What were you doing at age 11?

Meet Ariana Grueneberg: turkey raiser, teenage entrepreneur

By Lisa Gregoire

While you’re busy checking how many new friends you have on Facebook, Ariana Grueneberg, 17, is carrying 25-kg bags of turkey feed to the hundreds of birds who gobble-gobble their gratitude at her shins. No, she’s not performing chores for an allowance. It’s what she does to sustain her own business, one she’s been running since she was 11.

Grueneberg, owner and proprietor of Ariana’s Farm Fresh Fowl, supplies whole and processed poultry to Edmonton restaurants such as Bacon, caterers and customers at the city’s downtown farmers’ market. She lives on a farm with her parents, who run specialty restaurant supplier Greens, Eggs and Ham, which means she has access to the barns, tractors and tools she needs. It also means when she’s done her own work, she heads to the fields to pick spinach and carrots. “Kids my age, they have no idea what that’s about. They’re worried about their nails and hair and I don’t have time for that,” says Grueneberg. “But as crazy as it is here, I still like what I do.”

Some people think it’s cute she has her own business but there’s nothing cute about it. She designed and built the facilities for her turkeys, hens and guineas and personally cares for hundreds of birds at a time. As a result, her mortality rates are 2% to 5%, remarkably lower than the 40% industry standard. But despite running a successful business for more than five years and proving herself to suppliers, processors and customers, she still can’t get a loan. So she has to work 21 hours a week at Rexall Drugs for cash to buy feed and supplies.

“The main difference for young entrepreneurs is financing. I’m young and I’m a girl. A lot of people don’t think I can do things,” says Grueneberg. “It’s hard to get people to take you seriously enough to help you out. I’ve had to rely on my parents.”

That might change next year: she finally turns 18.

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