Charlotte Business Journal released the list of finalists for its first-ever Family Business Awards. The publication is hosting an awards dinner to honor the winners March 23 for “overall excellence, innovation, ethics, philanthropy and contribution to our region.”
Even though I adore my family, I’m fairly certain we would drive each other nuts if we tried to operate a business together.
But a member of one of the family businesses on CBJ’s list looks at it differently. Kim Hodges Schoch’s family business, Hodges Family Farm, festively photographed above, was named a finalist in the “under 20 employees” category.
Schoch, now the 24-year-old assistant operations manager for the farm, didn’t expect to come back to Charlotte after graduating from NC State in 2014 with a degree in animal science and a minor in agricultural business. She had spent a year working in Australia with thoroughbred race horses and assumed she would work at an equine breeding facility in Kentucky.
But her uncle passed away last year, leaving her cousin, farm manager Connor Newman, alone as the one full-time employee at the business. “It was a lot for my cousin to take over,” she said. So she came back.
She started out by working for her family for free. “I just saw the opportunity to help out my family even if it meant eating ramen,” Schoch said. “…Money comes last, family comes first.”
The key: maintaining independence isn’t an issue. Though Schoch did live on the farm property until December 2015, she just got married and now lives with her husband about 15 minutes away in the Concord Mills area. “It’s close enough so I can come any time they need,” she said.
The business, which focuses on agritourism to educate the public about farming and farm animals, continued to grow and she is now a full-time, paid employee.
More than 20 family members are invested in the Hodges Family Farm, including Schoch’s father, Charlie Hodges, who has a full-time job in Durham but calls the shots with finances, taxes, insurance, event decisions and other business tasks.
“There are a lot of big personalities in my family so you have to be independent to be heard,” said Schoch, who helps by taking care of the farm animals and old buildings, scheduling events and event venues and creating documents to perpetuate her family’s educational aim. “I really developed myself before I came into the family business. I benefited by taking time in college to find myself.“
And she speaks with an assertiveness that says she knows exactly who she is. ”No one would call me quiet,” she said. “I’m a stubborn, independent person.”
Schoch said the people in her family bring a bunch of different ideas to the table — and put a bunch of hours into the farm, even if they don’t get paid. “We’re a family business and we just make it work until it works.”
Photos: Hodges Family Farm, Kelsey Newman