Call it gardening of the future or an homage to Babylonian agriculture: the old/new method of using water in place of soil to grow crops harkens back to around 600 B.C. Proponents of hydroponics love this growing system because they don’t have to worry about ground contaminants, pesticides and soil that leeches nutrients when plants are watered. Your desire to open a hydroponics store will give you opportunities to teach the art of growing plants in water. And if you’re the place that growers frequent for their plant nutrients, containers, racking and irrigation systems, you’ll make money and converts.
Conceive a business plan that’s comprehensive enough to convince a lender that their bank or investor will get a healthy return on investment if they underwrite your business. Include in your pitch a list of start up expenditures, from store rental to the acquisition of inventory. Add a marketing proposal outlining your sales and marketing plans and a competitor analysis covering hydroponic stores in the area that could present a challenge to your ability to capture a serious share of the market.
Rent a store and obtain permits and licenses required by your city to operate a retail space. The size will depend upon your product mix. Living plants consume huge amounts of space, so if you’re just starting out and want to test the waters on the viability of a hydroponics store in your community, you may wish to forgo plants and concentrate on planting mediums, grow light systems, pipes, pumps, reflectors, fans, CO2 trays and other necessities. You’ll need a weather-controlled environment if you sell plants--even if they’re samples to show customers what a fully functioning hydroponic growing system looks like.
Compete with websites carrying hydroponics supplies by conceiving a Unique Selling Proposition, a feature to which nobody else can lay claim. Price matching would be great, but you have a store to support. Personal service is critical to healthy business building, but the public is used to getting retailer perks, so give them something extra. Whether you provide hard-to-get products, launch a grower’s club entitling members to deep discounts or you sell “immediacy” of order fulfillment that websites can’t match, you’ll have your USP.
Work only with reputable manufacturers. Whether you live in a state that legalized medical marijuana or your only goal is to sell folks on the idea of the merits of hydroponic food cultivation, you need suppliers you can count on with sales policies that favor you and your customers. If a supplier with whom you contract delivers your orders late, continually whines about back orders that can’t be fulfilled or if you have questions about the quality of the supplies or equipment they provide, look elsewhere.
Keep up with the rapidly expanding hydroponics phenomenon by reading trade magazines, taking classes in horticultural science and making yourself available to community clubs and organizations so you can carry a message of the wisdom of hydroponic growing to the masses. Sure, you want to entice people to buy from you, but folks want reassurances that they’ll be able to master new things and your passion for indoor gardening will give them all of the assurances they need.
Based in Chicago, Gail Cohen has been a professional writer for more than 30 years. She has authored and co-authored 14 books and penned hundreds of articles in consumer and trade publications, including the Illinois-based "Daily Herald" newspaper. Her newest book, "The Christmas Quilt," was published in December 2011.