April 11, 2018
Local entrepreneur Trish Yoder talks Branch Bender Cidery and agri-tourism;
Focuses on the Power of Possibilities
Now entering its fourth year, the Power of Possibilities series at Garrett College has engaged over 1,200 entrepreneurs, business owners, and like-minded individuals in the region all of whom support and enable small business formation and growth.
Although the upcoming spring entrepreneurship summit on April 27, 2018 is a learning, sharing and networking event for those in the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Garrett County and the surrounding region, the event is also a celebration of new entrepreneurs. Emerging entrepreneurs are acknowledged by the annual Power of Possibilities business plan and innovation competition.
While this year’s competitors are very much involved in the final stages of preparing their business plan proposals for the upcoming event, last year’s competition winner, Trish Yoder, of Branch Bender Cidery, reflected on their first year since the competition last April.
Branch Bender Cidery is owned by Trish Yoder and her husband Chester, who reside in Accident. Coupled with the dedication and support of their family, they strive to create artisan cider in the Appalachian Mountains.
After Trish’s father passed, they had the opportunity to purchase the farm they had lived on for 25 years. In its prime, it was a dairy farm. While Trish and Chester were not interested in dairy farming, they were interested in how they could transform the farm into a combination crop and agri-toursim opportunity. After two years, they are now headed in that direction.
At the time of the competition, both Trish and Chester had the idea of a cidery, but that was all. The family farm had an old apple orchard present, consisting of six large heritage apple trees. "We wanted to use the competition to explore the viability and potential profitability," Yoder stated. "We’ve always had ideas about using the farm for agri-tourism in some form."
Although their two sons reside in Nashville, Tenn. and Hastings, Minn., they have been a part of the journey. "This project is a family business that has brought our family together, albeit virtual," she stated. "They live in different states, but the cidery is something we’re working on as a family. They have enjoyed taste testing and creating names for the cider the most."
So how did Branch Bender Cidery become a reality? "The Power of Possibilities experience gave us the opportunity to explore our business idea from many angles so we had the tools to make educated decisions about if and when to pursue it. It forced us to plow through the unknowns to find answers that were relevant to the business," she explained.
Yoder credits the guidance and encouragement her and her husband received from coaches, Jodi McClintock and Cheryl DeBerry. As part of the competition, each participant is teamed up with a mentor and/or coach to assist with business plan development and provide real world insight and experiences. Since the program began, participants have stated how effective coaches have been in the process from start to finish.
"Jodi connected us with resources that not only enabled us to process our information with meaningful methods, but also lead to a more complete plan. Marc Malec, of the Small Business Development Center for Allegany County, provided financial analysis and spreadsheets, that allowed us to make accurate projections and budgets," continued Yoder. "Interactions among current and previous contestants proved to be a valuable component and part of the competition also."
Yoder explained that the coaches and colleagues her and Chester met during the competition continue to be encouraging friends. Another strong component of being involved in the Power of Possibilities series has been networking and making connections.
Both Chester and Trish have joined relevant business organizations and partook in any and all networking opportunities around the cider business and industry. "We’ve contracted with an experienced cider consultant to help develop some recipes and strategize the business launch," stated Yoder.
The team is continuing to learn on all fronts, with Chester going to Cornell University to learn more about the art of cider making. Furthermore, the two have become well educated in the areas of marketing and distribution as well.
"Our product is not just a local product, but it can be sold nationally. Living in Garrett County, we knew we needed the potential for a larger distribution center and/or market," Yoder said. "We have learned that some ciders are operating in home garages and selling cider in 35 states – there is hope for us!"
Yoder reported in addition to the success of the Bender Branch Cidery, her and Chester have been quite busy making other improvements on the farm as well, including the renovations and opening up trails. They performed some restorations to an off-the-grid cabin that is currently being prepared for rent, known as the Cabin on Cove Run.
They also welcomed their newest addition to the Yoder Haus Holdings, LLC family, known as Petal Branch Cove Pastures. The flower farm will feature an assortment of perennials, feature peonies, decorative cabbage, and mums.
Yoder stated that one of their long term goals for Branch Bender Cidery is to create a specialty-limited edition cider from the six large heritage apple trees on their family farm. The Power of Possibilities competition gave them a much-needed jump start to a bigger dream.
What advice does she have for others who are thinking of starting a business, or have a new idea, but aren’t sure how or where to begin? "There are valuable resources within reach locally within our own community that Chester and I were not aware of ourselves. This can be a grueling exercise if you take it seriously, but it’s a powerful investment for making some educated decisions. Ask the hard questions and use fear as energy to move forward. Do not be afraid of the unknowns."
Registration is currently open for the upcoming Power of Possibilities spring entrepreneurship summit on April 27, 2018. Individuals can learn more and register online at www.garrettcollege.edu/pop or contact the Garrett College Continuing Education & Workforce Development at 301-387-3069.
Power of Possibilities 3.0 business plan and innovation competition winners and owners of Branch Bender Cidery; Trish and Chester Yoder and family.
Pictured from left to right are: Shane and Chrissy Yoder (Nashville, Tenn.); Trish and Chester; granddaughter Lulu Yoder (daughter of Corey and Hillary); Corey and Hilary Yoder (Hastings, Minn.).