Starting New Greenhouse Business - Help!

Discussion in 'Gardening & Plant Propagation' started by deberosa, Jan 13, 2005.

  1. deberosa

    deberosa SW Virginia Gourd Farmer!

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    Hi,

    I've posted lot's elsewhere on here, but thought this post would best go here.

    I am going to look at a greenhouse business on Saturday.

    Greenhouse business

    It's about 15 miles down the road from my place (4.5 acres). A friend I met here on this site is looking to rent the home and her two daughters help out and me, but I will have to work full time to support everything at least for a while.

    I need to draw up a business plan, have no experience, but lots of business training (MBA), which is for practical purposes mostly useless. :D I won't have much cash - will need to look at financing...

    Where do I start - what would you do with a business like this? My realtor is also a close friend and has had a business like this so he is lots of help but I need ideas to diversify and bring in year round income from this place. I can also produce stuff on my own farm and take it there...

    Any thoughts/idea would be greatly appreciated! I have the book on Secrets to a successful greenhouse business and ordered a book on Business Plans for Dummies. Also have many other greenhouse books, I bought my current place thinking I would build that business here but this one is ready made?

    Thanks,

    Debbie
     
  2. Bigfinn

    Bigfinn Member

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    Deb, since this is an established business, you should be entitled to look at the financial statements. Look at not only profit or loss but cash flow as well. Is this business seasonal? Operating loans might be nessecary to carry you through the slow times each year. That is not a bad thing as long as the good times make up for it. Take the financial statements to your banker, they will help you through the process. BTW, the operation sure looks nice in the pictures. Good luck.
     

  3. john#4

    john#4 Well-Known Member

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    Deb,

    I don’t care what the realtors of the owner tells you that place will need lots of employees. This will cost lots of extra money. Also you will have to heat that place. Ouch.
    Maybe you can get one experienced person by exchanging rent on your other place for wages. Someone retired with a check each mouth.
    John#4
     
  4. amwitched

    amwitched Well-Known Member

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    Best wishes on your endeavor!!! I have always wanted to work in a greenhouse.

    You will probably need to get your tax id # from the IRS while you are working on your business plan. They usually issue those pretty quick. When you get their form to fill out, they will ask you how much you think you will make annually. Just give them your best guess. They will not hold you to it.

    By having a tax id#, you will be able to buy wholesale from sources without having to pay tax on top of your purchases.

    My first thought for the greenhouse would be to get started on seedlings for the veggie gardens. Lots of people buy starter plants for their gardens and the seeds are not that expensive for you to buy in bulk.

    Lots of bushes/hedges are pretty easy to propagate also.
     
  5. deberosa

    deberosa SW Virginia Gourd Farmer!

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    Has anyone done some cool alternative stuff with greenhouses to get year round income?

    I am thinking Butterflies - they sell them to release at weddings and funerals?
    Growing other beneficial insects, I have lots of greens and stuff to sell for Christmas from my current place. Worm farm and worm compost? Anyone tried little herb baskets for people to keep in their kitchens?

    It sounds like this is already planted with fushias for this summer season - that would be good!

    Taxes and heat are big expenses. Probably my biggest worry beyond the idea that everything will be a learning experience at this point! But heck, has to be a little hard or everybody would be doing it. ;-)

    Thanks for input!

    Debbie
     
  6. moonwolf

    moonwolf Well-Known Member

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    Debbie,
    I envy you for the opportunity you have with the greenhouse possibilities. I think you have some solid ideas. I'de go for it if you can. You'll have risk and hard work, but hopefully reward too.
    How many green house builidings involved?
    What's the market for what was produced there now, or just previous to you purchasing it?
    I never would have thought butterflies, but that's great with plants that attract butterflies. Maybe something to do with beneficiall garden insects for organic pest control? How about looking into a growing contract with the forestry service. I know greenhouses here do that. One I visited down the road had a million jackpine and black spruce seedlings started that were a guarantee sale to the Natural Resource or forestry replanting people?
    The nursery down the road from me which I've met the people and have seen them grow with the business. Oddly enough they had peacocks in a pen for showing visitors. They like that and something with a pond like another greenhouse in town has ornamental waterfowl and pheasants. It brings in some interest, and then they get customers 'browsing' at the plants to buy.
    Also, the greenhouse down the road is heavily involved with the Farmer's Market and sells tons of their stuff on Saturadays, they take it in a truck that is all paiinted up with the nursery logo and it can't be missed going down the road...free advertising.
    Good lord, there is so much opportunity with such a venture. The people also grow hot house tomotoes and other vegetables to extend into the early fall for produce. The get root stock trees and bushes and pot them up for selling anytime, fertilizers, plant amendments, books they sell in a small shop on gardening...on and on. Get the idea?

    For financing? Try some program that might help. Here there is regional business development financing that is more tuned to new ventures rather than dealing with a bank that migh turn you down. If all else fails...head for the poker table and get more 'financing' that way (tongue in cheek :haha: ).

