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The Truth About Starting a Mail-Order Business

starting a mail order plant business

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So You Want to Start a Mail Order Nursery
The Mail Order Nursery
Intro to Starting a Mail-Order Business

Surcharges such as those for dimensional weight kick in when a package is too long for a specific set of existing parameters. Even if the box fits all other criteria for a particular shipment charge, if it is slightly too long the shipping price can go up as much as threefold, so be very careful of this charge.

The shipping company will ask you for information on how many boxes per week you will ship, the sizes of those boxes, and other related questions. Shipping rates are based on volume, so the more you ship, the better your rates will be.

Another factor that impacts shipping rates is location. If your nursery is in a very remote location, it will be very expensive for the delivery service to visit your business so you will be less likely to receive a discount. On the other hand, if the shipper wants to build up business in a particular location or has a competitor business nearby, it may find it cost effective to give you a much larger discount than any it would give a customer in an established service area.

A number of computer-based shipping systems are available to choose from, their versatility increasing with the number of packages you ship. Contact the various shippers for information on their systems, but also check the phone book for shipping systems that are manufactured by independent companies. If you ship a large enough volume with a particular shipper, you will usually be provided with a shipping computer and system at no charge; at the very least you should receive a label printer and software.

Be sure and ask the shipper to help you integrate its system with your own database so that order information does not have to be reentered into the new shipping system. Several states have imposed agricultural restrictions on bringing soil or potting mix across state lines unless the soil or mix has been treated with an array of chemicals.

While these restrictions certainly make it difficult to ship plants during growing seasons, it is not impossible although many nurseries refuse to ship into those restricted states. If you decide to ship into these states, you should first determine the time it takes to wash the soil from the roots or to treat each plant and then calculate a standard charge possibly as a percentage of the order that will cover the extra cost of shipping to these states.

Be aware that there is a big difference among plants in terms of how easy they are to bare root and that their survivability also varies with each species. Regulations involved in shipping to other countries can also be overwhelming to a small nursery, and for that reason many nurseries opt out of that market.

Something else to consider is the kind of box you will use for shipping. When getting started, most small nurseries opt for recycled boxes, and many of their owners can recall staking out Dumpsters at the grocery store or the local recycling center. While we are confessing, I will admit that during the early years I spent far more time than I care to remember waking up drunks or being terrorized by wild-eyed cats while prowling through restaurant Dumpsters for the perfect shipping box.

I had a very hard time getting used to the concept of purchasing boxes. Once you make this leap from wanting only free boxes to being willing to pay for them, you may still want to consider box overruns. When you require large numbers of boxes, however, it may become economical to purchase new boxes with your nursery logo and name printed on them.

Alternatively, you could purchase rolls of tape they are usually 3 inches wide with your name and logo printed on the tape. With tape wrapped around the box, its identity is very clear to the recipient. I recommend that you use only a few standard box sizes, as not only is having too many sizes quite confusing to packers but it is also uneconomical.

By choosing a limited number of box sizes and noting how many plants will fit in each, you will save lots of time by being able to match box size to the order size. You must also consider the weight of your shipment: Now that you have your boxes picked out, think about the packing material you will use. As much as we in the mail order nursery business wish for it, there is no such thing as the perfect packing material.

Regardless of which packing material you choose, it is critical that it keep the plants from being tossed around in the box and not be so heavy as to increase shipping costs.

While you may take great care in handling and packing the order, rest assured that this level of care will not be given during the rest of the journey. I always recommend packing a test box that your staff tosses around for a couple of days to determine if your shipping material and packaging methods are sound. When plants are shipped with bare roots, some form of media must be used to keep the roots from becoming excessively dry.

Although plants are most often lost during shipping because they were packed too wet, it can be just as damaging at the other extreme. Root-protecting materials include peat or sphagnum moss and sawdust. These regulations are sometimes a nightmare even when they are followed. My favorite packing material has always been the universally accepted shredded sphagnum, which is soaked and then squeezed free of all excess moisture before use.

Materials used to hold the root protective media around the roots include aluminum foil, plastic, and of course the containers themselves. If you ship plants in containers, it is critical that the soil media remain in the pots during the shipping process.

There is nothing worse that receiving a box of plants with all the soil in the bottom of the box and the plants at the top. Good packing can keep the soil in the containers but it is more typical to use some type of breathable seal over the soil surface of the pot.

Remember that plant foliage should be allowed to breathe during shipping but not be sealed or kept moist. I recommend you experiment with various preparation methods to find one that produces the best-shipped product at the lowest price and with the least labor. You must also decide which time of the year to ship.

Several different ideas about shipping schedules can be considered. Some nurseries ship from fall to early spring, while others ship from spring through fall. Most commonly, perennials are shipped in spring and fall and woody plants are shipped in winter. If you really want to service your customers, you will have to make accommodations to ship during the entire season. More and more nurseries are experimenting with year-round shipping, and doing so with surprising success.

