The Hypothetical Entrepreneur – A Family Affair

From Adam Scouse:

In this entry in my chronicle exploring starting a ginseng business, I wrote about the opportunity to meet an official “sang” hunter, Sylvester Yunker. Mr. Yunker represents all the folks hiking the Appalachian Mountains with an eye for plants that people just seem to want for some reason. I want to take a step further into the system to investigate what Mr. Yunker does with his ginseng once he has harvested it.

Before a collector travels into the woods to harvest a specific Non-Timber Forest Product, most likely he or she has already given the local dealer a call to see what is currently in demand.  This dealer, who prefers doing business with larger quantities of product, will act as a go-between for diggers to brokers.

What does this mean for my ginseng business research? That I have to talk to a dealer and find out how they operate!

To do just that, I searched for ginseng dealers on Google, a popular search engine.  It wasn’t easy to find dealers located in Virginia, but I did come across one commonwealth resident by accident when searching through a list of West Virginia dealers. His name is Samuel Daniel, owner of Daniel’s Country Store, and his family has been collecting ginseng for four generations.

I gave Mr. Daniel, former State Inspector for the Highway Department, a call to ask about his business as a ginseng dealer. Mr. Daniel was interested in buying any amount of ginseng that I might have to sell, provided it was dried, for 420 dollars a pound. This price is down from 900 dollars a pound this time last year. From his office in Horsepen, VA, he mentioned that at least ninety-five percent of that ginseng would go straight on to Hong Kong.

My call to Mr. Daniel further reinforced a previous conversation between myself and Dr. Jim Chamberlain.  In talking with each other, Dr. Chamberlain had recommended focusing on multiple Non-Timber Forest Products, not simply ginseng by itself. Mr. Daniel mentioned that as a dealer, he would collect anything there was currently demand for. A few examples of other herbs in demand which he would be interested in collecting are black cohosh, goldenseal, and snakeroot.

Mr. Daniel also mentioned that a lot of what he collects is dependent upon the harvest season. Working closely with a group of familiar diggers, all who share his same family tradition of Non-Timber Forest Products collection, Mr. Daniel amasses the harvested herb and reimburses the collector according to its current demand.

What does this interaction teach me, The Hypothetical Entrepreneur? It is evident that from a dealer’s perspective, ginseng collection alone will not be a feasible business operation.  In order to create a large enough revenue of income I should seek to deal with multiple Non-Timber Forest Products alongside of ginseng.

You can follow the full series of posts by Adam Scouse for Handshake 2.0 at The Hypothetical Entrepreneur.

Adam Scouse is an intern for Handshake 2.0, a member company of business acceleration center VT KnowledgeWorks, located in the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center, a technology park, a research park, and a science park on the Virginia Tech campus in Blacksburg, Virginia.  The research park provides high-technology companies access to university faculty, university facilities, university equipment, and business-related support services.  The Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center fosters commercialization and technology transfer of university research for both high-tech start-up companies and established technology businesses.

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