    If all falls into some reasonable notion that you'll attract customers, I can't see how you would fail. Keep us informed and good luck.

    Rich
     
  7. jackie c

    jackie c Well-Known Member

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    Debbie do a web search for Vanderwees Nursery ( if you can't find it PM me and I'll get their addy for you), its a greenhouse enterprize in my area, it may give you some ideas, they do alot of different things there. Also, try trapping some of those rabbits around your place and sell their poop for fertilizer! Or maybe just collect it and bag it up. Good luck, sounds exciting for ya! :D
     
  8. deberosa

    deberosa SW Virginia Gourd Farmer!

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    Jackie,

    Thanks for the great lead! I went to their site, which has tons of cool ideas, but also a link to Proven Winners Marketing program that has a free training video so I signed up for that and for more marketing resource information. This is how they get the fancy labels and signs. There is even access to a library of plant pictures that I can print for my own signs and labels! They also run a petting zoo.

    Rich, I had the peacock idea - and the Nursery Jackie pointed me to has two peacocks out front also as well as other tropical birds, etc. This kind of stuff I could get into! ;-) Hadn't thought of the forestry idea, but that would be a great connection around here!

    Thanks again for great ideas, keep them coming! I'll give a full report after visiting the place on Saturday.

    Debbie
     
  9. jackie c

    jackie c Well-Known Member

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    Glad I could help Debbie. I thought this would be a good link for you, I knew about the petting zoo and birds, especially the birds! I knew you would be quite interested about that! They have a hugh aviary, quite impressive. In the spring I'll go there and try and get a few pics to send to you. I didn't know about the training thing, thats great for you! I'm soooo excited for you, I know you'll have fun with this thing, dream job eh?
     
  10. Kygardengal

    Kygardengal Well-Known Member

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    I can tell you about raising butterflies. This year will be my 2nd year.The big issue with butterflies or any other insect is the USDA. They control all of it. I have a packet 1-inch thick of rules and regulations for raising butterflies, espcially if you are crossing state lines with them. It is more like running a science lab than a garden. As with everything else, do your homework. Research, research, then research some more. I raise butterflies in partnership with a non-profit organization that runs a nature type tourist attraction in my area. You can PM if you want to know more.
     
  11. PonderosaQ

    PonderosaQ Well-Known Member Supporter

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    I used to work at a greenhouse where we tried to "stretch" the season. So here are a few of the things we did. Sold a few Christmas trees, they looked good outside! Inside we made grave blankets, wreaths, swags, anything we could think of. Also sold Xmas trees shaped Rosemary and wreath shaped ivy and rosemary, tried a few topiaries too. Herbs (potted) were packed neatly into Christmas baskets for holiday sales. Intermingled a few vases and other pretties with the Xmas plants. Had a small "sitting room" made of wicker and decorated with pottery. We sold wicker and pottery which we bought wholesale from manufacturers.We also ran specials throughout the year and offered written growing info and recipes for plant buyers.

    PQ
     
  12. 3girls

    3girls Well-Known Member

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    For any new business, go to SCORE with the Small Business Administration. These are retired people who give advice to new business owners.

    Why are the people selling their business? Is there some way to find if there is disease present? Have you been inside yet and looked around? It sounds as if money would be a big issue. When I lived there, I always found Wash. Mutual to be reasonable. I agree with the post ahead of me. Get the financials and go to a bank officer for an analysis. Most businesses are priced according to the income they can produce.

    I wish you well, and hope this can work for you. Really watch that debt load, however. It can eat you alive, faster than you'd think.
     
  13. deberosa

    deberosa SW Virginia Gourd Farmer!

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    I just got back from touring the place. The house is nice, nothing fancy. Big extended family using it a bit hard in there right now. It was filled with birds and cats and dogs too! Still a nice older 4 br 1 bath house with a nice picket fence yard and wrap around porch.

    The greenhouse setup is impressive. Comes with equipment like sprinklers, drip and mat watering systems throughout. The big houses have an overhead drip system with ends that would go to each basket. Each end can be turned on and off depending on if there is a basket there. It was set up originally for growing only - this owner (lives next door) bought it in 2000 for $74,500. Shes grown it over the last 4 years.

    Equipment:

    Total fertilizer system hooked to all irrigation. Fill the barrels with fertilizer and plants are watered and fertilized at the same time. Natural gas heaters in the 4 main houses. Ionizer?? Sprayer - she can spray the whole place for bugs with a gallon of fluid - would take 5 gallons typically. An automattic flat seeder - cool little machine no picking and dropping in or wasting seed. Seeds an entire flat at a time. Automatic pot filler - fill the bin with soil and it takes a flat of four inch pots, fills them packs them and brushes them off! A large box truck - 1987 GMC with the back containing a system of shelves for hauling loads of plants. It's all set up with phone and electric and water throughout. Has an old boiler for the heat but they switched it to natural gass blowers. All houses and hoop houses in excellent shape. There is an indoor potting work area with rolling multi shelf carts for handle trays from the potting machine. There is a large propogation room with many banks of flourescent lights for starting seeds.

