Weekend Plant Business

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by Jack in VA, Jan 22, 2005.

  1. Jack in VA

    Jack in VA Well-Known Member

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    I’ve been kicking around the idea of starting a “weekend” nursery/plant business based at a flea market or Farmers market. Work all week at home, and ”go” to work one or two days a week. Selling a mix of plants raised at home, plus various “plant related” items, like planters, window boxes, soil mixes and whatever else I may think of. As opposed to a conventional “garden center”, I wouldn’t be tied up at a business location all day long. Would cut way down on overhead, and I could start real small and let the market dictate how I grow. Would be low risk, with minimal start up costs. Not looking to get rich, just wanna do work I love, and pay my minimal bills(no mortgage, no debts no wife, kids grown).Anything I grow and not sell, I can stick in my own yard.
    Anyone else do something like this? Have any ideas, comments or warnings?
     
  2. moonwolf

    moonwolf Well-Known Member

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    I guess over 10 years ago, this was a prime idea to grow specialty plants to sell at Farmer's market Saturdays. Having a full time job, belive me, it's a hugh committment. A labor of love, mostly. The money for plants sold helped pay for the garden activities to buy seed, gas for the tiller, and stuff like that. Was a break even idea. The thing I had was stiff competition from other vendors and a large nursery alredy offering to the market customers. There were at least a dozen other vendors, and if all had offerings of the same type of plants, the big nursery usually had the advantage. I found luck if the day showing up at the market with strong and different varieties of pepper and tomato plants and different things like celery or leek plants sold out when the other vendors didn't offer them that day.
    As for the farm gate nursery plant sales? Some few out in the boonies here do that for the locals who get to know of good plants they might have available if they are cheap. You're not probably going to get rich at it. For a few bucks, here and there, you might give it a shot. There is a lot of work and time involved getting plants going, not to mention playing around with grow lights, heating, watering regimens, and amemdments for the soil. All this can add up for expense to your time and wallet. Make sure you have strong and healthy plants to offer and help give you some edge on the plants customers will complement you on and hopefully spread it by word of mouth.
    The plus is that plants not sold go in the garden, and that is some savings if you've bought a lot of translpants in the past.
     

  3. uncle Will in In.

    uncle Will in In. Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Jack, If you will put - Freeplants.com on search, it will give you a site to punch on called how to build a backyard potting bench. Mike J McGroarty has the site. His site will give you a world of ideas on starting and selling plants from your own parent plants.
    He sends out a newsletter through your e-mail at no charge. Anyone interested in gardening should check it out.
     
  4. Steve in Ohio

    Steve in Ohio Well-Known Member

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    Jack,
    We have been in the Greenhouse business for over 15 years,in a small scale way.And take plants and hanging baskets to the local Farmers market.....so here are some things to think about.First being small you have to go after the market that the "Big Box" stores don't(Lowes,Home Depot,etc.)Which was Herbs and Heirloom vegetables.Then service that niche with top quality product and knowledge............of the said plant items,which most Big Box stores can't.
    In this business its all about eye candy.........and most buyers are impluse buyers,so the product needs to be displayed in such a manner that it catches the eye with color.OK sounds great???now the down side,being small scale and purchasing inputs is hard because you may not make the price brake quanity.Like on Flats and Seeds,then add shipping again with smaller orders it's hard to make the good price break.Unless you can find someone to split an order with,which is what I did most of the time.I have one growing greenhouse and one for retail sales,with one growing house I'm limited on how much I can grow so my market better be on target for that growing season....any big problems,like insects or disease it's game over.So you really have to stay on top of it.Then let's add the heating costs,in my case I use propane I lock in a price in June-July and that good for a year,so its at 1.37 per Gal now.Today the temp is about 20 with a -20 wind chill........so guess what Mr propane heater is doing right now,I have Perennials in that house now so the temps.can be kept a little lower.Ok now lets look at transporting the said plant material back and forth to the Farmers Market.........need something to keep the weather off tender plants but is easy to load and unload,then a easy-up popup to keep the weather off you while at the market.Mean while back at home need shade cloth and water source handy and someone to look after it while you are gone to the market.I'll end with the weather factor,we start selling in early April and run through June so if you get a really wet season like we have had here the past 2 years you take a hit again......................Hope this helps some.................
     
