Taking It to the Bare Roots

With a chai tea in one hand and a handful of dirt in the other, I decided it was time to take a stab at the sore eye in the room and not neglect it any longer. Who knew that a Saturday morning would be the perfect conditions for a two-in-one gardening and marketing lesson!?

I couldn’t overlook the twice-used plastic grocery bag any longer. The 50 bare root strawberry plants that were housed in the bag weren’t going to grow legs — roots possibly, but definitely not legs — and immerse themselves into the soil. If I were to have any chance on tasting the freshness of their homegrown sweetness in the thick of the summer’s heat, I had to face the challenge head on and figure out how in the world to wake them up.

Gardening has always been a favorite past time of mine. There’s nothing better than going out back and literally picking dinner for this vegetarian. For years, our family had grown a garden and while I had learned a lot about how to perfect the hobby, I had always tackled my endeavors through the path of least resistance.

Don’t break what isn’t broken. If it worked last year, it will work again this year. And let’s be real, many of us take that same approach in business, am I right?! How many times have you stopped before you started? Have you told yourself no on a new way just because the old way worked good enough? Have you ever embraced stripping down your efforts to the bare roots and trying something different?

I had grown radishes from seeds and tomatoes from plant starters, but I had never ventured into growing plants from “bare roots.” This was uncharted territory. But if I wanted to grow my strawberry patch, the bare root transplant approach was not only the most cost effective, but it was the most readily accessible. A friend of mine who, too, loves gardening had offered to share the new shipment of bare root plants with me, so if I was going to give it a try, this year was the year.

I opened the bag of what looked like two handfuls of weeds and questioned what I had signed up for. Everything looked utterly and completely dead. I saw possibly two withered strawberry leaves, but the rest of the piles were pathetic looking twigs and roots that appeared to have little hope. Starting something that you feel is a lost cause can be demotivating — and that’s exactly where I had found myself.

But I trusted my gardening comrade and decided to watch the video on how to plant bare root strawberry transplants to learn more. The 10-minute YouTube video introduced me to an avid gardener who explained why many plant distributors sell bare root plants and gave me the step-by-step process on how to, in essence, wake up my strawberries. In attentively listening, I walked away with some business advice as well. Maybe you will, too!

When you take it to the root, you are less likely to have hitchhikers.

So, what is a bare root plant, anyway? A bare root plant is one that a grower grows, and before selling, they uproot it in its dormant state, wash all of the soil off of the roots, and ship them to those who are interested. While the plants themselves look rough in this stage, there are several reasons why it makes the most sense to transport plants this way.

It’s cost effective and easier to ship. Soil is heavy and trying to ship green plants can be cumbersome. Bare root plants are extremely light, and thus, cost-effective to ship.The packaging process doesn’t require much which helps ensure that the person selling the plants and the person purchasing them both come out winners!

You are less likely to have hitchhikers. The only hitchhikers I knew of are those that I’ve already been taught to not pick up. But hitchhikers are also a word used for invasive plants that hitch a ride on whatever plant you are purposefully shipping. As a home gardener, I have enough trouble with weeds; I definitely don’t need new invasive plants invading my garden!

After better understanding the purpose of bare root strawberries, I opened the bag and examined what appeared to be crumbling potential. The cost was perfect for my budget and the ease of transport made it simple for my friend and I to share. But it was the omission of hitchhikers I was most grateful for.

Is it dead or merely dormant?

A year prior, I had purchased what I now know were bare root strawberries from a local store. I have wanted strawberries so badly that anytime I see them within my reach I grab them. But when I got home and opened the bag of promise up, I was deflated at seeing a bag of weird roots and soil particles. I was so deflated that I tossed them in the garbage immediately.

Sadly, I tossed away a bag full of promise and potential. Bare root strawberries, while appearing dead, are merely dormant. They have been uprooted during a time of hibernation, and once they awake, they can bear amazing life! And as with most things in life, the best way to wake something up is to give it a bath! Literally.

