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Thread: I'm thinking of starting my own carnivorous plant nursery

  1. #17
    herenorthere's Avatar
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    DrWurm is right - eBay offers an opportunity for CPs to be a little more than a hobby but not quite a business. With little risk, you can get a sense of whether it's for you.
    Bruce in CT

    Madness is something rare in individuals — but in groups, parties, peoples, ages it is the rule. Friedrich Nietzsche

  2. #18
    nepenthes_ak's Avatar
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    Their is a guy in a local town, that has a house plant store, Ive talked to him before about growing carnivorous plants, he says if I get extras he will buy them from me. To bad all I have to my name is a Nep and a Ceph.

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    I've been selling orchids and some aquatic plants on E-bay over the past year. I'm no where in the volume needed to call it a business, but I have managed to increase my stock alot without putting out much money. To be honest I would have been better off just getting a job delivering pizza's and spending the time delivering pizza's (E-bay/packing/planting/deflasking/comminications/buying supplies eats up alot of time). I would have made out better working with the time invested. But I did enjoy the first few months alot, then it started to get more like work. Next year I will slow things down alot and see if I can find a happy place.

    You can make it work but you really should try and just E-bay a year and get a feel for the problems that will come up. Its a good place to find out if you would want to go all out.

  4. #20

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    Lots of good advice here. And as so many have mentioned, it is a lot of hard work...especially if you plan to keep a large and diverse inventory of plants, which you should if you intend to make any kind of a dent. You will also need to think outside the box when obtaining plant material. In other words...try not to get caught up in the cookie cutter inventory too much (Sarr. 'Judith Hindle', Drosera adelae, capensis, spathulata, Ping. primuliflora, and all the tc'd Nepenthes and such). While it's fine to list and sell some of these...you can often find examples of these plants EVERYWHERE!

    Try to carry stock that nobody else has, especially Sarracenia. It practically sells itself. Create your own hybrids and grow out the seed yourself. As was mentioned previously...diversify. It's almost esential if you want to stay on top of the game. It's the nurseries that carry the odd and unusual or just utterly fantastic species and hybrids that get the most hits.

    I find the two most important key ingredients for success are (1) the BEST CUSTOMER SERVICE possible. You want people to want to come back to you just for the experience alone if not for the plants. They'll tell their friends too. Repeat customers are the best...and they come back expecting to find something new and exciting that nobody else has. (2) Healthy plants grown to perfection. It doesn't matter if it's a seedling as long as it is pest free, blemish free and in top shape.

    Also, plant descriptions should be as accurate as possible. Try to stay away from saying things like "leaf span of 3 to 6 inches". Well...which is it? I certainly don't want to spent the same cash for a plant that is only 3 inches diameter when I could get one that is 6 inches. If you are going to say you have something that is 3 to 6 inches leaf span then by all means send the biggest one you have or update your website.

    Try not to restrict yourself to internet/mail order sales. Get yourself involved with as many local plant shows as you can get into. Travel, and do it often. My business partner and I sell primarily at plant shows and we will travel up to 500 miles to be in one and we always bring more plants than we think we will sell, always!

    Many of the biggest shows we're in will only allow US to sell cp's because of the reputation with the customers we've built up over the years. NO COMPETITION, and we may do upwards of 10-12 of these shows each year. It feels good to walk away from one of these bigger shows with as much as $5000 or more in our pockets!

    So yes, there is a lot of work involved. But the rewards you reap are worth every effort and all the sweat and expense. Sure the money can be nice...but you can't put a price on a spotless reputation. It...and the best possible plants are what will make your business thrive. Build it...and they will come!

  5. #21
    Let's positive thinking! seedjar's Avatar
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    That's really inspiring phil. Thanks for sharing. I've been selling my spares at farmers' markets for a while and was getting a little pessimistic. I get curious buyers, but only rarely do I come across genuine plant-types or people interested in learning and applying themselves towards a new hobby. I'll definitely look in to visiting some flower shows and the like - I hadn't really given it much thought before, but it makes a lot of sense.
    ~Joe
    o//~ Livin' like a bug ain't easy / My old clothes don't seem to fit me /
    I got little tiny bug feet / I don't really know what bugs eat /
    Don't want no one steppin' on me / Now I'm sympathizin' with fleas /
    Livin' like a bug ain't easy / Livin' like a bug ain't easy... o//~

  6. #22

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    You're welcome Joe.

