Do you want to start a cut flower company? If YES, here is a complete guide to starting a cut flower business with NO money and no experience.
Okay, so we have provided you an in-depth sample cut flower business plan template. We also took it further by analyzing and drafting a sample cut flower marketing plan backed up by actionable guerrilla marketing ideas for cut flower businesses. In this article, we will be considering all the requirements for starting a cut flower business. So put on your entrepreneurial hat and let’s proceed.
Table of Content
- Why Start a Cut Flower Business?
- Starting a Cut Flower Business – Market Feasibility Research
- Starting a Cut Flower Business – Legal Aspect
- Is Professional Certification Needed to Run a Cut Flower Business?
- Starting a Cut Flower Business – Technical and Manpower Requirements
- Starting a Cut Flower Business – The Marketing Plan
Why Start a Cut Flower Business?
If you’re one of those unique beings that enjoy cultivating a variety of beautiful blossoms, becoming a cut flower farmer might be a great way to supplement your income. You will need more than just the love for floriculture to succeed if you plan to venture into this business. You must be adept at marketing your crops and managing your business.
The very first step of starting a cut flower business is to determine if you have the right personality to own and operate your own business. Take your time to analyze your strengths and weaknesses. Are you a natural grower, people manager, or sales person?
Do you dislike managing people or handling customer complaints? Ensure you ask for the opinion of family and close friends to help you evaluate your skills and deficiencies. You do not need to be able to do everything well but you must be able to hire or partner with others who have the skills and traits you lack.
Another factor you will need to consider is if you have adequate capital to start the business. Unless you are quite lucky, but generally your business will not make money the first year and may not for several years. You don’t just need money to keep the business running until it is profitable but also to support yourself, and possibly your family during that time.
Even after the business is profitable, it may not make enough money to allow you to pay yourself enough to live on for several more years.
A cut flower production business typically do not need much startup capital but a number of major expenses might be needed. You will also need to find out if there is sufficient market for the products your business will offer. If you plan selling to the general public, are there enough customers within your area to support your business? Do not forget to define the area you intend to reach.
Selling wholesale may allow you to reach a broader area, such as a hundred mile radius, but it will need you to deliver the product yourself. Note that your potential customer base may be big enough but it may not be able to support your business if there are too many competitors already in the market.
You will have to know and analyse your competition. Are there products or services that they do not offer? Define your niche – in other words, why will your customers buy from you rather than from someone else?
Starting a Cut Flower Business – A Complete Guide
- Industry Overview
According to industry reports, cut flower production is worth over 0 million annually in the united states. The report has it that more than 90 percent of that production was sold on the wholesale market to florists and other outlets.
These data do not include the contributions of small-scale and part-time growers with sales less than $10,000. Note that a lot of growers are producing a small amount of cut flowers to enhance their direct-marketing product mix. With few exceptions, most producers grow fewer than 5 acres of flowers. Statistics has shown that most of the cut flowers in the United States are imported from overseas.
Leading producers include the Netherlands, Columbia, Kenya, and Israel. Flowers imported from overseas are largely roses, carnations, Gerbera daisies, garden mums, and orchids. These flowers ship reasonably well and make up the bulk of the flowers used in arrangements by most florists.
It’s very important to state that local growers in the United States focus on those flowers that do not ship well or have shorter postharvest vase lives. These flowers have come to be termed “specialty cut flowers.” Examples of specialty flowers include sunflowers, zinnia, lisianthus, dahlia, ageratum, peonies etc.
Local growers can readily develop a market niche with these flowers by using the advantage of longer vase life if produced locally, higher percentage of usable flowers, and a wider choice of colours and varieties. Note that growing demand for a wide variety of locally grown, fresh-cut flowers has kept this market growing in volume for years.
Producing fresh-cut flowers is not for everyone as they have special production requirements, as well as a fairly short shelf life. But any grower considering cut flower production should also be aware of the relatively short growing and marketing season, especially those in the northern United States.
Starting a Cut Flower Business – Market Feasibility Research
- Demographics and Psychographics
Your potential customers in this business can be categorized into two groups. The primary customers are those who you anticipate will buy most of your products or services. These customers are the ones you will direct most of your marketing towards. The secondary customers are those who may buy some of your products and services but not in large enough amounts to support the business.
