Stop Day Dreaming and Take Your Creativity to Market – A commentary on Eric Ries’ Minimum Viable Product



The meat program at Six Sigma Ranch started with a customer request. There were cattle in the pasture and people wanted to know if they could buy the meat. So, Christian started a waiting list. The first year he processed 4 steers for customers who had asked. The news spread in the tasting room and more people signed up for the waiting list. He later added lamb and pork to the offerings.


Last year we processed 30 hogs, but that is not how we started. What Christian had created with the processing of 4 steers was the minimum viable product. What is that, you ask?


“A Minimum Viable Product is the smallest thing you can build that delivers customer value (and as a bonus captures some of that value back)“


Too often people get caught in the big investment trap. Thinking you need to go big or go home can either keep you from ever starting, or leave you spending a bunch of money in an un-wise way. Creating a minimum viable product allows you to start up and fine tune without the expense. It’s much easier to turn a small boat than a cruise ship.


“A minimum viable product is therefore not a product. It is a minimum viable go to market step.” – The Lean Start-up


If you have a hankering to start something, try asking yourself these questions:


  1. What is it that you love to do, create or talk about?
  2. What kind of product could you make based on your passion?
  3. What is the most basic version of this product?
  4. How can you make it with minimal investment?
  5. What is the required investment?
  6. Do you have resources to available to build/produce some?
  7. What is the required price to cover the cost of production plus overhead?
  8. How many do you need to sell to break even?
  9. How long will it take you to have one ready?
  10. How fast can you make them?
  11. Who are the people that love this kind of product?
  12. What do the people who are most likely to buy it think of your idea?
  13. Where can you sell it?
  14. Where can you market it?
  15. When will you launch your product?


After the launch:

  1. What is the customer feedback on the product?
  2. Can improvements be made?
  3. What kind of funds does it take to increase production?
  4. Start again with #5 from the top, only with increased production.
  5. And repeat


If you love the idea of agriculture, here are some ideas to get you started.


  1. Get chickens and sell the eggs to neighbors and friends.
  2. Sell live chickens that you have raised and offer to process them for a fee.
  3. Make “non-hazardous” food goods through your state’s cottage food law.
  4. Get a goat and start a natural thistle and weed removal service.


If you are already farming, apply the same principles when adding products or changing your marketing scheme.

  1. Stop selling all your steers at auction and use 1 or 2 of them for direct sales to customers.
  2. Take some of the wheat that you usually sell to the co-op, grind it for flour and sell it to your neighbors.
  3. Get sheep to graze under your orchard trees, sell some of the lambs to auction, but keep a couple to process for direct sale.
  4. Have the wool from your sheep spun into yarn . . . sell directly to customers.




It’s incredible what you can learn from an expert.



I currently feel as if I could be an expert salami maker. This is not based on experience or expertise. I’ve taken one class on the subject and read one book.


I recently went to a salumi class at the Fatted Calf in Napa. I learned to make Cacciatorini, little air-dried salami, and Guanciale, cured pork jowls. The owner of the store made me feel so confident in my charcuterie skills I had no doubt that I could do it at home. How was this possible?


The instructor had been curing meat for um-teen years and had the experience to teach me exactly what I needed to know. When he rolled up his sleeves and worked right beside me I could learn and ask questions. This is far superior to watching a YouTube video (I do admit that these videos are awfully handy if you can’t find an expert!) He imparted his skill and confidence on me for a brief moment and I feel as though I can conquer the dry-cured meat world.


If you want to start farming/sewing/wood-working, find an expert and ask to learn. Offer to volunteer. Find a part-time job. Pay for a lesson. Isaac Newton once said, “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” It’s so much easier to see from up there.