Shop Talk is a weekly column featuring locally owned and operated businesses. This week, we talk to Laszlo Sulyok of GOATSHEEPSHOP in Delhi.
How long have you lived in the area?
Part time from 2000 until 2006, and full time since then.
Tell me about your business:
We raise Shetland sheep, angora and cashmere goats for their wool and Nubian goats for their milk. Basically, all things made of goats and sheep, such as blankets, rugs, yarn, felted items, home decor, clothing articles, accessories, scarves, hats, jewelry, soap (from goat milk) and some wonderful tender goat meat and lamb.
Describe a typical day in your business:
If everything starts out well, after a big cup of coffee with fresh goat milk and some scrambled eggs from fresh eggs, we do the chores _ feeding and checking out the animals. After feeding, we move the sheep and goats to the pastures with the help of our two herding dogs. During the day, we take care of supply needs and other errands and then have a block of time for creative work in the studio until the evening chores, when the dogs help to bring all the sheep and goats back in.
I always make time for cooking dinner. I love to cook. In fact, I just applied for a cooking permit with the state Ag and Markets and soon will begin making frozen foods using our meat and other local ingredients. After dinner, we try to finish the day back in the studio.
How did you get started in this line of work?
We've been trained as artists and also had a close affinity for animals. Since we also wanted to move upstate from Brooklyn after many years of going back and forth as second homeowners, it just seemed the perfect combination to an ideal lifestyle.
Where do you see this business in five years?
We hope to have a signature style that is easily recognized, have established working relationships with interior designers, and ultimately be able to work on large-scale projects.
Describe a memorable moment in your workplace:
Before we started the shop, as second homeowners still in Roxbury, we regularly visited area farmers' markets and farms. I've loved markets since I was a kid back in Europe. I remember the heated conversations between vendors and customers, testing and challenging each other in verbal duels.
About three years ago, when we were finally ready to appear as producers, suddenly we found ourselves on the other side of the farm stand, in a completely different role. It has given us a much deeper understanding and appreciation of farming and the marketplace; how one's work and creativity translates into monetary value.
What have you learned from your work?
Working with animals simply helps you to become a better person. It is also a pacifier and helps you to become a much better listener, which is a great gift to improve one's ability to communicate with others.
What is the most challenging part of what you do?
To provide high-quality care for our animals. It is not about only feeding and turning out the animals to the pasture, it is also about balanced nutrition, health care, proper breeding and clean and safe shelter, among other things. We have had to learn everything from books and the feedback we've gotten. I think we have been doing a decent job.
How do you define success for your business?
One cannot escape the reality of money; after all, we are in America. Considering that we've started only a few years ago, I think our prospects are promising even under the current economic climate. Another important way to measure success is the number of satisfied and returning customers. Last, however not least, is that we do what we like.
What are some advantages as well as drawbacks of doing business in this area?
First and most importantly, we have to break our seasonal selling cycle. The vast majority of our customers are second homeowners. Once they go back to New York City, it is a significant drawback. We have to put a major effort into serious marketing in the area to lose our self-declared "best-kept secret in the farming community" status. Sometimes I feel an odd resistance that we have to overcome, the perpetual whisper about old-timers vs. newcomers, upstate vs. downstate, etc. The way I look at it, we are in this together, why not improve it together? Every community is interdependent, regardless of size and location, so why not to maximize the potential of available resources?
On the other hand, once people get to know you, they reach out to you and express their appreciation.
What sets you apart from your competitors?
Our different background, different education, different upbringing, which is basically the story of America.
What advice would you give to someone trying to enter your field of work?
Regardless of whether you fail or succeed, work hard and pursue your dreams and beliefs.
Shop Talk interviews are conducted by Terry Hannum. For information, call The Daily Star at 432-1000, ext. 217, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.