The Hypothetical Entrepreneur – Into the Wild

From Adam Scouse:

If you are like I am, you might agree that there is no better way of spending a warm afternoon than by romping around in one of Virginia’s beautiful national parks or forests, or even in your own backyard.  Much as author Henry David Thoreau wrote in Walden, we enjoy going to the woods to “front only the essential facts of life, and see if [we] could not learn what it had to teach."

Adam Scouse I would like to invite you to witness and participate in an experiment that will be unfolding over the next three months.  I am a senior Wood Science and Forest Products student at Virginia Tech.   Within my specialized Wood Science degree, I have focused my studies towards Non-Timber Forest Products (NTFPs) because of my interest in sustainable resources available in both foreign and domestic forests. 

Now, with a goal of learning about small business consulting and how it may apply to NTFPs, I will embark upon a new adventure. 

In an effort to learn what role Non-Timber Forest Products (NTFPs) might play to those living in the beauty of southwest Virginia, I will create a hypothetical small business which seeks to sell ginseng, an herbal plant that grows in the Appalachian region of Virginia.  Through blog posts on Handshake 2.0, I will communicate my successes, failures, and discoveries.  I will set objectives, create a business plan, and do market analyses to form an up-and-coming, theoretical small business from within my dorm room. 

I do this with the hopes of learning what role NTFPs play in the local southwest Virginia economy while gaining hands-on experience as to what steps small businesses must go through to get up and running and see success.   

Understand that what you will be reading is happening in real time and I invite and encourage feedback and communication.  I hope that readers participating in this experiment with me will be able to analyze my efforts and draw their own conclusions from it.  That being said, I am excited to be writing to you today as The Hypothetical Entrepreneur and hope you will join me along the way.

At the end, we’ll see what this experiment "had to teach." 

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  1. Wonderful educational opportunity and results may be of interest to many people in western Virginia, West Virginia, and North Carolina.
    I’ll meet with a ‘seng digger this weekend and will tell her about your interest.
    She might help. See my notes at

    Capital for the land is a problem unless you exploit public lands or have a contract with a cluster of private owners. Poaching may be a problem. Growth is slow, so large areas are needed for the long rotation periods. Proportion of harvest that is suitable is poorly known. Proof of effect of the product is limited and other drugs now seem to give equivalent effects. Fascinating problems and yet the price remains high.
    See p. 202-203 (and others) of Jones et al. Nontimber Forest Products in the United States, Univ. Press of Kansas, 2002, 445p.

    Best wishes.

  2. Adam,

    Good hunting!!

    Remember, make sure there’s a compelling marketplace need for more ginseng; figure out how your ginseng will be special; gather all the outside help you can find; and check your supply of moxie.

    Those are the First Four Factors: Market, Magic, Mentors, and Moxie. If those aren’t right, nothing else matters.

    Start with Moxie.

  3. Marketplace – more than you can imagine. Chinatown or export to Asia. American Ginseng is very different in it’s energetic property from it’s cousin the Korean Ginseng.

    You can alwasy approach herbalist – there is a publication called Redwing, there are many herb and accupuncture newsletter selling herbs etc.

    There are already companies that cultivate these ginseng – research into the perfect conditions and since they grow naturally, you could create a ginseng farm using SW Va soil and condition and take advantage of that natural advantage.

    1. There is a market
    2. It is done elsewhere – so SW Va “might” be a good choice.
    3. Land is relatively cheap in Floyd
    4. Now you have to think about product to market cost and see if you have a competitive edge and what value you can bering to it other than selling a “root”
    5. establishing a distribution channel will be important and realising there is a period of time you have to wait before harvesting. Calculate that inot your cash flow projection and planning.

    Good luck

    Get me some when they are ready for harvest – I will put some slices in my tea.


  4. I visited a digger (eastern Tennessee) 2 days ago. Notes: $200/pound for ginseng; Aug 15 max season for it; high deer population can be very bad; moles eat ginseng; a 12 prong plant is probably maximum; wet and dry bring very different prices; some people try to grow “patches” of it; theft is a problem in areas where drug use is high; dry powder primarily used locally as a “pick me up.”

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