Sandbox forum: How can I start a small scale gardening business?

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Name: Keith
West Babylon, NY (Zone 7a)
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keithp2012
Mar 13, 2017 1:53 PM CST
I'm not satisfied working for other garden shops, and the pay isn't enough for what I need not to mention I'm not doing what I enjoy.

I like growing plants, especially odd and rare ones, not large scale plants most garden centers sell in bulk although if I need to can sell them.

My issues are I don't have room for a large greenhouse to grow what I need. Without that I'd be out of job come the cold weather.
My other problem is through many seeds and plants I gave away and advertised locally, only one person was willing to pay me anything, nobody was interested in buying from someone without an official business, I was told this to my face. They wanted things for free, and I've asked dozens of people to put a word in to friends and family if they are interested in having me grow some plants they want and sell to them, nobody ever contacts me. Yet they praised my work and were eager to take plants for free. I don't think they take me seriously enough to get me far enough to call it a job.

I'd like to work solo if that's possible unless I could hire an assistant, and I don't know if I need a license to sell for money, like if I advertised on Facebook does that make it something off the books?

I don't know much about starting a small buisness but I know what I want to do, it's getting there I find a challenge.
Name: Daisy I
Reno, Nv (Zone 6b)
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DaisyI
Mar 13, 2017 2:25 PM CST
Check out Etsy.com. Put "live plants" in the search line.
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Ontario, Canada (Zone 6a)
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Phenolic
Mar 13, 2017 5:40 PM CST
keithp2012 said:nobody was interested in buying from someone without an official business, I was told this to my face. They wanted things for free, and I've asked dozens of people to put a word in to friends and family if they are interested in having me grow some plants they want and sell to them, nobody ever contacts me. Yet they praised my work and were eager to take plants for free. I don't think they take me seriously enough to get me far enough to call it a job.


You should stop giving away plants for free! You're conditioning people to expect freebies. And no offence, but they sound like the kind of people who would exploit new artists and young professionals by trying to convince them to work for free "for the exposure".

DaisyI said:Check out Etsy.com. Put "live plants" in the search line.


I agree with Daisyl. The internet might be a good place to start, since you won't need to invest money into a physical storefront. There's quite a few hobbyists in my city who earn money by selling plants and seeds online. Edit: You would also be able to reach a larger market by selling online.

A stand at farmer's market, seasonal market or outdoor market might also work, and would negate the whole "no official business" thing.
[Last edited by Phenolic - Mar 13, 2017 5:44 PM (+)]
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Name: Kristi
east Texas pineywoods (Zone 8a)
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pod
Mar 13, 2017 5:58 PM CST
Agreed on the online business. I haven't tried Etsy ( may have to look into it ) but have bought and sold on ebay with no problems. The low overhead is great but I do think it would take a while to get established to make enough to actually live off of... Good luck at following your dreams.
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Name: Suzanne/Sue
Sebastopol, CA (Zone 9a)
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Calif_Sue
Mar 19, 2017 12:20 AM CST

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You would have to check the state to state shipping rules if you have an online business. Some states have very strict rules about what they allow, licensed nurseries need inspection certificates to cross some state lines.
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Name: Suzanne/Sue
Sebastopol, CA (Zone 9a)
Sunset Zone 15
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Calif_Sue
Mar 19, 2017 12:23 AM CST

Plants Admin

As mentioned, a farmer's market is good, maybe a local flea market, set up groupings of plants, print out nice signs with photo, descriptions and care info.
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Name: greene
Savannah, GA (Sunset 28) (Zone 8b)
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greene
Mar 19, 2017 4:12 PM CST
I have a plant friend. He grows tons of plants in his backyard. When he has enough plants he puts a very small sign at the corner of his street..."plants for sale"...similar to what people put for yard sales. Folks stop by, chat for a while, and give him money for plants. He never has to leave the yard. You could try that for a start so you can get an idea of what people like to buy. Thumbs up
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Name: Keith
West Babylon, NY (Zone 7a)
Region: United States of America Winter Sowing Plays in the sandbox Birds Native Plants and Wildflowers Tomato Heads
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keithp2012
Mar 20, 2017 3:51 PM CST
greene said:I have a plant friend. He grows tons of plants in his backyard. When he has enough plants he puts a very small sign at the corner of his street..."plants for sale"...similar to what people put for yard sales. Folks stop by, chat for a while, and give him money for plants. He never has to leave the yard. You could try that for a start so you can get an idea of what people like to buy. Thumbs up


