What Does It Take For A Regenerative Enterprise To Thrive?

Jun 6, 2023 | Blog, Business Management, Entrepreneurship, Financial Sustainability, Permaculture, Professional services, Project Management, Success Stories

Author: Jason Thomas

Regenerative entrepreneurs carry hope for our future  

Thanks to the advancements of the communication age, the world is finding more good-intending people than ever starting businesses meant to make a positive difference in the world. The internet is full of ways to get your message out to the world and technologies designed to get your products into the hands of those whose lives will be better for it.


Entrepreneurs are way-seers, innovators, creators, & risk-takers. They’re dreamers, believers, and doers. Regenerative entrepreneurs are a rare breed of humans who see how the world could be better and follow the impulse, devoting their life to making it happen.


The trick is that while creating a product or program is easier than ever, we live in a world inundated with people trying to do so. A relatively small percentage of those individuals begin with business training to organize their approach in a way that’ll cut through the noise on the internet to help their ideal customers find them.


Becoming an entrepreneur, especially with heart and integrity behind your offerings, is exciting. The idea of living your dream life, supported by offering your dream product or service, is very enticing. It’s one that I believe any good-intending, perseverant person should be able to realize. At the same time, statistics show that a concerning number of those initiatives find it hard to make the impact they intend before the learning curves get the best of them.


I feel an urgency for more socially and ecologically regenerative entrepreneurs to make it in this world, and I’ve channeled a lifetime of my own entrepreneurial efforts to support this movement.


My Journey as an Entrepreneur

My entrepreneurial journey started with I was 19 years old. I dropped out of college when I saw that the institution’s ulterior agenda was really to teach us to drink coca cola, sign up for credit cards, and get good at working for someone else until we were old.


In my search for out-of-the-box opportunities, I came across a warehouse distributor training people how to sell wholesale items like kids’ books and calculators door-to-door in the business districts of Detroit, MI. I learned principles like “The Law of Averages,” which says that if you knock on enough doors, you’re sure to find a yes, and each no you find along the way is just another step closer to a yes. Staying positive along the path is one of the best things you can do to improve your average.


From there, I moved out to Arizona and then traveled extensively, taking residence in California, Hawai’i, and Minnesota, among many others. During those years, I went on to create coupon books, freelanced as a sound engineer, tied balloon animals for tips, began practicing Thai massage, provided event catering services, built an essential oil downline, hosted permaculture design courses, and taught classes on most of the previously mentioned topics. Eventually, I found myself, 20 years later, only marginally successful in any of them.


In 2016, I left my permaculture education center in Costa Rica to return to the States for a few years, to get medical assistance for my youngest son. After 7 years on the farm, I found myself having returned to a new world. Putting up flyers at coffee shops and passing out business cards at expos was no longer going to work the way it had in my earlier years. The digital era had taken hold, and anyone starting a new business was going to have to learn how to play its game.


Arriving to the Modern Era

That’s when I decided to up my game and learn how to do business in the 21st century.


Upon returning, I went back to school to study Shiatsu therapy and Thai massage, but it was my work as a balloon artist that was paying the bills. Luckily I had a friend in the industry who was able to send work my way. I started off changing the same rates I had 7 years prior, but I soon found that I was cutting myself short.


Over the next few years, I purchased and finished several online courses, hired a few coaches, and consumed tons of free material. In a short time, I raised my rates to be celebrated as one of the highest-paid balloon artists in the Twin Cities and was decorating gala events with installations that took days to put up with a crew of artists.


My mentors taught me how to think about my services from my clients’ perspectives. I learned how to set up automated communications and other data organizational systems that reduced my client processing time from 90 minutes each to just 15! I even learned how to build a website and use more online tools than I ever knew existed. I’d used balloon art as the framework to learn business skills, but I knew that it wasn’t my passion. Even so, I knew I’d be able to apply my new skills to something more meaningful soon.


…And then the world broke

Having turned my balloon-tying gigs into a booking agency, I spent the winter of 20/21 back in Costa Rica, booking artists at events all over Minnesota throughout the coming year. I’d succeeded at creating my first online business!


And that’s when the world broke, and events didn’t exist anymore.


Like so many other business owners, that winter, I returned a painful amount of money to an entire season’s worth of customers and considered my options to pivot.


The Sacred Pivot

I knew I wanted to work from my rural homestead while serving people I cared about. The time had come to make that my new reality.


The one group of people I know I cared about were landowners, permaculture and community project leaders, and other regenerative-minded entrepreneurs. I wanted to help the mavericks who dare to create something beneficial for the world but might lack the business education to make their dreams financially regenerative so they can thrive.


I began a podcast to learn more about these people and their projects and see the movement from different perspectives.  After a couple of years of integrating into the scene on regional and national levels, others started coming to me for advice, welcoming me into their circles with hopes of benefiting from my experiences. From there, I began holding events and providing consulting services for regenerative-minded entrepreneurs specializing in land-based projects.

I’ve begun offering free Clarity Calls to anyone with a regenerative-minded project they want to make financially sustainable. Through the process, I’ve seen a few patterns in the people I’ve been working with that keep them back until we design ways through them. I’ll list a few of them for you below.

Leave the “Build it, and they will come” approach for the movies

Most regenerative-minded land-based project leaders understand the value of designing their physical infrastructure before breaking ground. Permaculture designers are trained to gather many layers of information, look at the patterned relationships between the varying elements, and carefully design the different phases of implementation so that the various systems all end up supporting each other in a symbiotic way.


