Starting a gardening business may not jump out at you as a business that’s going to bring you a windfall. But the statistics regarding the evolution of the garden retail sector tend to say otherwise. While the pandemic has caused many businesses to suffer significant losses, the gardening industry has exploded. 

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, retail sales of building and gardening materials have increased 8.6 percent since the spring of 2020 due to the popular home gardening trend. With the pandemic keeping millions of people at home, the idea of having a small garden and maintaining it has become a way to both relax and keep busy for many Americans. 

American consumers’ renewed interest in home gardening is not solely due to the pandemic. A look at sales revenue over the past four years shows that the trend began before the outbreak of COVID-19. Average sales revenue for the home gardening industry grew 4.62% in 2018 to almost double by 2020 to 8.79%.

Plus, social media has become an absolute goldmine for passionate amateur gardeners who started Facebook groups and Instagram pages to communicate with other home gardeners and share their botanical experiences. The upward trend in industry growth statistics is reflected in the increased business on social media, with a noticeable peak in the last two years.

As you can see, a retail gardening business is one of the most profitable and easiest businesses to start in 2022. But the million-dollar question is how to start a retail gardening business and take advantage of the eCommerce boom in this sector. That’s what this blog will walk you through and help you successfully launch your next garden retail business.

The Key Points Involved in a Gardening Business 

Before you become a self-employed gardener or consider starting a gardening business, it’s essential to know what the job requires and what to expect. The success of a gardening business depends mainly on the characteristics that make it different from other gardening services. 

These characteristics affect the type of service you want to provide, the category of customers you target, and the amount of money you charge. Here are some key things to keep in mind before you start a gardening business:

  • It is a business that requires quite a bit of physical labor and dirt. Gardening requires you to carry heavy loads, dig, prune, clean, and stand or bend over for long hours. While this is good for your health, it can be very tiring and cause physical strain. You will also need to touch and have a thorough knowledge of organic materials, products, pesticides, etc. Check with a doctor before starting. 
  • One of the challenges you will face is that gardening can be a seasonal occupation. The amount of money you make depends a lot on the weather. Gardening services have a peak business during the summer months. Your business can slow down if you live in a seasonal climate.
  • Starting a gardening business will require you to have specialized knowledge. Customers expect you to know what type of plants grow fastest or best in what areas. If you find yourself dealing with a clientele with large landscaped areas and an interest in exotic plants, this expectation may be higher.

What Is The Difference Between a Gardener and a Landscaper?

Gardeners focus much more on the health and well-being of the plants, while landscapers are usually involved in outdoor construction work such as walkways, patios, walls, etc. 

A good gardener knows the preferences of each plant: what to prune, when to plant, how much to water, type of soil. In addition, the gardener will also identify pests and diseases, apply fertilizers and herbicides, and monitor the weather accordingly. The experienced gardener must know what plants grow locally and where to get good plants. A gardener is equipped to garden while a landscaper is equipped to build.

What Are The Different Steps To Start A Gardening Business?

Before starting a business, it is essential to conduct market research to ensure demand for your niche and little competition. Market research will allow you to develop a business plan, know your target audience and your competitors, set a fair price for your services, implement a marketing strategy to reach more customers, and offer different services to meet customers’ needs. 

1. Write a business plan

The business plan for your garden business should include the following elements: 

  • An executive summary of the company
  • Your goals, vision, and values for the business
  • Your target market and the type of service you plan to offer
  • Initial set-up costs and sales projection
  • Equipment required
  • Your staff, including their experience and qualifications
  • Your detailed marketing strategy and sales pricing

2. Set Up a legal business

You cannot provide services as a business without having a legal structure. Therefore, you must decide whether you want to establish yourself as a sole proprietor or limited liability company. However, before establishing your business structure, you must first name your business and then trademark it. 

Trademarking your business will help you avoid legal battles down the road. To ensure that your business name is not yet chosen, visit the USPTO website

After choosing a name for your business, consider obtaining an employee identification number. This number is a kind of social security number for your company. You can get it in a few minutes from the IRS, and the whole application process is done online. The Employer Identification Number (EIN) will be useful in opening business accounts to receive tax benefits for business expenses.

It is advisable to start as a sole proprietorship when you first start. But as your business starts to grow, it is imperative to change the structure to an LLC or a corporation. This type of structure will allow you to apply for bank loans or other alternative financing and will better protect your personal assets from forfeiture.

3. Get a business license

Obtaining a business license is important to conduct your business legally. Licenses and permits depend on your state, municipality, or county. Most states will require a business license if you meet specific criteria, but it is a relatively simple process. The fee to obtain a business license can range from $15 to $200 per year. 

To start a gardening business, the most likely business license you will be required to have is a general business license. This is the most basic type of license that almost all states require before opening a business. Since you’ll likely start as a home-gardener, you don’t need zoning or sign permits. But if you have enough financial means and wish to have a business location, these two permits are mandatory. 

See related: Types of Business licenses for small businesses

There are no qualifications required to start a gardening business.  However, if you don’t have much experience behind you, investing in relevant training before you start is a good idea. Most of your customers will expect you to provide them with vast knowledge on when to plant, how to plant, how to water, how to fertilize, what to prune, and a whole lot more. To learn more about the different types of business licenses you will need, you can check out the Small Business Administration’s website

4. Get gardening business insurance

Having a liability insurance policy for your gardening business should be a priority. This insurance protects you if you injure a member of the public or damage their property. It’s also worth keeping in mind that you are legally obligated to cover all of your employees – even if they are only temporary – with employers’ liability insurance.

