The Q&A Archives: Starting a Landscaping Business

Question: I have recently graduated from college with a degree that has nothing to do with what I want to do --- start a landscaping business. I live in a small town where I think there is a market for a residential landscape professional, but I am skeptical of the start-up costs associated with this task. My idea would incorporate both maintenance and improvement of existing yards and installation / design of new ones. Here are my questions: -- By what process does one have go about to be able to buy shrubs/seeds/plants from a wholesale nursery that does not sale to the public? -- If one's design and installation ability has been successfully proven (parent's/grandparent's /neighbor's yards), how important is it that a landscape professional have the designated liscense/certification to operate a successful business? (Keep in mind that I live in a small town of 25,000 urban/suburban people). -- What is the best way to offer a design/layout of a landscape (on paper, computer, etc) in proposing a job for a client? Would you recommend any specific software you are familiar with please? -- Finally, how do landscape companies set prices for the clients' work that they are negotiating a job for? Any and all answers that you could help with are much appreciated. Kip Watters Cedartown, GA

Answer: First of all, it would be a good idea for you to seek out any entrepreneurial training programs, or small business support organizations in your area. Running a business requires business management and accounting skills as well as landscaping expertise. I would suggest you join, or at least research, some trade organizations. My reference book listed the following: Associated Landscape Contractors of America, 405 N. Washington St., Falls Church, VA 22046, (703)241-4004 Landscape MaintenanceAssociation, Inc., PO Box 728, Largo, FL 34649, 813/584-2312 Perennial Plant Association, 3383 Schirtzinger Rd., Columbus, OH 43026, 614/771-8431 These trade organizations may be able to help you with design software and estimating information.Contact your state department of commerce to inquire about licensing requirements. I would recommend putting together a portfolio of projects you've done, including site plans and photographs. To set up wholesale accounts at most nurseries, simply call their business office. Usually you need to submit a written request on company letterhead. Finally, look into your liability insurance options.

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