What Makes Amish Small Businesses so Successful?

UPDATE: This giveaway is now over. Congratulations to Tammy Stanford and Caryn Cicchitti! 

 

Last week, I posted about the different types of heating stoves the Amish use to keep their homes warm through the winter. In The Winnowing Season, Rhoda is excited to rebuild her canning business in the new Amish settlement in Maine.

After researching how the Amish start and run a business compared to how we as non-Amish start and run a small business, I’ve seen a pattern that at times gives them the upper hand in becoming a success and hanging on to it. At other times those Amish ways work against them—at least for a season. I’ll cover some of the Amish small-business ways in the following months. But as Rhoda, Samuel, and Jacob continue to learn, the road to a successful business is never easy.

Rachel's Country Store

Since the 1990s, the Amish population has increased greatly. The larger population combined with the struggling economy has made farmland more and more difficult to acquire, so that is one of the main reasons why the Amish had no choice but to begin moving away from farming and toward business ventures. Another main reason is that the church leaders would allow certain diesel engines and large air compressors to run machinery in small-business shops, but wouldn’t allow any modern equipment to be used in farming. So many Amish chose to take up running small shops to build things like furniture, prefabricated houses, cabinetry, outdoor storage buildings, timber framing, and much more.

The Amish have a high success rate in building small businesses. Only about 50% of new American small businesses will last five years, compared to over 90% of new Amish small businesses.

Amish buggy and cars

 

So, what makes Amish small businesses so successful?

  • The Amish stick to what they know and already excel at. Most Amish small businesses revolve around skills that they have perfected over the years because of their lifestyle. Some examples are:
      • Restaurant owners and cooks
      • Furniture makers
      • Builders/Carpentry
      • Market stand owners
      • Quilt makers
      • Buggy makers and harness shops
      • Dry goods store
      • Horticulture/nursery
  • The Amish focus on creating relationships with their customers, employees, and the community.
  • The Amish do not compromise their values and beliefs just to improve business, but they are skilled at problem solving “inside the box.”
  • The Amish are willing to work in less than ideal circumstances for years at a time to avoid debt.
  • The Amish are willing to share a home with other family members or live above a carriage house if it means less financial stress while stabilizing a business.

Despite all these things, the Amish have to sacrifice to make their businesses a success. They lose family time as members of the family split up to go to different jobs instead of working together on a farm.

Their paced approach to life is interrupted by the hustle and bustle of the business world and deadlines.

Markets at Shrewsbury

The Amish face issues that only Amish deal with. One is the inability to have electricity in their business. There are ways around this if they partner with someone whose religious beliefs allow electricity, which will often be a Plain Mennonite. But many times an Amish business owner can’t find the right fit for taking on a partner.

Another challenge happens when the business requires traveling more than a few miles away from home, which is pretty typical. Then the Amish have to hire a driver for each trip to and from work. This is extremely costly. When I go to Pennsylvania, I often hire a driver of the Amish to get me from place to place, and it’s usually hundreds of dollars more expensive than my plane ticket. I’ll only use them for five or six hours in a week. (But for me, the perks outweigh renting my own vehicle for less. Amish drivers have their own insight and understanding of the Amish, so it can be another form of research.)

Probably the biggest struggle of all for the Amish, however, is dealing with the confusion that inevitably comes from having more exposure to the outside world. They have to make many difficult decisions about what technologies are or are not necessary for their business, and then they must struggle to keep those technologies for business only and separate from their private lives.

 

Book Giveaway

If you would like to enter for one of TWO chances to win an autographed copy of The Winnowing Season (book two in the Amish Vines and Orchards series), simply leave a comment at the bottom of this post on my website.

If you are reading this anywhere other than my website, such as on Facebook, in an email, or on Goodreads, please hop on over to my website (http://www.cindywoodsmall.com/2013/02/26/amish-home-fires/) and leave a comment at the bottom of my post to enter the giveaway.

Only comments left on this post on my website will be entered into the giveaway.

The deadline for this contest is Wednesday, March 13, 2013, at noon. The winner will be chosen using Random.org and will be contacted privately, as well as announced on next week’s post.

 

The book will be shipped to the winners once I receive my author copies of The Winnowing Season.

 

Book Giveaway Results

Last week, I gave away autographed copies of A Season for Tending and The Winnowing Season. The winner was chosen using Random.org, and that winner is Beth Russo. Congrats! Beth, please send your name and mailing address to cindy@cindywoodsmall.com to claim your books, which will be shipped as soon as I receive my author copies of The Winnowing Season.

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