You should always consider your secondary customers, especially in case your primary customers fail to support your business, but do not pay so much attention to secondary customers that you lose your primary customers. For instance, you may target florists as your primary customers and have grocery stores as your secondary customers.
Before you plant anything, know what you plan to do with your harvested flowers. Ensure you plan your garden with specific types of sales in mind which can include a variety of basic options. You should consider weddings and other special events, wholesale floral markets, farmers markets, roadside and farm stands, direct sales to florists, Supermarket sales, U-pick operations, restaurant and hotel sales, and subscription programs such as CSAs.
Freshly cut flowers are typically sold individually, by the bunch or in premade bouquets. The strong demand for all types of flowers, especially unique varieties and enduring favourites can make cut flower production a highly lucrative business. You should try to time your plantings to collide with flower-heavy holidays, including Easter, Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day, Christmas and popular wedding months in your area.
List of Niche Ideas in the Cut Flower Business
Have it in mind that cut flowers are generally sold either by the bunch, in prearranged bouquets, or individually. Many growers in the United States tend to set up u-design displays at markets along with pre-made bouquets. The place or how you choose to market your flowers can serve as a niche in this business. You can choose to sell at wholesale markets, direct to florists, pick-your-own operations, roadside stands, farm markets, and subscriptions.
In this business, freshness is always a consideration, astute cut-flower growers should always seek to streamline the process from the farm to final consumer. As with marketing most annual crops, entering the market early with a quality product will help attract and keep customers.
When planning production, first consider your ability to market. It’s advisable you consider conducting some market research because growers are known to overestimate their ability to sell in a given market.
The Level of Competition in the Cut Flower Business
According to reports, the global cut flower industry is a highly dynamic industry. Product varieties, production techniques, markets and retailing arrangements are all undergoing continuous change, challenging the adaptive capacity of the actors involved. In a slowly but steadily growing world market, new developing country exporters are beginning to gain market share at the expense of existing producers.
But these producers strive to stay ahead by increasing productivity and through diversification and innovation. Even with the considerable barriers to entry — the need for capital, know-how and infrastructure, to name but a few — the industry is without doubt attracting new entrants.
Note that successful non-European suppliers are blessed with favourable natural climatic conditions, but they are thousands of miles away from the main European and North American markets. But then the level of efficiency achieved in the industry is quite high that these countries, even with the many logistical problems that they need to solve, can and do compete with European suppliers who are much nearer to their main markets.
Indeed flowers are very sensitive to the treatment that they receive once they have been cut. Strict control of humidity, temperature and air quality are very necessary for delivering an attractive product to the market. Report has it that growers depend heavily on an efficient post-harvest chain of handlers, storage and transport.
Note that in the absence of a “cold-chain” it is practically impossible for even the most efficient producers to sell their produce on the main “northern” markets.
List of Well Known Cut Flower Businesses in the United States
- Solabee Flowers & Botanicals
- Putnam & Putnam
- Flower boy project
- Emily Thompson flowers
- Farm girl flowers
- Studio Choo Florists
Starting a cut flower business is an opportunity to turn your hobby into a lucrative business. Although a large portion of common flower varieties in supermarkets are imported, people are beginning to prefer unique, local offerings. Note that growing specialty cut flowers that transcend the standard floral fare basically involves deciding what to grow and knowing how to successfully market them.
Report has it that Cut-flower importation began overtaking U.S. production in the early 1980s, especially in roses, carnations and chrysanthemums. That is why to survive, local growers started developing a niche market that focused on flower varieties that didn’t ship well or have a short vase life.
Yet it is still estimated that nearly two-thirds of domestic cut flowers come from growers outside the country, the consumer shift toward non-traditional varieties prompted an emergence of domestic production in specialty cut flowers.
When combined with an increased awareness of the importance of buying local, the result is a high profit return for the producer. It’s very important to state that freshly cut flowers represent a large assortment of plant families, so you will see a significant difference in pest and disease problems that affect each species. Some of the most common disease and pest problems include the following:
- Powdery Mildew
- Black Fungus
- Aphids and thrips
Starting a Cut Flower Business from Scratch or Buying a Franchise
Buying a franchise is an option you need to consider seriously if you’re hoping to start and run a successful cut flower business. If you’ve no experience growing and selling flowers before, then buying a franchise is the best option for you.
