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  • Jane Westoby

Finding your Flower Farm Niche

When I first started out I wasn't quote sure exactly what I wanted to do, who my customers would be or how I was going to get there - I wasn't even really sure what where was. All I knew was that I wanted to grow flowers and have a beautiful garden.

And you know this was the best thing really, because I wasn't set on anything it meant that I could easily let go when something didn't work and I could try new things. There is no right or wrong, just what works for you and your local area. What works for someone on the other side of the world in a small countryside community may not work for someone in a big city and vice versa. You may have a great organic market in town once a month or you may have trusting neighbours and be able to set up an honesty box.

It's also very easy to think that all flower farms are the same and that there's too much competition. However every business is different and focuses on different things. If you find that there are already several flower farms in your area then find out what they do, and just do it differently. I was in this exact predicament recently when I moved house and discovered another flower farm close by doing exactly what I was doing.

I explored what they had to offer and found that their online presence was poor. They like to meet customers face to face, they don't take online payments and they have a site which you can visit to have a cup of tea and look around the field. I am guessing that their clients like this too and it suggests that maybe also they are a little older than my demographic who are online savvy. They want to click and buy, I don't have a field which the public can visit but my photos are good and I like to inspire through my photos and have an active instagram account which also drives traffic to the website. So already I could see that there was plenty of room here for the both of us.

Pick Your Niche

Explore what is already available in your area and think about what your personal strengths are and also the strengths of your location and set up.

There are a few main avenues that you can go down or you can look at a hybrid of them.

DIRECT SALES: This is when you sell direct to the customer at retail price, essentially you would be a flower farmer florist.

WHOLESALE: When you sell to florists/ Wholesalers only. They would buy from you in bulk and in return your prices would be wholesale, about half or less what they would be to retail customers.

SPECIALISM - You may want to think about specialising in certain types of plants or flowers such as Dahlias, foliage only, Clematis, dried flowers, Sweetpeas or Peonies. This way you can become a specialist grower and hone your skills rather than trying to do everything. This way you can become more efficient and profitable at what you do and avoid burnout.

Here are a few on the things I tried and see other flower farms doing:

Subscriptions - This is a great way to take some cash upfront so that you can invest in the business before the season gets into full swing. You have ready made customers to take your flowers, who have already paid for them. All you need to work out is how much of everything to grow to ensure that you can supply them. The downside is that this type of sale is not as profitable as customers are buying in bulk and often expect a discount on what they would pay if they were to just order a bunch from you each week/ month. This type of business model is popular in the USA but less so in the UK, although you may be able to successfully trade customers up if they are already buying and also for gifting.

Farmers Markets - They can be hit & miss I have found and is all dependent on location. It's worth noting that customers buying weekly flowers will generally want small bouquets, like a small bunch they would pick up from the supermarket. You may also find that single flower varieties do well for this such as peonies or Dahlias.

You will need to pay for the stand no matter how much money you make and will also need some set up equipment such as a tent and table etc, and you may need some help actually setting up and taking down each time.

I have made some great contacts and repeat customers at farmers markets as well as getting to speak directly with customers and ask them lots of questions.

Flower Stand - You can set up a flower stand at the end of the driveway if you feel like you have an honest community. The pitfalls of this are obvious but apart from that there is no rent to pay as such so may be a good option to try. You would need something to give the flowers some shade and a collection box with some signage.

Shop in a shop - You could approach another local business, such as a coffee shop or gift shop to stock your flowers perhaps on a commission basis to start with or as a collection point. This would give you some free advertising ( Leaflets or a poster) and give them extra footfall coming through the door.

Online / Bricks & Mortar Shop - Competing online is very competitive and requires a lot of patience, or a big marketing budget. You also need to be tech savvy in setting up a website with shop and keeping it maintained through SEO. However the overheads overall can be much much lower than for a bricks & mortar shop. Sometimes customers will book in advance but you will also find that customers will book for same day / next day delivery so you would need to keep a close eye on order notifications coming in.

You would also need to decide what to sell out of season ( Dried flowers, pot plants, imported flowers) or of you would simply close during the winter time.

Pick Your Own - a great way to generate excitement and free social media marketing. Your field would need to be easily accessible, with good parking and have the relevant insurance cover.

You may want to consider setting up a separate pick your own area so that you can separate your wholesale blooms which would need to be left in pristine condition. .

Wholesale - You can do this in two ways, you can either take your goods to a wholesale market who will then do all of the selling for you ( for a price ), or you can invite florists to buy from you independently/ directly without using a middleman . This will take more work but will be slightly more profitable as you would need to acquire these clients and publish weekly availability lists, liaise with each florist and possibly deliver to them on a regular basis.

This is a good option if you are more interested in the growing side of things than making bouquets up, and also great if you have lots of land so can grow in large volume. If you only have a small site then you probably won't have the space to grow enough flowers for enough months of the year to satisfy demand.

Weddings & Events - This requires quite a lot of upfront work creating quotes, tel consultations, meeting with clients etc which does not guarantee a booking at the end. When clients do book reliability is key, quite often bookings are a made a year in advance and a deposit taken to guarantee your services so you will need to be organised in allocating time out for holidays etc well in advance.

They are also very stressful : making sure you have sowed everything on time, delays with weather, crop failures, ordering vases on time, getting the date right! Liaising with the mother who wants a different shade of pink, chasing payment, finding freelancers to help on the day!...... it's not for everybody.

The best thing is that you can choose, you can chose to go in a different direction any time you want to, try a few things, see what works and strike a good work life balance, use your best skills and above all do what makes you happy.

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