Other factors must also be considered when choosing a shipping season. For example, the climate in your area will have an impact on your decision. If your plants are frozen solid in the winter, shipping them during that season will be difficult. How you grow your plants, too, will play a role. Plants grown in the ground cannot be shipped year-round, whereas plants grown in containers can be.

In fact, more and more nurseries are opting for container growing as it greatly extends the shipping season. In determining your shipping schedule, keep in mind the efforts required to maintain the plants—watering, fertilizing, and pruning—during your non-shipping season. A long delay in shipping may be an economic disaster. If you lengthen the turnover time of a crop, the cost of production, which is based on the cost per square foot per day of the growing area, will skyrocket, often beyond what you could sell the plant for.

It is often difficult to ship plants from one climatic region to another. A nursery in the deep South that is experiencing early spring at least in comparison to the North will have trouble shipping to northern gardens that thaw only in late May. Likewise, shipping to or from warmer climates has to be restricted to the summer. I always liked to ship and receive plants when they are in active growth. Opening a mail order box of high-quality plants is like opening a birthday present, and it should be a thrilling experience.

When a box is opened to reveal dormant or bare-root plants, some of that thrill will be missing, even if the plants go on to grow very well. Additionally, many homeowners are ill equipped to deal with bare-root plants and so feel uncomfortable dealing with them. You will need to be careful if you grow container plants in cold frames or greenhouses, as these plants will start growing earlier in the season than plants that are growing outdoors.

Shipping plants that are in tender, new growth to colder zones can be disastrous; as a rule, plants should not be shipped when young as the new growth can be easily damaged or broken. Most nurseries will start by printing a pull ticket that indicates which items should be pulled. The ticket will also state which items are out of stock or back ordered, assuming of course, that you have a workable inventory.

The pulling is usually done in one of two ways, either by individual order or in bulk by plant variety. The plants are then staged meaning they are gathered temporarily and arranged prior to shipment in the area from which they are to be shipped.

On shipping day, the plants are prepped they are bare rooted if necessary and bad foliage and weeds are removed. The plants are then boxed for shipment. You will always come across plants at the last minute that cannot be shipped for one reason or another because they are too small, for example, or because there are problems with insects or disease , but the seriousness of this situation can be minimized if the staff pulling orders understands and adheres to the quality standards you have put in place.

Having last-minute delays means that you are then faced with more paperwork in the form of back orders, credits, or refunds, depending on how your nursery is organized. All these back orders, credits, and refunds must in turn be recorded in your shipping records. Once the order is filled, the boxes are packed and readied for shipment.

All nurseries generally see is the actual shipping or carriage costs, and while nursery owners may not actually incur all the costs I outline below, they should always charge the customer as though these costs really were incurred, for one day they may be. The cost to ship an order begins with paying someone to open the mail and should include the cost of fax paper, even of Internet service. The order must next be processed, which will in most cases include entering it in some sort of computer system or database.

You now have to include the cost of the time spent entering that data, as well as the costs of both computer software and hardware. Even at the pulling stage there are a number of costs that should be figured into the cost of shipping. Costs that pile on here include time spent assembling the plants to fill an order, any clerical time spent issuing refunds or credits, and the money itself that is being refunded. Click here to listen to a short audio message from Penny.

Listen to a short audio message from Ray in North Carolina. I have your videos and manuals. We built our own intermittent mist system, and potted up plants!!!! It's amazing how sturdily rooted most plants are in 4 weeks time. We've already reluctantly sold some plants, since we thought they were so small, but the buyers insisted on avoiding the wait until Spring. Currently, we have sitting in our cold frames , as per your direction, and are looking forward to this Spring.

Thanks for helping me bridge between careers as I seek to spend more time with my 8 year old son and attend his school events!!!! Click here to check out Mike's Backyard Growing System! Growing small plants in your backyard is one of the most rewarding things you will ever do in your life. Not to mention the money you can make.

I love working with these little plants. It's a relaxing and rewarding way to spend your spare time. You don't need much room to start a backyard nursery. In an area 4 feet by 8 feet you can easily grow plants. Just imagine how many you can grow in an area 40' by 50'. Starting your own backyard nursery is very easy, and you don't have to make a serious commitment. Just start out slow, and as you go along you will become more comfortable with the idea. If you change your mind you can give the plants to friends or family, or donate them to a charity auction, which is also very rewarding.

Hey Mike, What about my local zoning? You can make a lot of money growing and selling small plants! I'll teach you everything I know about this business. I've created an E-book that reveals every money making technique that I know. This E-book is worth it's weight in gold, and I'll tell you why. It comes with a number of free bonus reports that I have been selling for years, but I decided to give them away free with my Backyard Nursery E-book. I saw your article published in Mother Earth News.

