Over the past few years, many people have turned to gardening and keeping houseplants as a minimalistic hobby. For some, this hobby is an escape from the stresses of technology or city life, but for others, it can grow to be much more than that. It can become a way of life. If you’re someone who has fallen in love with all things green, you may be considering taking your passion to the next level and making it your career.
Luckily, there are many jobs across the horticulture industry. In this piece, we’re going to focus on new green thumbs who are looking to start their own plant shop, nursery, or local garden center. As the houseplant and home gardening industry continues to grow, these specialty stores will only rise in demand, which makes them a perfect starting point for new horticulture professionals. Without any further delay, here’s how to start your own garden center!
Plan Out the Foundation for the Business
When starting a business of any type, it’s important to create a dedicated business plan that will guide your business through its creation and set you up for sustainable growth. You can check out everything that’s typically included in a standard business plan here. Now, let’s take a look at some of the most important elements of the business plan for Garden Centers.
Every business, no matter how big or small, should have overarching goals that propel the company forward. These goals are usually referred to as mission statements.
A mission statement concisely describes the reason why your business exists and the unique value it offers to customers. In other words, what gives your business purpose. A mission statement should encapsulate the reason why you went into business and detail exactly what problem you intend to solve. For example, Lowes’s mission statement is, “Together, we deliver the right home improvement products, with the best service and value, across every channel and community we serve.” It’s simple, concise, but also emphasizes a unique sense of community.
Your mission statement should help give your business a greater purpose and help you establish both long and short-term goals. A generic mission statement for a garden center could be “Our mission is to equip anyone in the local community with the skills, tools, knowledge, and materials to grow anything and everything they want to.” This statement hits the major ways you’re going to help the community, without getting too detailed. It also only needs to be a sentence or two long.
The branding stage of the business plan will likely be one of the most fun areas of your business that you work on. In this stage, you’ll need to lay out the name, logo, colors, and other branding elements that are going to be associated with your garden center.
You may not be able to tackle all the elements in the branding section on your own and that’s okay. Most people will be able to at least name their business, and choose some nice colors for a prospective logo. Take advantage of inspirational mood boards like Pinterest to help communicate your vision. The logo is where you likely will need assistance. Luckily, there are always local freelancers looking for work you can often find through word of mouth, or you can use outsourcing platforms like Fiverr and Upwork for low-cost, quick design work.
Startup Expenses and Funding Request
One of the most important areas of your business plan will be the financial section. In this section, you’ll lay out the most important startup expenses required to get your business up and running. You’ll also list out the type of business funding you plan on applying for.
While there isn’t a universal standard number, data shows the average startup cost for a plant nursery is around $30,000. Some common startup expenses you should make sure to include in your plan are:
- Real estate
- Plants, soil, mulch
- Gardening accessories and decor
After listing your costs in your business plan, you’ll need to list the funding options you plan on using to offset these costs. As a brand new business owner, you’ll likely go through one of two routes to fund your startup. First, you can use the funds from a personal loan to help facilitate the opening of your new business. A personal loan is often used by new businesses that cannot qualify for a business loan just yet.
If you don’t want to use a personal loan, you could consider asking your family and friends for money. If you do ask your loved ones for help, make sure to go through this process formally and lay out terms to avoid any issues down the road.
Now that you have the essential elements of the business plan laid out, you’re ready to start getting into the more nitty-gritty tasks of opening a business.
Find Vendors and Suppliers
Even though you may grow and supply some of the plants at your garden center, you’ll need to find local growers and suppliers that offer products outside your expertise. As you begin to think about vendors, first think about the type of products you want to offer in your garden center. Besides plants, consumers will be coming to you for tools, soil, gear, pottery, and a plethora of other horticultural products.
Some of the top products you’ll want to make sure you include are:
- Pots for plants
- Garden tools (shovels, garden hoes, hoses, planter boxes)
- Specialty soil and growing tools (irrigation tools, soil testing kits, fertilizers, nutrient kits)
If you’re having trouble finding local vendors, you can use industry vendor lookup tools to find local vendors who may be able to help you.
Also, if you’re in need of pottery and garden decor, we can help. We offer some of the best-selling, high-quality, and affordable planters and garden decor sourced from around the world. As a reference, we’re located in Florida and can service most of the Southeast United States, and beyond. Check out our wholesale catalog and ordering terms here. We are happy to help guide new business owners with advice on trends in garden decor and pricing and shipping information. Reach out to our sales team by phone or email with any questions!
*Quick note, when you start working with vendors, make sure you report any transactions to one of the respected business credit agencies to start building your business credit today*
Get the Right Technology in Place
You may be wondering what type of business technology a garden center may need. Even though this may seem like an alternative business to you, it’s still a retail-led business and needs the right technology in place to facilitate payments and manage transactions.
First, you will need to find and pay for a payment operating system (POS) that tracks, manages, and carries out payments and transactions with every in-store purchase. The best POS offerings allow users to automatically track and order inventory, track all sales, and offer online shopping support.
Besides a dedicated payment processor, you should make an attempt to create a business website that markets and supports your in-store efforts. Remember one thing though, not every industry needs a bonafide, super interactive website to drive customer engagement. The gardening industry, for example, is probably too niche to drive tons of online sales, so dedicating your website to that may not be the best idea. Instead, use your website as a local marketing tool to get people into your store. Using easy-to-use website builders will allow you to build and edit a website that features your branding, location, blog, and anything else you may want to include.
If down the line you think online shopping is worth adding to your website, worry not! Adding eCommerce elements to your website is easier than ever before. When picking out your POS be sure to check if they offer eCommerce tools as well.
Don’t Stop Learning
Nobody can know absolutely everything there is to know about gardening and horticulture, regardless of how long they’ve been in the industry. As a business owner in the space, consumers and other experts will be coming to you for advice, and if you don’t continue learning you may not be helpful to them.
To ensure your gardening knowledge continues to expand, we recommend subscribing to industry-leading publications, like Garden Center magazine. These publications are full of real stories from other business owners in the industry and feature tips and advice for other business owners.
Besides subscribing to some industry publications, you can further your knowledge by enrolling in online courses centered around horticulture. There are loads of online undergrad programs, as well as certifications available within the industry. Taking something like this horticulture class will refresh your horticultural knowledge and fill in any gaps you may have had.
Now, if someone comes in with a specific question, you should be better prepared to answer any issue thrown your way.
Transparency: this article was written as a unsponsored collabortative post in order to advise prospective business owners on the process of starting their own garden center.