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The Worm Ladies of Charlestown, Inc

Submitted by: Nancy Warner
Business Website: http://www.wormladies.com
State: Rhode Island
City: Charlestown

Business Description

We are your best resource for everything regarding vermiculture: the practice of raising red wiggler worms to consume food scraps and some other household waste.

What one unique aspect of your business will make you succeed over the next year?

Having operated low-tech, outdoor worm farming systems for 13 years, the Worm Ladies of Charlestown have a tremendous opportunity to grow as a business by leveraging a deep under-standing of worm farming with an established and respected brand. Expansion of operations into a climate-controlled greenhouse will allow the Worm Ladies to operate year-round and serve a growing demand for worms, worm castings, and related products. The Worm Ladies, through the help of SCORE, received a $30,000 loan for this expansion, allowing them to lease greenhouse space from Slocum Farm Properties in Saunderstown, RI. The red wiggler worms double their numbers every three months under the right conditions. The greenhouse will facilitate two methods for sustaining high volume production of worms and castings. One method will be large bin systems, used primarily for breeding purposes. Worms from these bins will be harvested for resale as well as for use in windrows. The second method is continuous windrow vermiculture. This system utilizes long shallow piles of decomposing organic material (i.e. composting food scraps) and worms. The windrows will be used primarily for generating large volumes of rich castings.

How does your business make a positive impact on the community?

There is a growing demand for natural sources of plant nutrients and soil enhancers by gar-deners, farmers, landscapers, and nurseries. Worm castings are of the highest quality in this regard. There is also a growing market for composting food scraps from restaurants, schools, institutions, food processors, and curb-side pickup initiatives. An advantage to being the largest worm composter in the region is that the Worm Ladies will be able to provide a source of fresh, ‘living’ compost to the market. The advantage of local, fresh worm compost is that it is rich in beneficial soil biology. The Worm Ladies will also continue to grow their educational services.

What would you do with a $1,000 Sam’s Club gift card, training, and help from a SCORE mentor to grow your business?

The Worm Ladies would use the gift card from Sam's for worm bins and/or composters. The business would also like to add interns from Rhode Island College.

The following responses will be considered in judging for a SCORE Award.

How has working with a SCORE mentor helped your business?

Bill Welsh had the challenge of making me focus on a business plan, which wasn’t easy to do. I completed the plan; Bill then suggested that I go to my local bank for a business loan. I had no collateral, so the prospects were not good. The bank refused my application, as expected, but they referred me to Community Investment Corporation (CIC). CIC had some new loans available, two $15,000 loans. I was able to complete all of the paper work for these loans. Bill informed me that we had been meeting for over 5 years. It wasn’t until I had gone to a Worm Conference in North Carolina that I gained the knowledge (via other worm farmers) to feel secure in expanding.

Have you had to overcome any obstacles along the way to build your business?

Obstacles: I did not have enough space indoors to raise worms all year long—I missed 6 months of raising worms because of the cold New England winters. I did not have enough space as well. I was selling the worms faster than I could breed them. I needed to have a large amount of worms that I would not harvest for at least a year. This meant that I had to buy worms from other sources in order to meet the demand I had for worms. The profit is in the castings, not the worms, I will be concentrating on producing castings. I lacked the capital to expand.

How will you utilize the marketing video and national recognition of winning a SCORE Award to help take your business to the next level?

The next level for The Worm Ladies is to employ staff for raising worms, marketing worms and castings, handling social media, producing webinars, improving packaging, improving the website, and making viideos. An additional goal would be to increase the ownership of The Worm Ladies.
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