Misty Morning Ranch: A Thread Capital Small Business Success Story
Not long before Ryan and Gaby Olufs got married, in 2015, they were thinking about making a change and escaping the confines of Los Angeles. But even they didn’t know that the adventure ahead of them would involve thousands of miles, dozens of acres and a pair of ostriches named Ed and Bella.
The couple felt trapped by the high cost of living and had begun to look at places they could move.
“We had family in New Mexico, Colorado, and North Carolina,” Ryan says. “I didn’t want to live in New Mexico and Gaby didn’t want to live in Colorado, so we said, ‘Let’s go out to North Carolina.’”
So they did.
“We gave away everything that wouldn’t fit in the cars, packed our two cars, one of which we shipped, one of which we drove across the country.”
They settled in Moore County near Ryan’s brother, Robert, and his family, and began to search for a little land to own. “A little bit to us was like five acres,” Ryan says. They eventually found 60 acres that were just right for their family—and that’s when Ryan started to wonder about what he could do with all that space.
“We are city people through and through,” he says. “I mean, not just from L.A. No one in our family farmed. We didn’t know about it. We didn’t go to school for it. Farming was very foreign to us in every way you could think of.”
They had a lot to learn: everything from fencing to site management to how to drive a tractor. “Do you need to mow the grass when it’s 10 acres?” Ryan asks. “Or does it just take care of itself?”
Their options for farming were limited—“We didn’t want to grow anything,” Ryan explains—but he remembered a relative’s passing interest in ostrich feathers back in the 1990s. “We decided to talk to some ostrich farmers,” he says. “We are where we are today partly because I’m the master at cold-calling people. If I can find a number, I will call and talk to people.”
The Olufs connected with ostrich farmers in North Carolina, learned all they could about the industry, and decided to give it a shot. Ostrich meat is healthy, they learned, and there’s a ready market for it across the country and around the world. That’s when Ed and Bella, the first of the Olufs’ breeding stock, came into the picture.
Those early days of Misty Morning Ranch were also when Thread Capital partnered with the Olufs to find the capital they needed to grow. The family had encountered trouble getting a loan—their needs were bigger than a personal loan but not big enough for a traditional business loan. “A farmer is not looked at as a small business owner by pretty much everybody,” Ryan explains. “They’re looked at as a farmer. We’ve never viewed it that way. We see ourselves as farmers and this as a farm, but we see it as a business.”
With Thread Capital’s help, the Ranch was able to add fencing and, importantly, breeding stock. With more birds, it now produces an average of 150 ostriches a year, yielding between 12,000 and 13,000 pounds of meat annually.
And while the farm still has room to grow—Ryan took a call recently from a man in Ukraine who wanted to know if Misty Morning Ranch has an export license—the Olufs are pleased with the product of their pick-a-place-on-the-map adventure.
“It’s wild,” he says, “that we ended up here.”
For more information about Thread Capital’s Small Business program, reach out to the team directly by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.