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Surviving Seasonal Sales Slumps When holiday cheer means an empty bank account and summer heat means parched sales figures, here's how to make the most of your business's quirky seasonality.

By Laura Tiffany

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Chokecherries. Wild plums. Currants. Sandcherries. These are the fruits that bloom wildly on Snake Falls Ranch in rural Nebraska. Every summer, these are also the fruits for which Annie and David Kime venture out into the canyons surrounding the Snake River to harvest. And one year later, these are the fruits that Annie will transform into 15,000 jars of jams and jelly in the commercial kitchen she's built in her home 35 miles from the nearest town of 2,500 people.

Aside from the difficulties inherent in such a rural enterprise, Annie also has to deal with the most fickle of business partners: Mother Nature. If a spring frost comes late, Annie has no crop to harvest. Even when the seasons do show up on time, Annie must still plan her business around the seasons. The year begins slowly with catch-up work, business planning and vacation time. Come spring, Annie begins to cook the wild fruit into juice for freezing and start making jams and jellies. Summer and autumn are heavy production times, with approximately three weeks of harvesting, then the holidays bring in most of the sales.

Running a seasonal homebased business provides unique challenges. You have to stretch your funds to last a year when you may only be bringing in cash for three or six months. You must learn to prepare for the busy seasons and figure out how best to use your slow season to your business's advantage. And finally, you have to mentally prepare yourself for the rough times. "I know this may sound like a very simple piece of advice, but when times are difficult, I always know it won't remain that way," says Annie, who's seen her share of seasons since starting Annie's Jellies, Etc. LLC in 1996. "It will either get better or worse, and it's up to me to see that it gets better."

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