obtain the USDA grant and a grant offered by Department of Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP).”
Leslie has built some fantastic partnerships in the community as well. The Farm Table Foundation in Amery, Wisconsin, is a non-profit restaurant whose mission is to help grow the local food culture by offering classes, events and local food. This restaurant serves meat and sells retail meat products produced by Cylon Rolling Acres; Leslie has also taught a class for Farm Table Foundation.
There is even more exciting growth on the horizon. Recently, Leslie purchased a small flock of sheep and will soon be offering lamb products. She is also continuing to grow her direct-to-consumer base and her goat herd. She is developing an online course to share methods for goat meat marketing. We look forward to seeing what this innovative farmer does next to help others and her small business.