Advice Needed

hoke(9a SoCal)March 26, 2004

Hi Folks.

I do need advice, lots and lots of it! I need so much that I have no idea what I should be asking yet, so this is mostly just an introduction. I expect to be using this forum a lot in the near future; you all sound like nice people.

My name is Hoke. I live in a semi-rural part of San Diego county. I'm a computer geek by trade, but thanks to my employer jumping on the "outsourcing" bandwagon, I've been laid off. And I believe I've finally decided that the corporate world of 8-to-5 business casual expendable cog-in-the-wheel drudgery is not where I want to spend 5 out of every 7 days of my life. (I hope I don't sound bitter, because, honestly, I'm past that...I think ;-))

Since my avid hobby has for years revolved around growing and propagating plants - houseplants mostly, but also landscape type plants and trees - I'm going to try making a living doing that. But I'm truly starting from scratch. I have no experience running a business. I have a few things going for me: I'm friendly, I like most people, I have lots of energy and don't mind working hard, and I have about 3/4 of an acre of land to play with and a few months' padding finance-wise. And I am determined to make this work, if at all possible.

But O there are SO many questions! What should I grow? Should I sell wholesale or retail? Should I grow a variety or huge batches of one thing? Is there a market here the "little guy" can break into? How big a greenhouse should I build? What should I make it out of? Do the big chain stores buy from small growers? Can I make enough to pay the mortgage and bills? Or do I need a part time job? Once my growing operation is ready to start, how long should I expect to lose money before turning a profit?

Obviously, I have much research to do. I've been doing it, but it's slow going. I'm not really asking YOU these questions right now (although I'll gratefully listen to any answers!), I'm asking myself. A few years ago, I posted a lot in the House Plants forum, usually to answer newbies' questions. Now the coin is flipped and I am the one baffled and befuddled... I'll be asking a lot of questions.

And here's one to start. I read somewhere that there's an "emerging" market for native plants, especially here in california. Anyone have any info on that?

Thanks! (and Hello!)


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I just took a course from our local county extension office. It opened a whole new world and helped me to focus on a niche market. Showed me where to go for research, the country (not village) library, wow!

The name of the course was "Tilling the Soil of Opportunity" It was MSU business class they developed into a ag buisness course.

Got down to the nitty gritty, product, marketing, money, legal stuff. If you can't get his at your extension I can give you the address to ours. There was a huge book that they walked us through w/ guest speakers and all. Maybe they'll sell you the text. It's four inches thick. Light reading some of it heavy and worksheets tons of resources, mainly michigan though, some national.


    Bookmark   March 27, 2004 at 8:50AM
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My advice is to pack up your bags, sell your acreage, and move to Beverly - Hills that is - swimming pools - movie stars. or just call that other computer geek who used to sit across from you and whine all the time. Contact me:

Here is a link that might be useful: WERURPALS

    Bookmark   April 4, 2004 at 3:15AM
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Bob_Piper(NE Oklahoma)

I would be tempted to investigate growing specialty veggies and herbs for select upscale restaurants. Go talk to some chefs about what they would like to have available to them really fresh and from a dependable local source (yourself). But to make that work you must know what the heck you are doing and be able to produce great, top-quality, stuff on a continuing basis. I have a lot more info on what you could do in this vein if you are interested. I am a greenhouse grower as well a outdoor gardner and all my info/ideas are absolutely gratis. I make my living as a grower.


    Bookmark   May 3, 2004 at 11:33AM
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You're at an exciting starting point.

Before you get too much into the details of growing plants, you really need to figure out the business aspects of it.

There's lots of ways to do that: plenty of good books (I like "Entrepreneur Magazine's Small Business Advisor").

Plenty of the community colleges offer short courses in "small business start-up". Check out Palomar College in your area. Even the bigger colleges (UCSD, for instance), offer continuing adult education classes (non-credit) on the subject. I took a great class at UCLA years ago just before I started my own business. It was invaluable.

And then there's the SBA (Small Business Association). They have PLENTY of free info available.

Get some "experience". Work for a wholesale nursery that actually grows what you want to grow. There's plenty of nurseries in N. San Diego County, as you know. (That may be good news and bad news, actually).

Find yourself a "mentor" -- someone who knows the trechnical aspects of the business and can offer advice during key times.

Do the homework on your market!!!!! Find out what market is actually out there for you, what THEY want, and how THEY want it. Only they know and only you will know.

There IS always a market for the little guy. As long as you find your niche and don't do it so as to put yourself in direct competition with the big guys. Do it by offering a new product(s), a new way of selling an old product, or by offering some absolutely outstanding customer service. Don't work the price angle -- that's what puts little guys out of business fastest.

There have been thousands of beginners who knew how to grow plants and thought that simply because of that, they could make a business out of it. Yes, passion for what you do may be number one in eventually succeding, but it is only part of what you need to know.

You really do need to figure out ALL the business aspects of it (make a plan!) and you need to figure out what you're going to do that will be special.

Good luck,
Joe (native of San Diego)

    Bookmark   May 3, 2004 at 1:22PM
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Welcome to the "New Kid On The Block Club"!! I'm practically in the same boat as you are. I work in the power industry, away from home 6 days a week, with three growing children that I never get to see. My solution, " Turn my hobby into my living."
My family is all for it, but that little guy on my shoulder ( the one with horns and a pitchfork ) keeps telling me the risk is too high. With that in mind, I agree with Joe, education is a must! Not only in the start-up of your small business technically, but also in the area of obtaining the proper permits,lic.,location, and customer service.
I commend you on stepping out of the norm. I'm sure that California is a very competitive niche market. Do not fret, we have the same difficulties here in the mountains of North Georgia. By starting your own small company, you are among the millions that keep this country moving forward. Best of luck in all your trials and triumphs!


    Bookmark   July 4, 2004 at 1:43AM
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