Note that buying a franchise will save you the planning and time-consuming work that comes with getting a business off the ground. You will also have an existing client base to benefit from, an existing brand and, hopefully, a business that’s known for the right reasons.
But you have to understand that buying a Cut flower franchise won’t always be simple and you will still have work to do. When considering buying a business, it’s advisable that you conduct plenty of research into its background, how long it’s been trading, its reputation and, crucially, its accounts.
Before you openly make your interferes in the business known, its also advisable you conduct an underground research of how well the business is doing. If there’s a shop, you could go along at different times of the day, on different days, to find out the levels of customers.
For example, if it’s consistently very quiet, then there may be some cause for concern. Also consider calling and asking for information and prices and find out their availability. There are lots of factors to consider when you’re thinking about buying a business, and there are pros and cons involved. Nothing good it is said comes easy.
Possible Threat and Challenges of Starting a Cut Flower Business
Starting this business comes with its own challenges and threats, but if you do the needful and plan yourself accordingly, then you have nothing to be scared of. Every successful entrepreneur has made his or her share of mistakes along the road to the top. You just have to research the industry extensively and put together a detailed business plan. Possible challenges may include…
- Hiring good hands
- Staying competitive
- Suitable location
- Lack of experience
- Diseases and pests
Starting a Cut Flower Business – Legal Aspect
- Best legal entity for a cut flower business
Deciding on a suitable legal entity for your cut flower is a task you will need to take seriously. For all it is worth, the LLC is the best legal entity for a cut flower business. The LLC comes with many benefits and less disadvantages. The costs and efforts to set up an LLC are relatively minor and it provides a level of protection to your personal assets that a sole proprietorship does not.
When starting a business in the United States, you should think forward and anticipate growth and complications. The LLC will provide your business with that platform to achieve business growth.
Catchy Business Name ideas for a Cut Flower Business
- Scent flower
- Red flowers
- Blue leaf
- Winter holts
- Mainstream flowers
- Rising Sun
- Dow flower
You have to understand that insurance is part of doing business, especially in the United States. It’s very important you have a variety of insurance in place to take care of injuries and mishaps that may result in the course of your business. Do not wait till those mishaps occur. You should meet with a lawyer or an insurance agent to decide the best way to protect your business. The policies you need may include;
- General Liability
- Property Insurance- Including Buildings/Equipment/Stock/Inventory
- Homeowners insurance
- Farm Owners insurance
- Automobile insurance
- Worker’s Compensation insurance
- Life Insurance
- Public liability insurance
- Income protection/personal accident cover
Intellectual Property Protection
Intellectual property protection is becoming a popular topic all over the world. The need for businesses to protect their assets has grown especially with the growing competition in the market. Most business owners fail to take a certain degree of caution with their designs, ideas, and valuable business information, which leaves them at risk of theft and counterfeiting.
New changes to the law globally have solidified the protection of designs, and the introduction of simpler patenting processes will make it easier for small businesses like a cut flower business to look after their IP and intangible assets. Ways to protect your business may include…
Know your assets
Find the right protection
Watch the competition – and enforce the law
Is Professional Certification Needed to Run a Cut Flower Business?
First and foremost, a certification or qualification is a distinction an individual can earn that credits them with a high level of skill or expertise in some area. Certifications can serve as an indicator of professionalism and aptitude. Note that certifications are regulated by a professional organization. Few professional certifications needed for a cut flower business are;
- Cut flower certification (Horticulture)
- Organic farmer certification
- CPD professional certification
List of Legal Documents Needed for a Cut Flower Business
Licenses and permits are needed in every buiness to run its day to day activities hitch free. It will be a wrong move to venture into a business without putting together everything and acquiring all necessary documents. Here are documents you need to run a cut flower business;
- Operating Agreement for LLCs.