I filled up a massive bowl of lukewarm water and submerged my bare root strawberries in them, allowing them to feel the warmth on their roots and give them a gentle reminder that they can’t stay asleep forever. They had a purpose. I had a goal. And together we were going to make it happen.

As the water bath separated the leftover dirt from the bare strawberries, I noticed that just because something appears to be trash, doesn’t always mean that it is. In fact, under the dirt were new root growth and on each and every bare root plant was a tiny green strawberry leaf at the crown peeking through, ready to kick it into high gear. What appeared to be dead was merely dormant and all it needed was a little trust and a warm bath to wake up and a healthy dose of patience to grow to its potential.

Look at your business like a bare root strawberry.

Isn’t that something we all need in business? A little trust and a hot shower to get us started and a side of patience to allow for everything to evolve as it should. In fact, you can learn a lot about your overall business and marketing strategy from a bare root strawberry plant.

Is your idea dead or merely dormant?

Right before the pandemic hit, I was sitting on the sidelines of a chlorine filled room reflecting while my kids were in swim lessons. When my brain has an idea, whether or not the timing is right, I must find a way to capture it. I jotted down pages and pages of business ideas on how to reach a niche of my target market and I left with a plan on how to make it happen. The next week, the pandemic seemingly shattered the plan to pieces.

However, as I woke up my bare root strawberries, I realized that the seed of an idea that had been placed within me a year prior wasn’t dead, but merely dormant. In fact, the longer that it remained dormant, the longer I had to position my business systems in place and continue to grow my audience. The idea still had merit and potential; and now the timing was right to resurrect it!

How can you take it down to the root?

It’s easy for your business to evolve into something that you had never planned for it to become if you let it. Your customers have new needs that you try to support and outside influencers can layer on expectations that weigh you down. Before you know it, the business you envisioned starting and the one you did are two different businesses altogether.

Like the strawberry grower, how can you take your business down to the root, dusting off the excess soil, giving it a wash, and then evaluating the purpose of your business and the offshoots from that purpose? If you focus on your purpose — your goals and our vision — first, then your growth will be aligned with where you want to go. Sometimes, the best way to figure that out is to take it down to the root.

What hitchhikers do you need to leave behind?

We all have them — our invasive and unproductive thoughts toward our business. Why would anyone want to work with you? Why would someone choose your product over another? You see other businesses and begin to question your own, causing you to lose confidence or be held back from new and innovative opportunities.

Much like the grower who find financial value in taking strawberry plants to bare root to eliminate hitchhikers, when you take your seed of an idea, your blooming business or your new opportunity to down to the root, you should harness the potential and leave behind the hitchhiker negative thoughts. Imposter syndrome isn’t one of the healthy conditions for growth. Instead, it hinders it. Leave it behind and make a pact with yourself to not pick it up.

Your business — whether it involves you working one-on-one with clients, providing a tangible or intangible service or product, or inspiring action through an evergreen approach — is more similar to a bare root strawberry plant than you once knew.

In the days where you feel exhausted and unproductive — the days where you question if your business is even going to make it — remember that sometimes dead and dormant appear alike. The only difference is what you do with the potential under the soil.

During the times when you feel heavy from your own hitchhiker thoughts, remember that you don’t have to pick them up. You can leave them on the sidelines and kick them to the curb. There is no need for an invasive effort to take over that isn’t going to propel you forward.

And when you find yourself overwhelmed, overworked and beyond stressed, take a pause to shake off the excess soil and run yourself a warm shower. Rinse off the stuff that you don’t need and take a look at the bare roots. When you do, you’ll find new and innovative offshoots that align with who you are and where you are destined to go next.

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Stephanie Feger

Throughout her life, she’s been in the business of empowering people. She’s empowered her teams to collective success. She’s empowered individuals, groups and organizations to embrace perspective as a tool for deeper satisfaction and personal and professional accomplishments. And she’s empowered authors, small business owners and entrepreneurs with communications and marketing strategies to help them reach their goals.

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