    Yes, we've done the farmer's market before and like your experience..can be most disheartening. What I find to work best at any plant show or farmer's market is the material you have to sell. Is it the best example of its type? Is it something an avid gardener thinks looks like the most beautiful and unusual flower? The plant should be able to partially sell itself. By partially I mean simply...Do you show great zeal and enthusiasm about the plants? I find the more passionate my sales pitch the more plants fly off the table.

    I've had folks fill out customer comment cards before and many times they will say one of the reasons they bought the plant was because I/we were so excited about them and gave good growing advice...along with easy to follow care sheets. You can almost always find hordes of people at our tables because we conduct small demonstrations/mini seminars.

    Taking one of my Sarr hybrids for example..I can give a small talk about the plant, how I created it, how the colors will intensify, what the plant will look like next year, etc...and the next thing you know poeple are literally pushing each other out of the way to grab one.

    My partner and I sell at the Huntington Botanical Gardens annual plant show/sale every year in Pasadena, CA. I's a very high end event held on the grounds of the Huntington Estate. We've been rated the most popular and I believe also the largest revenue taker. Thousands of people come through and to date we have sold out nearly every plant, every year. It's so insane at times that we don't have time to eat. The director of the botanical garden would often stop by and ask if he could get us any help or something to eat because the crowds were getting so big! We just love talking about these plants...obviously.

    Being that this is a plant collector's paradise we do very well. So it does help if you can get involved where avid gardeners/plant collectors congregate. I think as far as sales go it really pays off to be comfortable with public speaking. Speak loud enough and with enough energy to draw a crowd and the plants will leap off the table. Especially successful is doing a VFT demonstration. Kids who are present will tear their parent's arm off just to get one after they see the strange 'bitey plant'

    If you're lucky and it's late spring/summer time you could have a yellow jacket or a fly visit your table and the customers can watch the plants in action without your intervention. We've sold tons of Sarrs after a crowd watched a big yellow jacket or two get swallowed up. It works like magic! I remember a family watched a vft catch a fly all by itself. They just HAD to have that plant because it was eating something fresh!! I'll never forget the 'gasp' followed by, "they really DO eat bugs".
    LOL!!

  7. #23
    Let's positive thinking! seedjar's Avatar
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    Excellent. I think I'll have much better luck in the coming season, as I have a lot more plants this year than last, including temperates and such. On warm, sunny days I always did really well without a lot of effort. My pitch is usually pretty enthusiastic, but sometimes I worry about coming off as the "weird plant dude" so I try to set my tone to whatever kind of response I'm getting. I'll try ramping up the enthusiasm a little more, though. Basically my pitch regarding CPs is that growing them properly is simpler than most easy houseplants. Is there distilled water standing in the tray? When you look at the light source, does it hurt your eyes? If so, you're good. No fertilizers, or sticking your finger in the pot each day waiting for it to dry. That's what made it possible for me to put together as large a collection as I have today.
    I'm really excited about this Spring. I have lots of big Sarrs and plenty of VFTs. With any luck, I'll have some Nep cuttings too... I haven't had a totally sold-out day yet, but I think I might see one this year once the sun comes out. A big problem is that most of the time I've been out it's been either crummy weather or days when not many people are at the venue. I'll have many easier days ahead, though. I can't wait until the biology department at my college starts talking about it - I've already had a few cliques come my way and they're all great customers.
    Spontaneous feedings are really great. I had a middle school group at my stand last Summer and some flies or mosquitos or something had been visiting my plants all day. Their teacher bought one right off the bat and then as I was telling them about it, one of the kids saw a fly get stuck on a D. capensis, which was followed by this huge uproar. I sold two or three more plants to their teacher and the other chaperone after that. The reactions are priceless - more than worth an afternoon sitting in the cold or the rain every once in a while. Even if I never make a business of it, I'll still think of it as a perk of putting genuine effort into my hobby.
    ~Joe
    o//~ Livin' like a bug ain't easy / My old clothes don't seem to fit me /
    I got little tiny bug feet / I don't really know what bugs eat /
    Don't want no one steppin' on me / Now I'm sympathizin' with fleas /
    Livin' like a bug ain't easy / Livin' like a bug ain't easy... o//~

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