Today we celebrate Robin Ennis Long of the Long & Long LLC Team. Robin rises and shines every day as a wife, mother, savvy business woman, and hard worker. She also cares, mentors, helps people in need and helps people reach their dreams. She is a shining light, always giving and doing her best and blessing many along the way.
I pray and hope that Robin’s drive, passion, and words will inspire, motivate and empower you to pursue your dreams, not give-up no matter the obstacles you may face, know that hard work pays off, be your best and do your best in whatever you do.
Okay, so when I met Robin a few years ago and observed her (I sure did), I knew she was a special woman but after I read her answers to my interview questions, I was like, this woman is phenomenal. Wow! She reminds me of Proverbs 31:25-31.
So sit back, relax and get to know Robin, this phenomenal woman. Enjoy the interview!
Robin, tell us about you and what you do?
Hello. I am Robin, 1/3 of the Long & Long LLC team. We own and operate a local farmers market, Long Family Markets, in Stafford, Virginia, as well as assist with oversight of three other businesses, L3 Consulting, Lovely Foods & Color Puff Candy.
The Farmers Market affords my family the opportunity to provide 80+ small businesses in the Stafford area with a “storefront” where they can meet their customers face to face.
Each week on Sunday, we transform an empty parking lot into a marketplace where entrepreneurs that make, bake or grow their own products can sell to the public. Fruits & vegetables, meats, honey, baked goods, pickles, popcorn, nut butters, salsa, olive oils, vinegar, coffee & tea, gourmet prepared meals, cotton candy, slime, dog treats, soaps & personal care products, hot foods, worm poop and artisan goods are just a few of the products you will routinely find in the marketplace.
How long have you been doing this and why?
I used to run a participating business in the marketplace. In 2012, I started a small bakery business out of my home kitchen, Lovely Foods, and became a participating business in the Market when it first opened. Having a space in the Farmers Market helped me to establish a strong customer base and get my business off the ground. The Market gave my business the opportunity to flourish and grow without the high expense of having a “brick and mortar” location.
Unfortunately, in 2015, the owner of the Farmers Market made the decision to discontinue her relationship with the market. I had a choice to make. Watch the business close and my opportunity to sell direct to customers in a public location go away or step up and take ownership of the market to keep it going. After some discussion with my family, with their support, I decided to purchase the rights to the market, ensuring that my small business, and others like mine would still have the opportunity for a makeshift storefront without the high expense of opening a permanent location.
How did you get the background and skills necessary to run this type of business?
I had the opportunity to learn all about the inner workings of a market from running my own business and participating in the market. I also have several years of management experience in health care. My past experience with managing staff, budgeting, marketing and contract review has helped greatly with the organization and management functions of the market.
Thankfully, the other members of the Long & Long team also have management and entrepreneur experience. My primary business partner (who also happens to be my husband), Lester Long brings 29 years of U.S. Army experience to the table, and the third member of our team, Elizabeth Long, is a business owner and currently participates in the market selling for that business.
How do you advertise your business?
Advertising for the Markets is primarily done through social media and word of mouth. During our winter market months (January – March), members of our team attend several small business networking meetings and events to help spread the word about the market opening in April. In addition to those efforts, we distribute promotional materials about supporting agriculture here in Stafford County with local school groups, churches, social clubs and participate in Stafford County Sheriff’s Department Annual National Night Out.
What is the most important part of your whole business journey?
When we first acquired the market, there were around 15 active businesses participating each week. Five years later we have expanded to assist more than 80 small businesses.
In addition to offering space for established businesses, we also help new business owners with getting started, including several young entrepreneurs. This season we have five young entrepreneurs (under the age of 21) that have taken their ideas and launched a successful business utilizing the market to establish themselves.
We have also been able to utilize the market and the participants to make weekly donations to local food pantries and help several families with direct food donations and other assistance.
Helping to support small businesses and families in need right here in our community is by far for me, the most important part of our business journey.
What was your greatest failure and what did you learn from it?
We have been fortunate in meeting our goals for growth and sustainability for the markets. Unfortunately, with the growth of the market, my bakery business has closed. The constraints on my time make it impossible to successfully sustain both. I still bake for a small group of my original customer base and the creative aspect of making and decorating cakes is still my first love. The decision to close my bakery business was difficult, however, I do feel that I am on the right path dedicating more of my time to the market and its continued growth and success.
What drives, inspires and motivates you to keep going when it’s really tough?
For me, the most important part of this journey has been watching the businesses and families that the market supports thrive. I can’t begin to express the joy I feel, particularly with our young entrepreneurs, watching the transformation of a simple idea turning into a source of sustainable income.
