Congratulations to Mary Ellen Taylor, owner of Endless Summer Harvest for being finalists for Loudoun’s Top Entrepreneur of the Year! The livestream of the 26th Annual Loudoun Small Business Awards will premier Friday, November 13, 2020 at 6:00 p.m. on our Facebook Page. View all 2020 SBA Finalists here.
What are you most proud of about your team?
We grow food. Endless Summer Harvest maintains excellent agricultural standards. We have done it for 80 seasons without losing a crop. We have a small team, and there is a trust level that each member is going to do their smartest each day, and that changes everything.
This year, “extraordinary 2020”, I am extremely proud of Alicia Cerretani and Kerri Thompson, who within a matter of days this spring, adapted our farm to a modern marketplace. As members of the farm team, they continued their regular responsibilities, as well as collaborated to create a secure and informative online store, with a pre-order pickup option. This online transformation was a model to other farmers and local businesses. We went from a marketplace based on in-person relationships to today, successfully reaching fans in the cloud. Pre 2020, I was a dinosaur and didn’t have a social media presence at all. That has all changed and I am loving starring in my own social media outreach, thanks to Alicia and my co-producers and stars- the ESH team. In another swift marketing retro/forward motion, we simultaneously opened a neighborhood lettuce market farm stand, to raving reviews and loyal fans.
What is the key to success in being an entrepreneur?
Tenacity. An exuberant, enthusiastic attitude. Keep your eye on the prize. Stay undaunted. An entrepreneur is not independent – you must surround yourself with smart people and create a synergistic environment. You must be open to continually refine your internal processes and procedures.
What inspired you to be an entrepreneur?
The thirty years spent in corporate America, I worked for some awful management. I vowed to create a safe harbor when my chance arrived. I’d establish an environment where people were asked to do what they did well, and were recognized frequently. I wanted a business with integrity, that was fun and rewarding every day. To have a business where laughing often is required. Where you work hard and it feels good, like the feeling after weeding a garden.
What do you love about being an entrepreneur?
I love being “THE LETTUCE LADY”. My relationships with our customers are very rewarding to me. I’ve been at this long enough to have met couples at farmers markets who have children and then watch them grow up eating food I’ve grown. It’s very satisfying. I love the local farming community and the other farmers at the markets. I savor leading a team of really smart people with great attitudes. I like sharing our lives together.
History of founding and business?
My husband Wally Reed and I went on vacation to the Magic Kingdom and Epcot Center. There we went on a ride called “The Land”. We said, “that’s what we are going to go home and do! We are going to move to Loudoun County and open up a hydroponic lettuce farm. All water, no pesticides, and grow year around, in a controlled agricultural environment, he finest salads in the exurbs of Washington, D.C.” For 20 years now, we have done exactly that. We are the future of farming here and now in Loudoun County.
What are you most proud of about your business?
Endless Summer Harvest has survived 20 years, and we are thriving. I am proud that we have continuously reinvented our marketplace, while still growing gourmet lettuces. I am proud that each and every week, I get to tell a customer who is ever-more raving about our lettuce why it tastes so good and lasts so long. I am proud to be surrounded by a great village and am very proud of each of them and their accomplishments.
What do you give back to the community?
Inspiring the next generation of the scientist farmer is a core value of ESH. We have placed hydroponic systems in Loudoun County’s Round Hill Elementary School and Randolph Macon Academy in Front Royal, VA. This year we began working with Loudoun Valley High School in Purcellville, to create a living classroom. We have supported numerous Eagle Scout hydroponic projects. We support The Cool Cats ice hockey team for children and adults with developmental disabilities. I honor every request from our community that would like to have an interpretive tour of the farm. Weekly, we donate to our farmers market gleaners. We frequently give to Tree of Life, Boulder Crest Foundation, and make monthly donations to feed 30 families through a food pantry program.
What is the main key to success?
Attitude. We CANNOT control what might happen, but we can control our response.
What would it mean for you and your business to win a SBA?
It would mean that farming is valued as important business in Loudoun County. Winning would recognize the Endless Summer Harvest team, and our year-round resilience.
What is your favorite thing about running your business in Loudoun County?
My favorite thing is the people I conduct business with. I love my roots being in Loudoun County. Purcellville is the greatest place to live and thrive, and I feel so safe in this community. It is the most beautiful of all counties in The Commonwealth. And critically important: Access to a super strong marketplace.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
President! I loved politics, power, and government studies.
What is the book that changed your live and why?
The business book that changed my life is “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” by Steven Covey. The habits he shares are timeless and serve me will in business and personal relationships. My favorite habit is “To Seek First to Understand Then Be Understood”. It is a struggle to follow, but it helps me remember to listen more and talk less.
What other passions do I have?
I love to read real books, hand write long letters, or send pretty cards to friends and family through the US Post Office. I like to peruse our local antique and thrift stores for “treasures”. I bike ride the WO&D trail in the early morning. And if truth be known, I adore my orange cats Baby Boi and Puff Puff.
How do you see your business evolving in the next five years?
Absolutely we will continue the finest standards for growing lettuce, while I steer the business to a more micro-marketing circle. I want to tighten up a closer radius to home – to locate more local families as customers, and bring more retail to the farm.
What is the smallest thing that has made the biggest impact on your business?
Seeds! Seeds are tiny, and have the fierce energy needed to keep our business growing. Seeds are the foundation of life at Endless Summer Harvest. Without seeds, nothing moves forward. Seeds are the driving force of our business.