I saw it on the news stand in my local Wal-Mart, bought it and took it home to read. Our little backyard nursery was featured on the cover of the Oct. As soon as I finished that I went right to the website, studied it, and have since bought the book, 2 reports and a video.

I have been lurking on the forum ever since. Today I now have 2, 8x4 foot sand filled propagation beds, about 2, plants in 2 quart containers. I have two beds holding over plants 6" apart directly in the ground. I don't have much in my landscape to take cuttings from, but I found that several local businesses are tickled pink to get a free hedge clipping job provided nobody else is allowed to touch their landscape plants!

The word is getting out, so I'm actually turning down free trimming jobs because I can't keep up in the potting department with all the rooted cuttings. Just growing a few plants to give away will give you an idea of how strong the market is for small landscape plants. Once you give your friends and family a few plants they will come back asking to buy more. Before you know it you will have a list of regular customers, begging you to take their money.

Or if you're like me, you'll just dive right in and start growing quantities of plants right off the bat, and selling them to willing buyers. Here in Perry, Ohio we have over large wholesale nurseries, with many of them selling millions of dollars worth of plants each year.

Some of these nurseries farm over acres, with sales in the millions of dollars annually! That's a lot of plants. In the spring we'd have people waiting in line to buy my plants. We've sold thousands of dollars worth of plants each spring right from our driveway.

Selling the plants is easy, and growing them is fun. One day as I was surfing along. I saw a site called freeplants. I found you and all your down to earth wisdom. I had been kicking the idea of a small nursery around for over a year. So I bought your book. And read parts of it out loud to my husband and son. So I just wanted to say thank you! And let you know that when I would get nervous or think it wouldn't work about that time I would get a message from you and I would think it was worth a try.

Know what I did with part of my profit? Words can not describe what it is like to have your own backyard nursery. When people visit our nursery they are completely in awe of what we do. Most are impressed, some are envious, but they are all very appreciative. They are like kids in a candy store, grabbing plant after plant, delighted to buy such beautiful plants for such a low price.

Then they come back year after year just raving over how well our plants grew. It just doesn't get any better than that. I'd love to teach you everything I know about this business. It is so much easier than you think. Of course you don't have to do retail sales from home.

You can sell wholesale to garden centers and other nurseries, or you can sell your plants via mail order.

You can grow small plants and sell them on the internet! You can just grow rooted cuttings and sell them to other growers. The market for rooted cuttings is great. Many large growers can't keep up with the demand, so they buy thousands and thousands of rooted cuttings from other growers.

You just have to know what they are looking for. I called a wholesale grower to buy some rooted cuttings of a fragrant Viburnum and they told me that they were completely sold out for this year, and all of the fragrant Viburnum cuttings that they intend to grow next year are also already spoken for, but if I'd like they could put me on the waiting list for two years from now!

Can you believe that? They've already sold something like , plants that they haven't even grown yet, at a little over a dollar each!!! When I heard that, I did two things. First, I placed an advanced order for 1, fragrant Viburnum cuttings for two years from now. And I then asked him how many of these cuttings they had sold this year. Of course as I mentioned earlier, you can sell your plants wholesale and not have the hassle of people coming to your house. Or you can sell them at the Farmer's Market.

Does It Take Any Special Training to Be Successful in a Mail-Order Business?

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The Mail Order Nursery. Most mail order nurseries started as backyard operations that evolved into mail order businesses without a real business plan. These nurseries are typically those that grow their own plants. The larger mail order nurseries, by contrast, purchase plants that they then offer for resale.

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A nursery business in mail order nurseries is the most favored by plant geeks. These often anti-social types honestly feel that they can avoid customer contact by locating a mail order nursery in an out-of-the-way location and never deal with people.

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starting a mail order plant business Starting a plant business is much her green house up-she will be starting some sales soon- can we order plants and e-mail to Mike after reading Now the owner of Plant Delights Nursery, Avent shares his expertise on how to start a nursery with wit and clarity; the book is devoted to the business and planning . In some cases, you will also need to know what you can and cannot sell legally based on federal or state laws. You will also need to know about interstate sales, especially in the mail order business. Finding suppliers that you can count on is a major step in establishing any type of sales business.

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Information & Resources for Starting a Home-based Food phd dissertation help review Business. We support America's small businesses. Help!! When you order $25 of buy original research paper eligible items sold or fulfilled by Amazon Buy over 10 Kinds of Banana Plants on this site and they are available year round. The Truth About Starting a Mail-Order Business Have you ever wondered what it takes to start your own mail-order business? In this article, Lillian Borgeson, home-business authority, gives all the information you need about the truth to starting a mail-order business, both the good and the bad.