If you have a green thumb, you may see gardening as a mere hobby. But that yard full of beautiful plants can actually turn into a business, especially if you have extra space in your backyard. A small nursery can be one of the easiest businesses to start, allowing you to begin slowly with a few items at a time. But there are some things you’ll need to do before you start taking money for your plants.
Every successful business starts with a plan. The Small Business Administration has a business plan tool that walks you through the steps of putting everything in writing. But the process of creating a business plan is only partly about having a document on hand if you need it. You’ll also be making major decisions as you go.
If you’re selling a few plants to neighbors occasionally, you’ll likely be fine without licenses and permits. However, once you start selling regularly, you’ll need to get a business license. Before you take that step, though, check local zoning laws to make sure you’re allowed to operate a business in your location. Once you start selling plants, you’ll need to collect and remit sales tax on every dollar you make.
Protect Your Investment
After your nursery business is registered, expect to be occasionally inspected to make sure you’re in compliance with local laws. Pay close attention to these regulations. Not only are you required to have proper permits to operate your business, but you may be limited as to the types of plants and trees you can grow and sell. For instance, in some Maine towns, you can’t plant or import currants or gooseberries.
As a nursery owner, your biggest concerns will be disease and pests. One infestation can wipe out your entire supply, leaving you without a way to make income. Keeping your plants well-spaced and ventilated helps reduce the risk of an infestation, but also avoid overwatering and regularly check plants for signs of issues.
Promote Your Business
There are two routes to go when reaching out to potential customers for your nursery business. One is to target local residents who simply want plants for their own yards. Community Facebook pages can be a great way to get the word out about what you’re selling. During the spring and summer months, when residents are working on their landscaping, post photos of your plants with prices. Make sure you have a website and a Google My Business page so that local residents can find you.
Another option is to market your plants to local landscapers and garden centers, each of whom is generally looking for great deals on healthy plants. If you establish yourself as a reliable nursery selling top-quality products, you’ll likely find you have more referrals than you can handle. Make sure you always have business cards on hand and network with local hardware stores and other small businesses.
Stephanie Faris is a novelist and business writer whose work has appeared on numerous small business blogs, including Zappos, GoDaddy, 99Designs, and the Intuit Small Business Blog. She worked for the State of Tennessee for 19 years, the latter six of which were spent as a supervisor. She has written about business for entrepreneurs and marketing firms since 2011.