The same approach should be taken with any revenue-generating ambitions we pursue. Writing a business plan can sound like a dry practice. Regardless, taking the time to map out these ventures with the same thoughtfulness as we do our agriculture and architecture is a vital step toward creating resilient and financially regenerative businesses.


Here are a few ways to build resilience into your program…


1) Identify Roles

Entrepreneurs are ideas people. They might have some technical or managerial skills, but once they decide to create a business of their own, they can often get overwhelmed as they start to find out what they don’t know. It helps here to use and value diversity.


In his book The E-Myth Revisited, Michael Gerber describes the difference between the roles of the Entrepreneur, the Manager, and the Technician. It’s a lot of hats to wear at the same time. If you work as a team, it’s easier to delegate these roles. It doesn’t have to be hierarchical, either. These are all essential roles and ones that can be carried out with mutual opportunities for input and influence in the process.


At the same time, in the execution of the business’s operations, it’s useful for everyone to know what their role is and respect the roles of others. This way, you can delegate responsibilities appropriately, and critical details become less likely to slip through the crack.


If you are a solopreneur, a helpful method is to batch your activities during different periods of the day or week, intentionally putting on one hat at a time.


That being said, there are ways to leverage your time without a team, as well as ways to attract co-creators. Both require getting very clear about what you want to do and creating a plan that is communicable to others.



2) Get some business training

One pattern I see among many regenerative entrepreneurs I work with is the need for more business training.


Various principles make keeping up with the modern-day pace and complexity of doing business more manageable and efficient enough to be worth pursuing. In permaculture, we create systems that are implemented in ways that save us time as we advance. This is often done by creating elements that automatically support themselves by proximity or in stacking functions. In designing your business, it’s good to stay open to ways to automate or batch your efforts to save time during operations.


Another practice one might find helpful in business training might include responsibly creating and following a budget, which often guides us to use small and slow solutions. Skipping this wisdom is a significant influence in many projects’ downfalls.


Of course, marketing is another aspect of business training that has many people stunned and lost. How do you get your product or message out to a world overloaded with messages? I’ll give you a hint. It comes back to making a thorough assessment and design before implementating anything.


While the modern day of self-education offers many opportunities to learn how to do the many things required to design and operate an efficient program, working with a coach, consultant, or mentor is the best way to save you years of trial, error, and heartbreak. Having an ally that can see the difference between efficient and inefficient approaches before you invest in them is priceless.


It can take weeks or months of research to figure out the best tools to use or how to set them all up in ways that integrate, saving you hours of work each week on redundant tasks. A mentor can save you all that time, directing you to the tools that’ll work best for you in your situation.



3) Embrace the tools available to you

There’s a saying that advises not to “throw the baby out with the bathwater.”


Many regenerative enterprises begin as a heroic response to some common-place industry or practice that’s proving to have a degenerative effect on the world. There are seemingly limitless examples of how modern-day extractive behaviors motivate creative people to do business differently. This is a response to seeing the problem as a solution!


By some strange and unfortunate irony, however, the people humanity needs most to thrive often build up a mentality that pushes their desired success away at the same time they’re reaching out for it. It seems that witnessing degenerative uses of modern-day tools and technologies can have a way of stimulating a sense of “anti-ism” in some people.


It’s common to build up taboos as motivators to change the ways we live. At the same time, it’s beneficial to discard those taboos once they’ve successfully swung our pendulums of habit away from what we’re aiming to get away from.


Sentiments around anti-profit, anti-employment, anti-ownership, anti-marketing, anti-sales, or anti-authority can be unnecessary judgments that split the world into black and white. The habit can push away half the spectrum of what could be supporting our efforts. Taboos and anti-ism breed struggle. Struggling isn’t sustainable. Once you use the good thorn to pluck out the bad throne, it’s time to throw both thorns away.


Judgment is a heavy burden to carry. Embarking on the path of entrepreneurship often calls us to leave our judgments and preconceived notions at the door so we’re free to explore the new world of possibilities before us with a beginner’s mind.


It should be enough to trust our integrity with how we’ll use the available tools rather than pushing them away because we’ve seen them used with harm. When we empty our cups, we have room to be filled.


4) Accept help when offered


If you’re one of those pioneers of a dream you want to see come true and need some help getting things off the ground, hit me up. We can meet over a free Clarity Call, where I’ll help you lay out the foundational elements of your business and organize your thoughts into an executable format. If we get on well, and it seems like I could help you further, you can book a longer strategy session or even a consultation package.


We’ll use the permaculture design principles to assess your program like other permaculturists assess one’s physical landscape. We’ll identify the different zones of your business’s infrastructure, the sectors of elemental influence, where you can stack functions, how to catch and store energy, and ultimately begin to design your program from patterns to details.


To learn more about the Regenerative Entrepreneur program and schedule a free call to clarify where adjustments might be well to be made, visit https://regenerationnationcr.com/regenerative-entrepreneur-consultation/ and prepare to feel supported.


I look forward to assisting you in whatever way makes sense for you and your program.


The world wants your ideas to thrive!

Jason is the founder of Regeneration Nation Costa Rica, a podcast exploring who’s doing what to bring Costa Rica toward carbon neutrality and social well-being. As a permaculturist with a background in business, he’s begun to bridge ecologically-focused entrepreneurs with the 21st-century tools and business practices he’s found useful in his own endeavors.

Jason’s been a dedicated earth steward for more than 20 years. His current mission is to promote & network regenerative projects throughout CR, aiming to enhance their ability to make their intended impact and thrive.

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