5. Buy equipment and supplies

Starting a gardening business requires specialized tools and transportation. The tools you will need will depend on the services you wish to offer to customers. However, some essential tools are necessary:

  • Basic gardening tools
  • Wheelbarrows
  • Forklifts
  • Trucks
  • Delivery vehicles

You may also need to use more advanced machinery such as concrete mixers, angle grinders, and chainsaws. If you don’t have a large budget, it is advisable to rent equipment and tools rather than buy them. Since the gardening market is seasonal, you may occasionally use the tools, which may be more economical than owning them yourself. However, as your business grows, you can buy them. Knowing that your equipment will be transported from one customer to another, it is important to have a vehicle or van for transportation.

6. Make a website and leverage local SEO

Creating a website is a must for the success of your retail gardening business. People are more and more inclined to look for gardening services on the internet. Therefore, try to position yourself well on Google by bringing more organic traffic to your website. Also, it is important to focus on local SEO because it allows you to be quickly found by customers. More and more people want to have a gardener near them. 

An illustration of the search volume of people requesting a gardening service near them.

7. Financing your business

Just like any business, you need money to start your business. However, to start a gardening business, you don’t need big money. But how much does it cost to start a gardening business? The minimum start-up costs for a gardening business are estimated to be about $5,000. 

The average cost is about $25,000 and the higher-end cost of starting a gardening business is $50,000. Start-up expenses include equipment and supplies, retail inventory, business development, software, office space, employee and freelance work, website development, and advertising and marketing.

To finance your gardening business, you will probably need to use loans or alternative financing to cover expenses and other unexpected costs. You can opt for loans offered by the Small Business Administration (SBA). 

One of the most popular SBA loans is the SBA 504/CDC loan, which is designed to subsidize small businesses to purchase important and expensive items or equipment that they may need for their business. This will cover a good portion of the expenses associated with equipment purchase.  You can also apply for the SBA microloan program for new or small businesses, which offers up to $50,000.

Another way to get loans is to use your credit card, although it has risks. Make sure you pay off your loans in full to establish a good relationship of trust with your lenders and not get slapped with massive interest rates.

8. Market your gardening business

Promoting your business is essential to make yourself known and offer your services to people who might be interested. Here is how you can get the word out. 

  • Use multiple advertising channels to market your products

Most of your potential customers are now likely to search for home and garden products directly on Google and online marketplaces. Therefore, it is essential that you also advertise and use these channels to promote your business. 

Successful home and garden retailers promote their catalogs through Google, advertise on marketplaces, and create product announcements on social media. All of these online platforms are popular and will get you a huge amount of traffic and ultimately reach a much larger audience to spread the word about your brand and products.

  • Get yourself noticed on social media.

Like in the fashion industry, aesthetics are key when showcasing your home and garden products. More people are looking for ideas and inspiration online. Platforms like Instagram and Pinterest are great ways to position yourself as an inspiration brand and gain more followers. Instagram and Pinterest are filled with photo and home decor accounts, so be sure to show your items in the most Instagrammable way possible. With Tiktok, you can make short videos about some of your decorating and work. These videos can have thousands or even millions of views, potentially giving your business vast exposure. 

Provide a seamless user experience on your site

Make that first experience on your site as pleasant as possible. There are endless ways to do this: make your site easy to navigate, use attractive photos, write clear and detailed product descriptions, provide information about your shipping and return policy, feature reviews from past customers, offer top-notch customer service

Beef up omnichannel retail strategy

One of the many changes that COVID-19 precipitated in retail is to buy online pick-up in-store (BOPIS). Also known as Click & Collect, this has become an absolute must for contactless retailing and is a good solution for consumers who are inclined to shop online but prefer to pick up their order in-store to avoid any potential problems with sometimes unreliable delivery companies. However, if your goal is to attract more customers to your physical stores, you’ll need to invest in local inventory ads to increase web traffic.

Leverage email marketing to follow up on cart abandonments

Just because a customer puts special plants in their shopping cart doesn’t mean they will necessarily purchase them. The global average shopping cart abandonment rate across all devices is 75.6%. This rate is ten percentage points higher on mobile. This means that many websites are not sufficiently optimized for mobile, among many other reasons. 

One of the best ways you can re-engage shoppers who have abandoned their carts is through email marketing. Many people think that email marketing is ineffective, but it is quite the opposite. 48% of shopping cart abandonment emails are opened, making it a good chance for you to win back customers who want to pamper their gardens!

Consider running an automated email campaign to notify them that they haven’t completed the purchase in their cart and show them those items with a clear call-to-action so they come back to your site and complete the process. Entice them with a temporary discount to trigger a sale to make the strategy more attractive.

9. Run your business smoothly with an advanced retail POS system

As your business grows, the need to automate certain operations to make it easier to run your business will arise. Inventory management will become more complicated to handle as orders increase. And one of the things you want to avoid is running out of a given product while demand is rising. Also, whether you are in a store or at home, be aware that most transactions will be made by credit card, which requires you to have a device that makes it easy for your customers to pay and buy your products. The solution to all of these issues is a great garden center POS system.

Therefore, you should opt for a retail POS system that can help you have better inventory management, collect marketing data, and allow customers to place orders for products that are not in stock or are not in season and then have them delivered or picked up when they are ready. 

KORONA POS is designed for any retail type of business, helping provide business owners more insight into their operations and better allowing them to scale. Get in touch with us for a free trial to see how it works.