  5. Blu3duk

    Blu3duk Well-Known Member

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    I second the motion for reading what Mike McGroarty has to say at www.freeplants.com about making dollars from your yard..... once you figure out how to transplant fast after rooting then you get into volume..... and volume is what makes you the change that sticks in your pocket rather than just breaking even.

    and a person dont need a greenhouse setting or other fancy toys to make it work either the site shows what he has and how much he hasnt too.

    William
     
  6. Cosmic

    Cosmic Well-Known Member

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    Yup, could work for you. The Mom and Pop nursery is one of the few micro businesses the big boys haven't seemed to be able to steam roller under. Still a bunch of them around in my neck of the woods, all family owned. All the lumber yards, most hardware stores and even many gas stations are gone. Home Depot and WalMart do a good job of cleaning out all the small one product type businesses. Don't think people really like their "Garden Shops".

    Depending on your location and possible client base could vary product to ensure you have something for each season. Flowers, garden plants, speciality items, maybe even some things like fruit trees. Seasonal things like garden produce, berries, fruits, maybe even some mushrooms.

    One other good way to do it, get good business cards, flyers, etc and attempt to build up a client base over time that will come to you. Maybe have a website to have them check in and see what is available. You got the right idea, let the market dictate what the products will be. Hydroponics might another good thing to get into.

    Probably still a bunch of "Truck Farm" operations around that grow anything that can make a buck, usually daddy also had a day job. If you can get old storm windows at the dump, can make a dandy green house. The frames are normally gone because folks can make a buck recycling the aluminum but just the glass and a pressure treated lumber frame can be built for very, very small money.
     
  7. amwitched

    amwitched Well-Known Member

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    At our local flea market, one of the vendors used to drive up in a box van loaded with houseplants. They were so healthy & huge and the vendor was not charging very much for them, either. It sure didn't take them very long to sell out!
     
  8. Jack in VA

    Jack in VA Well-Known Member

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    Thanks, all for your replys.I'll try and comment as much as possible.
    I have read Mike's free stuff and am on his mailing list.Do intend to incorporate some of his ideas.
    As I mentioned, my lifestyle is very low overhead, and do have a bit of a nest egg, tho not enough to last the rest of my life.(I'm 51) I havent had a "real" job in over two years, and can't stand the thought of getting one.
    But I love doing anything thats involved with plants(even weeding and shoveling doo-doo) and am not afraid of work. Not too aversive to risk, but I'm not stupid.Besides growing all my own fruits and vegetables, I really try and make my place a showcase, flower wise.Besides music(I'm a musician), it's the only thing I'm passionate about.I've never had one of those jobs that I woke up in the morning and couldn't wait to get to.But I can work in my yard all day, every day and feel happy and content at the end of the day.(OK, lawn mowing is kinda tedious, but it's good exercise, looks good when I'm done, and gives me all them great grass clippings. I am reclaiming more and more each year for more flower/vegetable beds).
    So, anyway, why not try and make a buck or two off something that I actually enjoy?
    I do have a lot of ideas for "unique" things to make me a little different from the others. Do wanna emphasize organic, and heritage concepts. Do intend to do the flyer- business card-internet thing to establish a clientale(sp).Do wanna try value added products and niche items.I do wanna sell "information" such as little pamphlets on things like composting, vermiculture and gardening in general(organic). I have access to woodworking tools, can make planters , pre-planted with flowers or herbs. Only gonna touch on a few of my ideas here.
    So, keep the posts coming. Like I said, I plan to start small, with minimal risk, with the sky the limit. I mean, it beats a part time job at Burger World.....Jack
     
  9. 3girls

    3girls Well-Known Member

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    I ordered the tapes from Freeplants. I highly recommend getting the tapes. I could skip the on-line book. At first, when I started watching, I thought I'd been ripped off. So, I watched some more and decided to overlook the amatuer videography. I have to tell you that there is a ton of very valuable information. It is one thing to read about how stuff is done, and quite another to see it done. It shows step by step how he has grown a very lucrative business in just a small part of his back yard.

    The tapes are not all, however. With the purchase of the tapes, you can join the Backyard Growers forum. It is invaluable. I started by reading ALL the earlier posts, starting with #1. The info there is unbelievable. It takes a little time and money to get started, but there is no limit to how far you can go. This would be a perfect business for someone who loves plants and gardening as you do.

    I am 70, and plan to keep this quite small and doable for me. Others are now into the wholesale part of it and doing quite well. All the big huge (acres) greenhouse operations started this way, sometimes several generations ago. I would encourage you to put in full days work at this on a daily basis and you can do wonders! Go for it!
     
