For most family businesses, it takes years, if not decades, to be able to establish a strong enough support base and a successful business model before it can be handed down to another family member.
But for Ashley Auderer, who is now bound for the University of Iowa, her hard work and dedication to her hay tedding operation has allowed her to pass down the small business to her younger brother, who is just entering high school.
During the summer between her freshman and sophomore year, Auderer’s father suggested she start her own tedding hay business.
“I had done some fieldwork for neighbors before, so he told me to start getting into some custom stuff,” she said. “Not a lot of farmers have (tedding equipment) and if there’s rain in the forecast, a lot of people scramble to get the hay made.”
Using the money she had saved for college, Auderer bought a two-row tedder, which is a specialty rake that helps hay to dry faster, capable of covering 17-feet at a time. Tedder in tow, a typical job for Auderer is a field somewhere between 10 and 20 acres with an average field time of two hours.
As most small business owners will agree, Auderer said the most difficult thing about establishing herself was simply getting the word out.
Initially, she started processing hay for her neighbors, but she eventually started branching out to other nearby farms.
“Every year, I sent out a postcard to 30 local farmers,” she said. “I just looked at a plat book around the Holy Cross, Richardsville and Balltown area.”
Time spent doing her own advertising has paid off because this year she’s gotten new customers she’s never contacted before and other farmers have started discovering her business through word-of-mouth.
At times, the tedding business has compelled Auderer out of her comfort zone, allowing her opportunities to grow and gain confidence in herself.
“I was so scared to leave the house and talk to these new people I had never met before and just show up with a tractor from the road,” she said, adding that as her business progressed, she also had to force herself to become more confident in her driving skills. “The terrain is totally different and you don’t always know where to turn around and all those other little dynamics.”