Now that you have studied all the catalogs it’s time to decide what you want to grow and what your potential customers will want to buy.’ What’s your market? Do you plan to sell out of your driveway, maybe have your greenhouse with a self serve stand. Maybe grow for market or contract grow for someone else? My opinion is start small. Feel out the business and see if you are even going to like it. In the spring and summer this is a 7 days a week business. Even if you are closed on Sunday or Monday the plants still need water and hopefully your phone will still be ringing.
Selling out of your driveway is not a bad way to start. Selling some baskets to your neighbors and maybe selling a little something to your local grocery is an excellent way to get your name out there. Don’t be timid about asking your local grocery, they have managers that get offers to sell them stuff everyday. One thing I found that helps A LOT when offering to sell to them is to offer them guaranteed sales. They love this, it gives them inventory at no cost. Guaranteed sales means you are willing to bring them product at no cost to them. If they sell it you get your cut if they don’t you take it back to your nursery and put it on your bench to sell. One thing to consider and discuss with the grocer is who will maintain the plants, how often are they required to water and how much space do they have as well as what type of display the can offer. When I sold to a couple of small locals I used to only take in one flat each of my best primroses and pansies. I would call after a day and ask how the plants look, this is code for “did you sell them all yet?”. If they sound like they are selling offer to bring more. Once you get a regular employee of the store working with you it is easier to figure what their needs are. The next time you go in take a half flat of something different and mention you have extras and would like to see if they will sell them. Again whenever they get free stuff to dress up the front of their store they will agree to this new product too. I used to be able to stretch my sales with these stores for a few extra weeks after the primrose and pansies were all gone.
Once your neighbors friends or relatives see their baskets they will say can I get one or two. Guess what that first customer from outside the neighborhood is your first official customer. If their basket does well they will almost likely be back next year. The snowball effect begins.
The way we started ours was we planted our plugs at the right time of the year (ask your broker) kept the greenhouse looking neat and clean and put a sandwich board out front on our first day. It wasn’t a grand opening but we put “free coffee and doughnuts” on the reader board, that got a lot of people in. Not knowing a whole bunch about flowers, (that’s what we concentrated on the first few years)whenever someone asked a question we couldn’t answer we would pull out our Western Garden Book and look it up. For some reason folks seemed to like that. It’s like we took enough interest in their question to take the time while they were in front of us to find an answer. I think up until that point these folks got the stock answer at the other nurseries “water when it’s dry, but don’t over water”
Did I mention other nurseries? We didn’t spend 5 minuets doing research on the competition. Was that wrong? I was a damned machinist I didn’t know you had to do a market survey or check out the competition. If I had known and we had done our research we probably would have found out there was a well established nursery less than a mile from us on the main highway running the length of the Long Beach Peninsula. We were on the back road. It turns out though that in the spring and summer when the front road was packed the locals used the back road. Had I done my research we probably would have re-thought our nursery plan.(luck,or karma?)