  10. Kygardengal

    Kygardengal Well-Known Member

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    Having worked (in the past) at a big box store's garden center. I'd like to tell you what sold out first..... colorful containers already mature...things like hanging baskets, pots, dishes....any kind of bucket or container...Mature vegetable plants....I live in a town of 50,000 and most of my customers are not really gardeners in the sense that I thought they would be. Most want "ready-made" gardens where minimal work is involved. They want to be able to set it out and have it look good imediately. We had a delivery of 12 flats of gerbera daisies that had no blooms on them yet. As much as I tried, I just couldn't sell them. Many died as they out grew their containers and I took the rest home at the end of the season. As I was removing some early blooms from some tomato plants, a customer gasped that I was ruining the plants and now it would just produce less tomatoes. :no: I tried to explain but they wouldn't understand. As with most things in life, they want "instant"...You will have customers who want bedding plants,just don't forget the others who want mature plants as well. I got more calls for herbs than what I had on hand. Be ready to tell about the less common herbs and ways to utilize them. Maybe even recipe cards for the culinary herbs. Most of all they want quality. The plants have to look good.The comparison to "eye candy" is absolutely correct. I wish you all the best in the world. I have given thought to what you will do, just haven't gone farther than that....Good Luck
     
  11. diane greene

    diane greene Well-Known Member

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    We are a full time nursery www.catskillnativenursery.com .I can't imagine being able to take care of enough plants part-time and still make a living (even a small one). You have to sell a lot of plants to make enough money to pay the bills and continue to invest back into the business.

    Steve has some good advice, so I won't repeat it. The other thing to consider is the "schelping" of plants - been there, done it - no thanks. You need a large truck (box or cube van) to carry enough stock to sell, look good and make a profit. Also, if you do farmers markets make sure it's not to urban dwellers - they don't have gardens and you can't turn perennials or veggies into house plants.

    Also, make sure you have an excellent water supply - it takes a lot of water to make things grow. Greenhouses need to watered twice a day and outdoor potted plants everyday unless you get at least an inch of rain. It takes two people all day to water our 2.5 acre nursery. If your pump breaks and you can't get it fixed in one day you may be out of business quick.

    The margin in the nursery business is 30-50%. So if you invest $10,000 in inventory and sell it all for $20,000 (assuming nothing dies- although some always does) you only make $10,000 at top margin - that has to be your income and re-investment money to start up again next year. In other words, you have to invest at least as much as you need in profit.

    Just wanted to give you stuff to consider. I have seen a lot of articles that make the backyard nursery biz look easy, I know from experience it's not.
     
  12. Wannabee

    Wannabee Foggy Dew Farms

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    Just a little brainstorming on the weekend business...why not make it a sales event- (i.e. door-to-door or sign-up inadvance?)

    If I remember this correctly (and I might not), when I was in school many many moons ago, our FFA raised tomato plants from seed. Maybe we just ordered extremely tiny plants, and took care of them for a few weeks. At any rate, we sold in ADVANCE what we were going to raise. (I know we always had some extra, but at least we were guarantted some income) We already knew there was a home for the tomato plants. 3-4 varieties I think. Pretty sure it was a big fundraiser for us annually. You could always do the same. Don't want to go door-to-door? How about asking people at church? How about contacting the FFA, figuring out your price, figure out their price, and have them sell YOUR plants at a guranteed X amount of profit???

    I no longer remember how much we had in each plant, or what we sold them for, but I do know that we made a fair amount of money in the plant - not the tomato itself.


    If there is a will, there is a way.....
     
  13. Cosmic

    Cosmic Well-Known Member

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    Remember it is like any small business. One question I always ask folks thinking about getting in any small business is "Who do you think you are working for???

    Of coarse they say themselves. The real answer can be "The Bank, The Suppliers or the Hired Help", if you are not careful. :eek:

    Working out of your house has a huge advantage. The basics are to know your monthly rates expressed as expenses or overhead. Out of the house operations usually have the ability to shrink that number close to nothing in lean times, established businesses can go deep in the red because they can not turn off the fixed overhead. Prime killer in small business.

    The second and third question is:

    How many hours do you want to work and how much flexibility is desired???

    How much contact to you want with people and do you like or hate people in general???