I've tried that and nobody stopped by, I need to expand further.
Name: Carol Roberts
Huntington Beach, CA (Zone 10b)
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CarolHB
Mar 20, 2017 4:03 PM CST
If you sell at a farmer's market or other public location you'll need a business license, and maybe insurance. Your local city council may have a department that could help you with that. Also, the Small Business Administration has that advice agency for new businesses, but I can't remember the name of it right now. They get you a personal counsellor for your type of business. You need to make it clear that there are no more freebies - growing and selling is a business, not a charity. So you will also probably have to sell in locations away from the places you've been giving it away, which makes trying one of the public markets, or on-line locations a good idea.
Can't complain too loud about how the ball bounces when I'm the one who dropped it.
Name: Karen
NM (Zone 7b)
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plantmanager
Mar 20, 2017 4:16 PM CST
Keith, you've gotten some very good suggestions here. Selling plants on Etsy and Ebay does work. I've bought a lot of them! Farmer's Markets in my area always have a lot of plants. You'll have to check the business laws for your state to see what you'd need to do. I think you could be very successful if you end up doing this. Great idea! That's what I'd do if I were your age now.
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Name: greene
Savannah, GA (Sunset 28) (Zone 8b)
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greene
Mar 20, 2017 4:21 PM CST
keithp2012 said:

I've tried that and nobody stopped by....

For how many months did you try? Keep trying. It takes a while for folks to figure out that you have plants to sell. Then it has to be a time when people have money; usually the first two weeks of the month are the best time to catch people with spare money.



Sunset Zone 28, AHS Heat Zone 9, USDA zone 8b~~"Leaf of Faith"
Name: Karen
NM (Zone 7b)
Region: New Mexico Region: Arizona Greenhouse Cactus and Succulents Adeniums Sempervivums
Salvias Million Pollinator Garden Challenge Garden Art Plumerias Bookworm Hibiscus
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plantmanager
Mar 20, 2017 5:37 PM CST
Good thought, Greene. Once they stop by, the plant lovers will remember you and stop by often.
Are you in a city environment, or rural? If you're in a city, all of your packages could be picked up by the postman if you print your postage online and leave your packages out for them. Taking packages daily to the post office might be hard unless your parents are willing to help out.
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Name: Yardenman
Maryland (Zone 7a)
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Yardenman
Mar 21, 2017 1:19 AM CST
Keithp2012 I think you will need a legal advisor, a business advisor. land, and some employees you can pay. Starting a business is lots of trouble and fraught with legal problems.

The first thing you need is a detailed business plan. And even THAT takes some research. I'm not trying to rain on your parade, but most businesses fail in the 1st year from lack of planning. A few years of careful planning with help might help you more than one year of hard personal work.
[Last edited by Yardenman - Mar 21, 2017 11:09 PM (+)]
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Name: Jai or Jack
Pennsylvania (Zone 5b)
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Jai_Ganesha
Mar 21, 2017 2:00 AM CST
Yes, you definitely need a lawyer's input. There are lots of things that would never enter your mind that you want to know about beforehand--such as liability. If you sell somebody a plant and their dog chokes on it, you could be held liable and lose everything. That is an extreme example but I have seen it happen before to people who decide to start selling things and don't consider the insurance/legal/liability issues beforehand.
Keep going.
[Last edited by Jai_Ganesha - Mar 21, 2017 2:15 AM (+)]
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Name: Charlie
Aurora, Ontario (Zone 5b)
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SunnyBorders
Mar 21, 2017 10:16 AM CST
I'd say that the most important thing needed is customers. Hence, is there enough of a demand?