- Business license
- Employment agreement
- Business plan
Financing a Cut Flower Business
The cost of starting a cut flower business can be relatively low if you already have the piece of land needed to start planting. You will need finance to provide the necessary equipment and you will need funds to acquire licenses and permits. Ways of financing a cut flower business may include;
- Family loans
- Community schemes
- Peer-to-peer loans
- Micro loans and grants
- angel investors
- Cash advances
- Bank overdrafts
Note that the vast majority of cut flowers prefer a well-drained site. Having deep, fertile soils will greatly simplify the process of site development, but soils can be improved through cover cropping, the application of composts and manures, and other soil-building practices. It’s advisable you conduct a soil test before planting and apply lime and fertilizer according to the soil test recommendations. You can obtain soil test kits at your local extension office.
Installing drain tile or building raised beds may offer an adequate solution for sites with poor drainage or very shallow soils. Also note that raising beds are quickly becoming a standard practice in growing higher-value flowers. Raising beds provide for an earlier crop by allowing the beds to be heated by the sun on the sides as well as on the top.
It is believed that they can also boost production by increasing the depth of topsoil. When used with plastic covering for weed control and drip tape for fertigation, raised beds can greatly decrease weed pressure and simplify fertilizer application.
Starting a Cut Flower Business – Technical and Manpower Requirements
Indeed the basic equipment you need to start producing cut flowers is very similar to that needed by a small direct-market vegetable grower. Small equipment such as rototillers, a low horsepower tractor, and irrigation equipment are typically the only key purchases outside of growing materials that you will need.
As many annual, perennial, and woody plants are worthy of consideration for production, planning your planting takes some care. It is also advisable you stick to proven cut flower varieties when starting out, so you have a better chance of selling out on market days. According to our extensive research, the best flower choices to insure profits include:
- Zinnias. Nothing fills out a bouquet quite like zinnias, with their brilliant colours, shapes and sizes. The giant varieties are bestsellers at the market.
- Sunflowers. The early-blooming varieties – at fewer than 60 days to harvest – are popular market sellers. Some growers prefer to sell individual stems at $4-$6 each.
- Larkspur. This relative of the buttercup has complex flowers and comes in a wide range of colours. Most seed suppliers offer colour assortments so you’ll have a rainbow of blooms to harvest and mix into bouquets.
- Snapdragon. Best to start indoors and transplant. Snapdragons take 120 days to mature. Most growers plant a mix of 8-10 colours for variety.
- Peony. With hundreds of varieties of this popular perennial, the hardest decision may be which ones to plant. The large fragrant flowers are always a hit at the Saturday market.
- Yarrow. Also called Achillea millefolium, this popular annual comes in a variety of colours. It can be direct seeded or transplanted, and is ready to harvest in around 90 days.
- Verbena bonariensis. This popular flower produces lilac coloured flowers on long, thin stems.
- Salvia. Produces an abundance of flowers on its elongated stems. Many variety choices for a wide choice of colours, from scarlet to white.
- Ageratum. Clusters of long-lasting flowers in red, white and blue add colour to bouquets. With successive plantings, ageratum can produce continuous blooms from early summer to frost.
- Scabiosa. Also called the pincushion flower, scabiosa is excellent for cutting and comes in a wide variety of colours, from white to dark. As with most cut flowers, plant every 2-3 weeks until mid-summer for extended bloom harvest.
The Production Process Involved in a Cut Flower Business
Note that most new growers begin by planting everything by hand. The need to plant many different flowers in small plots over a long time period tends to keep planting largely a hand operation. Have it in mind that plants such as sunflowers are both direct seeded and transplanted, while others are best started as plugs (starting the plant in a greenhouse or cold frame in flats with small cells in a planting medium) and then transplanted to the field or bed.
Although traditional vegetable transplanters can easily do double duties in planting many types of cut flowers, most growers have continued to place all their plugs by hand. Spacing between plants varies widely within each species and sometimes by individual cultivar as some plants are much larger than others.
But generally, cut flowers are planted closely together to encourage growth of longer stems. Factors you will need to consider to ensure success in this business may include:
Although a wide variety of insects will inhabit any flower planting, only a few are known to cause economic damage, including aphids and thrips. There are wide differences in not only pests but also tolerance to specific pests. Biological, bio rational, and synthetic chemical controls are available.
Also note that pest populations can also be controlled by naturally occurring parasites and predators. It’s important you avoid cover sprays of broad-spectrum insecticides.