    Get those three questions right and your success rate can soar. Most small business failures can be traced to a misguided understanding of one of the three. A small home nursery is good because you should be able to adjust the answer of those three questions in a manner that will satisfy your needs / expectations and still have a loyal customer base. Lot of slop in the manner and methods to do it.

    The other core fundamental principal to make any small business a roaring success is understand the mechanism of how you will generate the investment capital, goods, etc to improve / grow a business. In my case it was always deliberately build an amount / factor into every price of everything sold an amount earmarked to buy something for the future. Usually a very targeted item well planned out how and what it could do to make things more productive, easier or profitable.
     
  14. inc

    inc Well-Known Member

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    if you truly wish to give plants a whirl the fleamarket type of stand is the place to start, unless you hve the ability/zoning to set up a roadside stand- this is something ihave no exp with.
    i did fleamarket for a while and did ok for the incredibly cheap area we are in. im sure the established vendors did well, but i got by on about 20 $ net on one morning-early afternoon session once a week. i chose saturday because the sunday crowd( i was told it was all new people) were either the same people or cheap.
    the table is about 6 ft wide so you dont have a lot of space, get a pickup and sell off the bed. i sold other peoples' garage sale stuff, it was a lot of very hard lifting and loading and to get a decent spot that wasnt already 'saved' by an established vendor, you had to leave past 5 in the morning.
    i did it becase that 20 is what i lived on all week gas and two burrito hot lunches and bag of grain. i eventually had some bad experiences at the market, with 'buyers' (other vendors in the mall) destroying a jacket because i wouldnt sell it out cheap, and my car getting keyed. i wouldnt ever bother going back there.guess i was making 'too much money' to suit them- if you have a real job- it would not be worth you time usually, even if your job is at burger world at 5.15 an hour.
    i sold some plants and i found that they sold really poorly unless they looked absolutely super. problem being that its all local people who buy plants. the tourists of course dont.
    find out what your local people buy. what they 'need'.
    hierloom plants are a good selling point IF you can get them to look as good as the modern uniform hybrids. hierlooms will give variable seedlings that wont sell good when presented like that.point being, no weak seedlings in flats, or i would definetly consider removing your weak plugs and sliding in strong seedlings, save all the weak seedlings in a six plug pack and let them grow on another week- they need some time.
    OR sell the hierlooms in individual plant pots but then again you have that pickup bed/limited space to think about. how much money per square foot can you cram into it???
    the only thing i sold was some flowereing perennials, that happened to be near full bloom, if it has color on it it has a chance to sell. adn NOTHING shreds blooms or makes seedlings wilt like a long bumpy ride to the market- takes only a little shaking aroundn to ruin your whole day's sale.
    only plant i ever seen go good was soem guy with buckets of 'collector's' irises, he musta had a whole collection, and he would dig up and wrap a blooming stalk and stick it in a bucket.,the divisions were only one joint, very small, but each had a bloom. 3 $ a piece and about one or 2 doz blooming stems could be carefully packed in a bucket.thats good $ per square foot
     
  15. Valmai

    Valmai Well-Known Member

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    Lots of interesting and helpful comments here. You enjoy gardening so I say go for it. Even if you dont make any money, you have not lost anything, as you would still be gardening. Depending on where you are perhaps you could also hire yourself out as a gardener, a couple of days a week. Only thing I would add is start small and cheap, if you have an 'eye for potential' you could set everything up for no (or very little) $$$.
     
  16. willow_girl

    willow_girl Very Dairy

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    Jack,

    I second the idea that, if you don't live too far off the beaten path, selling plants from home is the way to go! For one, people can see what the mature plant will look like in your garden. Also, the beauty of your yard is your best advertisement! And, of course, you avoid all the hassle (and fees) to transport your plant to a market.

    Here's what I used to do: Every spring, my neighbor and I would have a plant sale on the same weekend as a large annual flea market in our area. We'd put up signs around the flea market grounds directing customers to our sale. In addition to plants, we'd hit the estate auctions all summer and sell low-end antiques and household items. Most of our plants were divisions of things growing in our yards. I also sold some seedlings when I had a surplus. And I made and sold twig furniture, too!

    We'd have a two-day sale (Friday-Saturday) and usually would sell out all the plants and twig furniture, and probably 75 percent of the rest of the merchandise. The remainder would be boxed up for the following year.

    We had many repeat customers who would let us know how the plants they had bought in previous years were doing in their gardens. :)