Before you start that nursery...

Just read a great article on the difficulties, and rewards of starting a small retail garden center. The article can be found here at The Green Beam. It follows owner Cliff, who had a dream of starting his own garden center in Alabama.

What I found interesting and you may too is how long it takes a start-up to become profitable. In Cliff's example 6 years we needed to break EVEN! So much for the dream of over night success. Cliff and his wife even had to take on jobs outside the nursery to keep the boat afloat.

I was interested in the fact that to pay of the debt Cliff didn't buy in any inventory for three years. I don't know how they did that, but they did pay off the loans. Three years without adding new inventory? I would be afraid the customer would leave and never come back. But it worked for them.

Sid Raisch, owner and consultant with Horticultural Advantage in Hillsboro, Ohio hands out some advice in the article which I find interesting. I am most interested in the idea that inventory should be bought in with the idea that it be turned (sold) within 30 days or when the vendor bill for those items comes due. This means being tough and not becoming too attached to what you are buying for re-sale. After thirty days you would put the items on sale and move them out. This is harder than it sounds as often what you as an owner thought was so cool and would fly off the shelves, now needs to be put on sale. Our sin has been to try and eek out the last full profit margin on stuff we should have put “on sale” and blown out of earlier. We are going to try and do a better job of that this year.

If you have ever been interested in starting your own horticultural business, especially the small retail garden center this article would be a must read. Even if you don't want to start your own business it will give you some insight in why there are so few small garden centers opening and why competition from the box stores, with their ready supply of investor cash, is so tough.