It is a true inspiration to me seeing hard work, experience and perseverance turn into success and independence for these business owners and their families. When challenges feel overwhelming, looking at these individuals make such a difference and is all the inspiration I need to keep pushing forward.
What tips/advice would you give aspiring entrepreneurs?
For any aspiring entrepreneurs out there, I would say, don’t take no for an answer. You will have hard times; people will tell you that you cannot possibly turn your ideas into success. Others will intentionally put road blocks in your path. Stay strong in your faith and know that you truly can accomplish anything you set your mind to with hard work and the right opportunity. Failure is not a fail; it is another chance to revamp your plan and come at your goals from a different direction.
How do you give back to your community?
In addition to helping established businesses grow and new businesses get started, the Market provides us with great opportunities to give back to our community. Families in need of food are always welcome at the market. This season we have been able to assist several families that incurred a hardship by making sure they have good healthy food on their table.
A family whose home burned, another who had a catastrophic illness, and a family who relocated here for work but wouldn’t see a paycheck for a full month while getting established are just a few of the circumstances we’ve been able to help families get through. On top of that, at the end of the market day each Sunday, the participating businesses generously give food to several local churches to help stock their food pantries and share with our community. Each season, several tons of food are given to those in need right here in the Stafford area.
The Market also offers an opportunity for individuals and organizations to come out and let our customers know about their efforts in our community. For example, The Rotary Club of North Stafford attends the market each year to provide information about their annual Flags for Heroes project and several school and community groups attend throughout the season to let people know about charitable projects they are working on, solicit volunteers and collect donations. During the pandemic, we have been able to utilize the marketplace to assist more than 20 local organizations in this way.
Tell us about your community service
I have done a great deal of volunteer work/community service through Long & Long LLC, in particular through The Long Winter Project. Our family business has brought me the opportunity to assist families in need of food, housing, employment, etc. It is a lot of hard work, but the rewards we see far outweigh the effort. My family and I are truly blessed with all that the market brings to us and this community.
What do you like doing in your spare time?
Spare time is not in abundance – in addition to overseeing the day to day operations of two markets and three other businesses, I also work a part time job and am a mother and wife. When I do have spare time, that time is dedicated to my family. Sharing a meal we have all prepared together and quality conversation with family and friends are my most treasured moments.
What’s your passion, hobby?
I love working on anything creative. Cooking, drawing and painting are hobbies that help me to relax and enjoy. I’m also a voracious reader. It’s not unusual to find three or four different books around the house that I am reading all at the same time!
What’s your favorite Bible verse(s) and why?
I have two that I go to often.
The first as a reminder to myself when I’m feeling discouraged that just because I cannot see/feel the reward or understand the plan, there is a plan for these actions and I need to move forward and wait for things to unfold in their own time. Patience for the outcome and turning to my faith are typically the missing ingredients when I am frustrated with a process. It is a good reminder that I am part of a much bigger plan.
“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord,” plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11 NIV
The second, mostly because it is the first verse I ever memorized as a child, but also because as I have aged over the years, it has become a much needed reminder. You never know what people are going through in their lives. A kind word, a smile, a simple hello might make all the difference in someone’s day. Treat others the way you want to be treated and you will see the difference you make in this world.
“Do to others as you would have them do to you.” Luke 6:31 NIV
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Deb’s two cents…
I met the Long family a few years ago when I was a board member at S.E.R.V.E., an organization that serves Stafford County community with food pantry, utility and emergency prescription assistance. S.E.R.V.E. was one of the organizations that would go on Sundays at the end of the market day to pick-up food donated by vendors and make them available to the Stafford community.
The Long family are ultimate professionals, providing the best customer service, making sure everything is safe and in place, taking care of customers’ and vendors’ needs. They ensure everybody feels welcomed and special.
Also, the Long family are a close knit family and are an inspiration and a wonderful example of a family working together, supporting each other and making each other better. You can see the love and respect they have for each other. Kudos to them!
If you live in Stafford or surrounding area, please make sure to stop by the Long Family Markets and support our local small businesses. There is delicious food, all kinds of products and overall good stuff going on at the Long Family Markets. Yay!
Let your light shine!
Just like Robin, you have greatness in you. You are phenomenal too! All you have to do is tap into your greatness then let it rise and shine. You will be pleasantly surprised to know that all the things you thought you couldn’t do or achieve, you can do and can achieve. And you will, with God’s help! When that happens, don’t forget to give God the glory and thank Him. And give back and be a blessing to others. Alright!
So, let your light shine personally, professionally and in your community. Practice Luke 29:11, one of Robin’s favorite verses.
Say & Believe “Greater is Jesus in Me!”
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