Starting a new business, regardless of the industry, is a daunting task. You’ve got market research to consider, purchasing a new storefront in addition to figuring out what to sell and how to make a profit. One quickly growing field that you might want to consider – especially if you like working with plants – is horticulture. If you’re considering starting a horticulture business, here are a few tips and tricks to get you started.
The importance of market research
Before you sign on the dotted line, your first step should be market research – especially local research into the market in the area where you’re planning to open your business.
Take a look at your nearby competitors if you have any. Consider these questions:
- What are they doing right?
- Where could their business be improved to bring in more customers or secure more sales?
- How do they differentiate themselves in the marketplace?
- Where are they located and how is the business set out?
Looking at your competition can give you a good idea of what your business needs to do to succeed in the same market. If it looks like your local market can use another nursery, greenhouse or gardening store, it’s time to move to the next steps.
From here you will need to write a business plan.
Next step is to research the local regulations concerning owning a horticulture business. These may vary depending on where you’re from so make sure to do your research!
Is there minimum or maximum measurements that you need to meet for your greenhouse? This might make it more difficult to find a greenhouse, meaning you’ll need to lease or purchase land and build your own.
Are there certain plants that you are not allowed to sell? Some very beautiful plants are considered ‘invasive’ or ‘pest’ species and may not be permitted where you live.
Are there specific fertilizers or pesticides that you aren’t allowed to use? Are you considering using all-natural pesticides?
Your answers to these questions will shape your new business, so it’s important to research them before you move on to the next step.
Build or purchase a greenhouse
Step three is to purchase or build your greenhouse and storefront. You have a lot of options when it comes to this step – if you have the funding, you can buy a greenhouse from an existing business, buy one that is no longer being used, or simply lease the land to build your own.
Each of these options has its own pros and cons. Purchasing or leasing a greenhouse from an existing company could be more cost-effective – or it could cut into your profits if the company you’re leasing from is entitled to part of your monthly profits for using their facilities.
Buying an existing but abandoned greenhouse gives you the facilities without the cost or taking the time to build your own – but make sure you research it first. It may have been abandoned for a reason.
Building your own greenhouse is probably the most expensive of the three options – not only do you need to find a contractor to do the work, you are responsible for buying or leasing the land on which it will be built. But you can cut costs down if you source upcycled and recycled materials and have the skills to build one yourself.
What to plant
Once the greenhouse is built and ready, the next step before you can open your doors is to figure out what varieties to plant. This is where your market research will come in. What sells well in your area?
Keeping track of the seasons is a good idea here. Having a greenhouse means that you can grow most plants any time of the year, but not everyone who shops there will have a greenhouse, so it’s a good idea to stock plants that grow well in your area while keeping with the changing of the seasons. No one is going to be growing or purchasing vegetable plants during the winter, for example, so keeping track of the seasons keeps you from ending up with a greenhouse full of dormant plants in the winter that no one is going to purchase.
Consider offering a broad variety of plants, including heirloom varieties. While heirloom plants and seeds won’t generate repeat customers – if they’re serious gardeners, at least – it will encourage them to return for other supplies, creating a strong and solid customer base.
Once your doors open, the next thing you need to start thinking about is maintenance. Maintaining your greenhouse takes more than just watering the plants. Plants need to be monitored for signs of pest infestation and disease, and plants that are infected need to be removed from the rest of the crop.
Keeping your greenhouse clean and free of weeds can do wonders for preventing pests and diseases from spreading. Don’t let the colder months stop you – weeds growing in the greenhouse can harbor pests like mites and other creatures that could decimate your inventory.
Word of mouth marketing is great and all, but unless you’ve got something really special going on behind the walls of that greenhouse, it won’t be enough. Marketing is something that can take place before you open your doors or after, but it is an essential part of running any business, regardless of the industry you’re a part of.
You don’t have to spend your entire budget on marketing. Just learn to read your audience – are people paying more attention to billboards or newspaper advertisements? Even Facebook advertisements, if you have a Facebook page for your business, can be effective if used properly.
Starting a horticulture business might seem like a great idea but don’t jump into the deep end without doing some research and preparing properly. With the right mix of skill, hard work and knowledge, your business can flourish in your community.