PROFILE: MICHELLE ARONSON, FARMER, CHEF, TEACHER AND OWNER OF FARMBELLY
SANTA BARBARA, CALIFORNIA
Then Story: Garden Manager and Sustainability Coordinator
Now Story: Farmer, Chef, Teacher and Owner of Farmbelly
Curb Moment: Realizing it was finally time to turn her “side hustle” into a full time venture
Have you ever dreamed of turning your “side hustle” into a full time gig? Then take a cue from Farmbelly founder Michelle Aronson who nurtured her love for Irish butter, sweet potatoes and potluck dinners into a full time entrepreneurial adventure.
What do you do? Tell us about it.
I am a farmer, chef, and owner of a farm to table cooking school called Farmbelly. I love empowering people with the skills to grow their own gardens, support local farmers, and to cook confidently + joyfully in their home kitchens. I teach private cooking classes and public workshops to the community, and I also share stories, interviews, and recipes on my website and through social media.
What did you used to do?
I’ve had a wide range of jobs over the past few years, and each one taught me valuable skills and helped me on the path towards owning my own business. I’m a bit of a Jill-of-all-trades, and I’ve worked as a sustainability coordinator, educational farm manager, a high end caterer, a chef at a local restaurant, an elementary garden educator, and as a sales manager at a local produce distributor – just to name a few!
Why did you make the shift to something different and what would you say was your “curb moment?”
I’m grateful to say that I’ve truly loved all the jobs I had prior to starting my own business. That being said, I’m an entrepreneur at heart – and I craved the freedom and independence that comes with being your own boss. I initially launched Farmbelly three years ago and taught classes as a “side hustle” while maintaining a full time job at Westmont College, as the Sustainability Coordinator and Garden Manager. Slowly but surely, Farmbelly grew and I was consistently working 17+ hour days to make it all work! By the fall of 2017 I finally hit a breaking point, and I realized that if I wanted to keep growing Farmbelly (and if I ever wanted to get a full night’s sleep!), I needed to jump in with both feet.
What challenges have you had in making the shift?
Being your own boss requires a lot of discipline and grit – it’s definitely scary to leave the safety net of a secure 9-to-5 job! I’ve had to embrace the fact that being a small business owner means (as least for now) wearing ALL the hats – from scheduling, to accounting, social media, creating new class content, recipe testing, etc.
What has helped you overcome these challenges?
First and foremost, the overwhelming support from my family and friends has been absolutely invaluable. My loved ones have cheered me on since day one, and I never would have been brave enough to make this leap without them. I’m also a devoted list-maker – every night before I go to bed, I make a very detailed to-do list for the following day. That way, when I wake up I’ve already done my “homework” and I’m ready to tackle each day head on.
What advice do you have for others “at the curb” who want to make a career change or start something new?
Don’t be afraid to just START, even if it’s not perfect. I’m all about cultivating new ideas + businesses as “side hustles” – meaning you don’t need to quit your full time job right off the bat! Give yourself the time to work out the kinks of your new venture, and make sure it’s work that you truly feel passionate about. Last but not least, surround yourself with a small but mighty tribe of family, friends, and mentors who will support you and push you forward when the going gets tough. You got this!
To learn more about Michelle and Farmbelly visit www.Farmbelly.com.