Getting started

The time of year you launch your business will determine what range of plants you offer. Prior to doing anything you will need to:

  • Carry out some initial market research to identify who your customers are likely to be, who your competitors are and where best you can retail your plants.
  • Detail all the costs of bringing your product to the market place. Through your initial market research you should get an idea of how much you can realistically expect to charge per plant.
  • Work out a profit and loss forecast to see if what you're proposing to sell will cover the costs of buying the plants wholesale, your labour costs, any additional costs -for example packaging and compost - and last but most importantly, an element of profit.

If you enjoy meeting people and have the confidence to sell your plants to all types of people, in all types of situations, then this is a great business to run. You don't need high-street premises, which greatly reduces your outgoings and makes it more viable.

There are a number of things that you must do to ensure your business is both successful and profitable:

  • Your plants and shrubs must be in top condition.
  • Don't underestimate the time and labour involved in getting your plants in a saleable condition.
  • Don't under-price your produce just because you are selling from the 'boot of your car'. Experienced gardeners with an eye for quality will recognise quality when they see it.
  • As well as offering favourites, try to offer plants that aren't too easy to get elsewhere. For example, good selections of quality culinary and aromatic herbs make great sellers.
  • Try to find unusual places to sell your plants. For example, events where you wouldn't normally expect to find plants - boat jumbles (boaters tend to be keen gardeners), craft fairs, computer shows and the like. When choosing venues remember that your customers may not be gardeners themselves. Plants and shrubs make excellent, relatively cheap gifts.

Striking the right balance between what to buy and in what quantities can be difficult in the early days. This takes time. Don't expect overnight success with this venture. But persevere. There is always a market for quality plants and shrubs.

Catalogue selling

Another way of successfully selling stock is to publish a catalogue. It needn't be anything fancy. If you're a whiz at desktop publishing then you can create your own on your PC. Alternatively recruit a friend to do it and pay them from stock.

Distribute your catalogue to all the local businesses in your area that have more than ten employees. Leave them with an order form and an envelope for the money. Arrange to call back the following week on a pre-arranged date, when you can collect your catalogue and deliver any orders from the stock you carry around in the boot of your car or van.

This is a great way of selling stock. Book publishers have been doing it successfully for years. Make sure that when you do get orders you leave another catalogue together with an order form.

Perfect your salesmanship

Running this business calls for a bit of upfront sales ability. Nothing pushy is needed, just enough confidence to walk through the door, introduce yourself, tell whoever it is you speak to (receptionists are often the best as they know everyone in the company and often wield more influence than the managing director!) that you're offering quality plants and shrubs delivered directly to their office.

On your first visit, and as often as you like thereafter, leave a free sample with whoever had time to speak to you. Develop and maintain your contacts. Look after the person who distributes and collects your cash and they will look after you.

Don't be afraid of rejection

If you get a negative reaction don't take it personally, simply thank whoever you spoke to, even if they're as rude as hell to you, and leave.

With this business your ability to sell is just as important as your ability to care for and nurture your plants.

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