    My realtor friend, who has had a garden center business says if I can't make this work I should forget getting into the greenhouse business.

    She nets 20,000 K from 100,000 in sales and is only open April, May and June. I have lists of her daily sales records, haven't analyzed them yet. Rent on the house is not included in the net profit. The big greenhouse had a few flats of plants but was other wise empty and everything else was totally empty right now, so she's definitely not working at full capacity.

    She does the proven winner plugs like I saw on Jackie's site. Only starts those seeds that are unique and also cuttings from geraniums and a few other varieties of plants. She sells upper end - baskets for 29.00 to 90.00.

    She's selling it because her husband travels to work extensively, she's got teen agers growing up and did not have time to devote to family that she wanted.

    She has a 75 year old lady who loves gardening come in occasionally to help plus about two very part time help. She has to do SOMETHING each day, but nothing intense until April, May and June. She's right off of the major highway to the coast so picks up customers from that. Advertises in Olympia, and Aberdeen to pick up that clientelle. Very easy to find - it's two blocks from the ONLY traffic light in Elma!

    So, this is not going to be an easy choice! I have to think through alot of details. It sounds more possible because I can use some of your ideas to extend the selling season. A few peacocks to add interest and get some repeat business....
     
  14. southerngurl

    southerngurl le person Supporter

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    You might also try selling over the internet.
     
  15. moonwolf

    moonwolf Well-Known Member

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    Debbie,
    Interesting opportunity. Taking the first visit like you did is important and not get overly giddy about the realities your face with.
    Too many things on the go may overextend yourself and the potentional for sticking with what works already. The sales you mention for 3 months doesn't sound like much, because there is a lot of expenses going out. You'l sacrifice the net income being less probably than your current job. Can you live with that? To me that is a primary question.
    On the other hand, what the hell you going to do from July to March. That is a lot of time for producing other ideas and income, such as:

    Rabbitry?
    Hot house grown vegetables, herbs, and such
    Xmas tree sales as someone mentioned
    Wreath craft, or other crafts. Birdhouses, feeders, bird feed sales
    Umm..... Fall bulb for planting sales, early spring bulbs

    maybe stick with a 'theme' and season rather than stray into too many small ventures.
    Pumpkins and halloween Sept/October
    Octoberfest fall harvest stuff (winter squash, maybe have a knockwurst roast or something 'event'), Cider
    Grave plants (November remeberance Day), Wreaths
    December (0bvious xmas garden gifts...use your imagination here)
    January.....take a break :haha: (there's always poker, right..more income potential)
    Valentines gift plant or flowers for February
    then it's Easter...more plants with the bunny theme
    Now your into full swing with the 'normal' nursery season.

    The point is that I know you have to consider that this is full time occupation and you'll have no time to carry on with your 'day job' now....which means termination and 're occupation'. ....cool choice. :cool:
     
  16. GraceMarie

    GraceMarie Well-Known Member

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    For your business plan, try this site www.cbsc.org/ibp
    It is a very nice free program for writing your plan and financial projections.

    Since you will have greenhouse space, what about poinsettias and forced bulbs in the winter. You could even sell them wholesale to local florists. Maybe a gift shop area featuring locally made products. If you are in an affluent area, maybe unique/gourmet pet supplies (www.sitstay.com for ideas).

    Offer gift certificates and mention them in every advertisement and with signs at your place. I don't remember the exact statistics, but an unbelievable amount of them go unredeemed and that is free money.

    IMHO, you can do wayyyy better than 20% profit margin.

    oh, my goodness, i'm sooo excited for you and green with envy
     
  17. 3girls

    3girls Well-Known Member

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    Spend a day at Molbaks in Woodinville to get an idea of the potential. They started with just a greenhouse! In other words, become a destination. May take some years to build, but the sky's the limit. Any extra land to go with it?
     
  18. andalusianchik

    andalusianchik Member

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    Did you take Cost Accounting ??? That book learning has saved me from numerous potential disasters. Get a better book than the business plan for dummies. Found a fantastic book at library but will need to find the title. Check out Shepherd Ogden's book on organic year round greenhouse and other books on gardening. he does it in Maine !!! If you remember your MBA training... LOCATION LOCATION LOCATION. If you can come up with the products, where is the best place to sell. Maybe you should house swap until the business is established.

    Some Bonsai growers I know, take in house plants in the winter from rich city people who leave to vacation or go to winter homes with their excess greenhouse space... but be very very sure your greenhouse heating (they use kerosene heaters), humidity and hygiene and get some legal advice on the client contract when bad things happen.

    Good luck.. let me know how you do !!!
     
  19. moonwolf

    moonwolf Well-Known Member

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    Debbie,

    Did you progress any further on the greenhouse offer?

    Rich