Collier Hardy is accustomed to adoring mobs. She encounters one every time she goes out to the goat pens, where her Lamancha dairy goats clamor to greet her.
Collier is 16, a sophomore at Heritage Academy in Columbus, and she’s been serious for the past three years about the enterprise she’s named Mount Olympus Goats.
She was just 13 when she asked her parents — Mark and Charlotte Hardy — for the critters. Her dad came up with a response he thought might well end the matter before it got off the ground. He asked his daughter to first develop a business plan for how the animals could pay for themselves.
“I told her we didn’t need any more freeloaders than we already had,” he laughs. But he was in for a bit of surprise.
“I made a business plan,” says Collier. “I would make soap and lotion and cheese and everything else I could make, to sell. And I also showed how much I could sell the goats for.”
Her parents were impressed. Soon, Collier was building a herd. What began with two goats has blossomed at times to 16 or more; currently she has eight goats. Six are expecting, as of this writing.
Each season of the year has its own rhythm. Spring means new babies — doelings and bucklings. The arrival of the kids intensifies the workload. In addition to the normal feeding, watering, haying, deworming, vaccinating and dehorning, twice-daily bottle feedings begin for the little ones at two weeks of age. The does (mature females) will require milking. The milk is used for Mount Olympus soaps, lotions and cheese. Collier made several thousand soaps and lotions for the past Christmas season, selling them online and at holiday markets. Coconut oil, avocado oil and shea butter also go into her products that have tempting scents ranging from cinnamon to citrus. This spring will mark her debut at local farmers markets. She’s also opened a Facebook page for Mount Olympus Soapery. Cheeses are made by request.
Collier has gained a lot of grounding in the business side of things — expenses and income, buying and selling, managing a budget, marketing, weighing decisions. She’s also absorbing all she can about maintaining herd health. She hopes to have a future in veterinary medicine.
“And I’ve learned how to talk to adults,” she says. “I have to talk to so many on a regular basis. I’ve also learned how to make your product so you’re proud of it — and if you’re not proud of it, don’t sell it.”
One aspect of the small business that a price can’t be put on is the human/animal bond. Each goat has a personality, and daily interaction with them all counterbalances cleaning pens, scrubbing buckets and tromping through a muddy pasture.
Being a young entrepreneur does require juggling school, work and social life.
“My friends have pretty much gotten used to it,” Collier smiles. “They just laugh and say, ‘Come on when you can.’”
The family is supportive. Dad Mark built the barn and pens, and lends hands-on help during school months. Mom Charlotte hauls hay, feed and even goats, and assists with getting products out.
“It’s been satisfying just watching the process of her learning to work, learning the value of a dollar and learning life lessons of responsibility,” Charlotte says.
Collier isn’t certain where all this will lead. For the present, it’s enough to enjoy the challenge of raising the goats and producing products. Popping out to the pens to play with the spring babies doesn’t hurt either.