I certainly agree that non-gardeners who want expert gardening services often want them on the cheap. Re my personal main interest/involvement, in installing and maintaining perennial gardens, many potential customers really do seem to expect that any herbaceous perennial, once planted, will last for years with no subsequent care. Still the same people may also expect that a tree or shrub will never need any attention once planted.

In my case, what I've done is very labour intensive and that gave me a small opening to do what garden/property maintenance companies could not afford to do. Still the business, started later in life, was never intended to be a main source of income.
Southeast OK (Zone 7b)
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KarenHolt
Mar 27, 2017 8:56 PM CST
Keith,

If you sell them from your own yard, you'll need to start your own garden. Show what you can grow. That is the best free advertising. I live in a small town of maybe 500. I know 2 of these people in this town. Zero traffic on my street. Until April through Oct. I don't sell my plants but my gardens do my advertising. Every year folks drive out to see what I'm planting then they continue through til fall. They stop and ask about my plants. There is your customer base. I design my gardens around a street view and try to make it all look cohesive. I like giving people something pretty to look at. Yes, they ask for free plants but I have no problem saying no. Unless they are old. The elderly are welcome to anything I have.

I don't have a greenhouse so I winter sow. That solves space and greenhouse problems for me. Plus it's economical for me. I garden vegetables and flowers, by myself. And i have 15 gardens here. My husband does my dirt work and the rest is up to me. Where there's a will, there's a way in gardening. For space problems, lighting problems, you name it, there's a solution to fit your situation. My advice? Start small in your garden while you work for the nursery. Build your garden, let it do the work for you. People pay for quality. When you are ready for a full time business you will know it.
[Last edited by KarenHolt - Mar 27, 2017 9:18 PM (+)]
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Name: Keith
West Babylon, NY (Zone 7a)
Region: United States of America Winter Sowing Plays in the sandbox Birds Native Plants and Wildflowers Tomato Heads
Vegetable Grower Garden Photography Hybridizer Spiders! Annuals Lover of wildlife (Black bear badge)
keithp2012
Mar 28, 2017 2:34 PM CST
KarenHolt said:Keith,

If you sell them from your own yard, you'll need to start your own garden. Show what you can grow. That is the best free advertising. I live in a small town of maybe 500. I know 2 of these people in this town. Zero traffic on my street. Until April through Oct. I don't sell my plants but my gardens do my advertising. Every year folks drive out to see what I'm planting then they continue through til fall. They stop and ask about my plants. There is your customer base. I design my gardens around a street view and try to make it all look cohesive. I like giving people something pretty to look at. Yes, they ask for free plants but I have no problem saying no. Unless they are old. The elderly are welcome to anything I have.

I don't have a greenhouse so I winter sow. That solves space and greenhouse problems for me. Plus it's economical for me. I garden vegetables and flowers, by myself. And i have 15 gardens here. My husband does my dirt work and the rest is up to me. Where there's a will, there's a way in gardening. For space problems, lighting problems, you name it, there's a solution to fit your situation. My advice? Start small in your garden while you work for the nursery. Build your garden, let it do the work for you. People pay for quality. When you are ready for a full time business you will know it.
@KarenHolt

Karen, my front barely has space for a garden, the little garden I do have I had 8 foot sunflowers growing and 4 foot marigolds plus zinnia, it was alive with color. People do not walk up and ask about gardens, at least not my house. My neighbor has the garden showcase front yard and I think I've seen one person ever approach him, and we have traffic constantly and people walking.

I grow front and back, have for years, but I don't have very much space at all. can't winter sow the animals will eat the seeds and my yard gets dug up, plus heavy traffic from kids. I put plants in pots or can only plant in ground in certain spaces of the yard as some parts are clay and cement underneath.

