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How to Start a Plant Business

Houseplants are on-trend, and if you’ve got a passion for potting and find joy in watching things grow, starting your own plant business might just be the ideal adventure for you.

You’ll need to have an entrepreneurial spirit, not be afraid of drumming up business for yourself, and be good at time management for this. And while you don’t need any formal training, you’ll want to get familiar with the different types of plants you grow and sell so you can keep them in tip-top shape.

If you’re an entrepreneur who thinks they’ve got what it takes to make it in the plant game, here’s what you need to know about how to start a plant business.

What is a plant care business?

A plant care business describes pretty much anything that has to do with growing, selling, or maintaining plants that are indoors; outdoor plants primarily fall under the general landscaping industry. Essentially, a plant company either grows and sells, designs, or maintains live plants.

Realities of running a plant care business

Plant care is a nifty business idea, especially since millennials seem to be obsessed with houseplants. But there are a few benefits and drawbacks you should consider before you get started.  

Benefits of an indoor plant care business 

There are a lot of fast-growing small businesses out there, but one of the biggest benefits to establishing a plant care business is you don’t need a large amount of capital to get started.

So long as you’re not going the retail or wholesale growers route, you can cut expenses on location by working in your own space or at your clients. This means your biggest cost concerns are going to be start-up supplies, back-end costs (like the cost of your accounting program), and insurance. 

Drawbacks of an indoor plant care business

While plant care is an expanding niche, it is a luxury business. That means when times get tough, you’re likely to be at the top of the list for budget cuts. This could make securing a sustainable income a challenge.

There is also the added drawback of dealing with bug infestations. They can kill plants quickly, ruining your work fast and possibly damaging your reputation—and it’s usually not your fault.

How to start a plant care business

If your heart is set on starting a plant care business, you’ve got a green thumb and you’re ready to go, here’s what you’ll want to do:

Build a business plan

Your business plan is a crucial component of the set-up of the business. It outlines what your company does and who it serves.

If you are planning on seeking funding to jump-start your business, you’ll want to pay particular attention to hammering out a comprehensive executive summary. You’ll also want to focus on components like your budget and finances, and your marketing plan. Potential funders will want to know how much you’ll expect to make and how prospective customers are going to come across your products or services.

Even if you’ll be the only one looking at the business plan, it’s important to flesh it all out. It acts as a roadmap to help keep you on track as your business moves along and grows.

Conduct a market analysis

Before you get too far into starting your plant business, you want to take a peek at the industry and see what everyone else is doing. Do a market analysis and figure out what services are currently available and where there might be a gap for you to fill.

You’ll also want to look at what’s popular with plants. For example, if you’re looking for nursery stock, what are local people buying. Likewise, if you’re creating terrarium designs, are customers looking for succulent plants or something a little pricklier? 

Set up your business back end

To keep costs on the lower side, you can opt to do your own bookkeeping and client management. That means you’ll need to set up:

  • An accounting system
  • A CRM database
  • Some form of project management system
  • A business bank account

You’ll also need to look into making your business official (like using Ownr to set up your corporation) and securing insurance, which is important both when you’re working in a clients’ space, and you’re selling retail goods. They may sound “boring,” but they’re important steps to take as you start on your plant-filled adventure.

Purchase basic supplies

Your basic supplies will depend on the type of plant care business you opted to start. If you’re designing terrariums and containers, your startup supplies might look like cactus plants, succulents, and other goodies you’ll use to decorate with. 

If you’re maintaining plants, your start-up supplies might be more in the fertilizer, tools, and plant food area. You’ll want to make sure that you have everything you need for the kinds of plants you plan to work with.

Start marketing your business

It doesn’t matter what kind of start-up you’re building, marketing is crucial, so you’ll want to get started quickly.

If you’re dealing with an in-person business, like plant maintenance, where you’ll be at your client’s premises, consider making a set of memorable business cards or flyers to drop off around your neighbourhood (safely, of course).

You’ll also want to think about:

  • Building a website
  • Taking gorgeous photos of your products
  • Opening social media accounts

Don’t forget to make an actual marketing plan, or you may risk ending up with one hand in all the marketing cookie jars.

What kind of plant care services can you offer?

If you’ve itching to get growing but aren’t sure what type of plant care services, here are five ideas to get you started: 

1. Run a nursery business

When it comes to a plant start-up, the first thing that comes to mind is probably a plant nursery business. Retail nurseries grow plants from seeds or saplings with the intention that they’ll end up in the homes of happy plant lovers. And online plant nurseries are a fast-growing industry!

Unless you’re running one of the massive wholesale nurseries out there (which might not be a good beginner task), you’ll probably want to focus on growing a select variety of plants. Once your plants are ready to find new homes, you can sell them to a landscaper or plant designer, at a local plant show, or directly to the end customer.

The big downside for start-up nursery owners is you’ll need plenty of space to grow your plants. And since you’ll likely be starting the plants from seeds, you’ll need to be patient until they grow to a size where you can sell them. 

2. Plant upkeep and maintenance

So you like to work inside with plants, and you actually remember how often you need to water them—maybe indoor plant care and maintenance is for you. This is a great option for those entrepreneurs with a green thumb who want to keep their start-up costs lower.

With maintenance and upkeep, you can offer regular services like watering, trimming, cleaning, polishing, pruning, and even potting and repotting. This field also opens up doors for you to go beyond individual clients. Many businesses decorate their corporate spaces with plants but don’t have the time (or a dedicated person) to maintain them.

3. Floral design services

If you have an eye for design and a desire to create wedding favours for happy couples, then floral design might be for you.

Many floral design businesses start off with retail plant shops where they sell plants, flower bouquets, and custom designs to clients. But if you don’t want to budget for the retail space, you can reduce your costs by offering a custom-only or small-scale local retailer with an online shop.

You won’t get street walk in traffic that way, but you can work some magic on your social media accounts to bring in potential customers. 

4. Indoor landscaping

Plants truly increase the beauty of the world around us, so business owners and individuals alike are increasingly turning to indoor landscaping to brighten up their space. If you have an eye for making stunning indoor plant displays, this could be the perfect business for you.

With an indoor landscaping business, you’ll design plant displays to tie a space together. You could even pair landscaping and maintenance services to turn your onetime customers into regulars. 

5. Terrarium and container design

If you like to work with smaller plants like cacti and succulents, then designing terrariums and plant containers could be a good fit. This is the ideal set-up for someone who wants to work at home and run an online retail shop, as you don’t need a public retail space to do your work.

If you offer online sales, you’ll need to work out the best shipping options, but you could also opt to sell your designs to local plant shops as an in-between. This is a great opportunity to put together beautiful displays that make people happy.

Tips for starting a plant business

Start small

You don’t have to go to the local plant nursery and buy out their entire fertilizer supplies. While you want to have a stock of fertilizer, pesticides, and other supplies on-hand, consider keeping a small stock to start off with until you know what you need. That way, you won’t blow the budget right out of the gate.

Take a customized approach

Plant care requires a little more customization than some other service-based businesses out there. It’s a luxury service, so you’ll want to take some time to get to know your potential customers and their preferences, so you can customize the service you provide to their needs. 

Focus on quality

It’s okay if you don’t offer every service that’s related to plant care, and it’s okay if you don’t work with every type of plant available. Focus on providing a quality service to your clients. This also means working with suppliers that provide you with goods and services that you trust. Specialization is a great quality of a niche business, so focus on giving it to your all in one specific area.

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