I have put up signs for free plants multiple times and never had anyone show up, and the signs were up for a week, not a friendly area here.
For the plants I donated to a College in the botany department they said my plants quality was spectacular and that I grew out of the ordinary plants which made them really special. They even asked why I don't have my own buisness and showed them my property and they even said you need a greenhouse to get started, and told me if I ever come into money to rent one.
[Last edited by keithp2012 - Mar 28, 2017 2:35 PM (+)]
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Name: Stewart
Pinehurst, Texas (Zone 8b)
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PlantMania
Mar 28, 2017 2:59 PM CST
How close is the college? I think you could work something out with the Professors and see if they can't get you some room in one of their greenhouses! You give a few flats of plants for the use of a bench or two... something along that line.
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Name: Rick Moses
Derwood, MD (Zone 7b)
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RickM
Mar 28, 2017 3:04 PM CST
Keith,

1. Come up with a business name
You want something catchy and easy to remember. Heck you can even use your street name. For example, I live on Dew Wood Drive in Derwood. I could use 'Dew Wood Gardens', 'Morning Dew', etc.

2. Check to see what variations are available as domain names on the Internet
I can help you with this, if you want. Having a domain name gives a more professional appearance, even if it forwards to your Etsy shop. By having your own domain from the beginning, you're guaranteed that it's available when you're ready. Also, you can use it for additional information beyond what online shopping sites let you post.

3. Sign up for Etsy
This is a great way to get started as they take care of the electronic security of your site. Stay away from eBay. Not only would you be hard to find, but eBay is not seller friendly.


4. Telephone Number
If you can swing it, get a separate phone number for your business calls. Not only is it a tax write off, but it helps keep things separate from your personal life. There are services these days that allow you to sign up for a second (or third, etc) phone number and route all calls to your existing phone.

5. E-Mail address
PLEASE don't go with a free E-Mail address. The hosting service I use for my projects runs me about $15/year for the web site and unlimited E-Mail addresses. You don't need to put anything on the site, but you get the flexibility of having multiple addresses for specific functions, such as 'Order Status', 'Inquiries', etc. And if you have someone helping you, they can have their own professional looking address as well.

6. Business Cards
I can't stress this enough! Once you have your business name an your domain and Etsy addresses, you need a business card. Not only does it present a more professional image, but it's something that people can carry away and use to check back with you on availability. Don't forget to put things on it such as business name, web address, phone number, E-Mail address, etc.

7. Establish Policies
You will need to put in writing things such as hours, if you're closed during the winter, plant survival guarantees, virus guarantees, shipping, refunds, methods of payment, etc. If it's in writing and the customer has easy access to it, you can avoid problems down the road.

8. Decide what you want to grow and sell
You will need to figure out if you want to sell seed, year old plants, 4 year old plants, etc. Keep in mind that the longer you have a plant in inventory, the more it's going to cost you to maintain it.

9. Social media
If you're in the mood, you can set up accounts on Twitter, Facebook, etc. to keep in touch with your customers. Be warned, however, these can suck up a lot of time and attract trolls and spammers.

10. Get legal
Once you have your basics all set, then apply for your vendor licenses, etc. These must be renewed every year, so there's no sense getting them today if you're not going to do anything until September.

11. Promotional Materials
Your budget won't allow this at first, but when it does, consider getting bags and boxes with your name printed on them. You can even get postage stamps printed with your company logo on them. But only do that if you're actually going to send letters.

12. Research your shipping options.
Some people only us UPS or FedEx. One of my businesses only uses the U. S. Postal Service. Delivery is the same, but the costs are much less. In fact, UPS and FedEx both will hand packages off to the Post Office for local delivery. And now that the Post Office has tracking as part of their package service, you can still give your customers a number to check on-line.

There is a lot behind the scenes with running a business. If you need any assistance with domain names, web hosting, E-Mail, etc., please feel free to contact me.
Name: Rick Moses
Derwood, MD (Zone 7b)
Fall Swap Begins 20-Aug-2017 !
Region: Mid-Atlantic Region: Maryland Plant and/or Seed Trader Hostas Ferns Garden Photography
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RickM
Mar 28, 2017 3:06 PM CST
PlantMania said:How close is the college? I think you could work something out with the Professors and see if they can't get you some room in one of their greenhouses! You give a few flats of plants for the use of a bench or two... something along that line.


GREAT IDEA! Plus, some elementary and middle schools have greenhouses as well. If fact, you might actually be able to set up a 'young gardener' program where you donate some classroom time in exchange for greenhouse space.

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