Beneficial insects, such as lacewings, can also be purchased from biological control companies. Bio rational controls include horticultural oils, insecticidal soaps, and plant extracts such as neem oil. Always use products labelled specifically for the use you intend and seek to use materials that have the lowest toxicity to bees.
In this business, fungal diseases can have a major impact on your cut flowers. Although many diseases will not kill the flowers, they can drastically reduce their marketability. Powdery mildew can be a real problem in zinnias and many other flowers.
Many seedlings are susceptible to damping off, and a number of leaf spot fungi can also reduce the value of certain species. Note that good crop rotation, careful selection of cultivars, maintenance of optimal growing conditions, and control of weeds and insects will help reduce the incidence of diseases.
You have to understand that any high-value crop should be irrigated to ensure more reliable production. A lot of flower growers use drip irrigation tape either under plastic or laid on top of the ground to maximize water efficiency, keep water off the leaves and flowers (this process improves overall quality as it prevents foliar diseases and chemical stains), and provide for fertilizer or chemical application.
- Wind Protection
To produce high-quality cut flowers you need to prevent wind damage since bent flower stems have little or no value. That is why wind protection through both site selection and use of windbreaks is very crucial when planning your operation.
Note that windbreaks can be live plants, such as an evergreen hedge, or fencing materials, such as split bamboo or board-on-board planking. But irrespective of the method you choose, it’s advisable you consider how far the most distant flowers are from the windbreak. The farther away the windbreak is, the less effective the protection. Also note that some cut flowers need stem support as well.
- Pest Control
Note that there is a significant difference in pest problems among each genus, species, and cultivar of cut flowers. It’s advisable you do some careful research into each plant that you choose for your business. When possible, select those that are indicated as relatively pest free. Always maintain careful records of those that you do select and scout your plants often for pest problems. Detecting a pest problem early will usually make controlling it easier and less costly.
Weeds are better controlled using good preplant soil preparation. Using a cover crop will not only add valuable organic matter to increase soil tilt, but many cover crops will also outcompete or suppress weeds. Cereal rye, for instance, can provide significant weed control through smothering and suppression from natural herbicides produced by the rye.
Other cover crops, such as hairy vetch, will add significant nitrogen to the soil and attract many beneficial insects as well.
These cover crops are traditionally planted the prior year and are usually tilled prior to planting your flower crop. Also making use of pre emergence herbicide labelled for use in flowers is another avenue worth considering. Only a handful of herbicides are currently labelled for flower production.
In general, it is very easy to find a herbicide to control both pre- and post-emergent grasses in flowers, but the choices for broadleaf weed control are very limited because many flowers are closely related to these weed types. Experts believe that planting plugs helps solve much of this problem as well-chosen pre-emergent herbicides seldom damage well-established plants.
- Harvest and Postharvest Handling
You need to understand that flowers are best harvested in the morning after the dew has dried but before the heat of the day because the flowers are cooler and will suffer less heat stress and better retain their quality.
Note that packing damp flowers close together for shipping will promote the development of Botrytis (grey mould), which will render the flowers unfit for sale. It’s advisable that you rapidly cool the harvested flowers or at least remove them from direct sunlight.
A lot of flowers benefit from the use of floral preservatives. Some flowers, such as yarrows, are best harvested as soon as pollen is evident, while sunflowers are best harvested as soon as the flower is almost completely open. This is why it’s important you know the characteristics of each flower you decide to grow.
Starting a Cut Flower Business – The Marketing Plan
- marketing strategies and ideas
Cut flowering can be a very lovely hobby, a profitable side business, or a full-time venture. It can be an income-producing business if done well and right. Marketing ideas and strategies may include
- Farmers market
These markets are very easy marketing method for new growers of cut flowers. General overhead costs are low and most advertising and organization duties are handled by the farmers’ market organization. Note that the time spent selling product is usually limited as farmers markets are only open for a few hours a day and a limited number of days each week.
- Road stand
This marketing method also boasts of low overhead costs. You can operate the stand directly from the growing location or you can set up at a highly visible location near or in population centres. Sometimes bedding plants and fresh and dried cut flowers are sold with fruits and vegetables. The floriculture crops are compatible with the edible products in that the bright, eye catching colours of flowers can alone bring in customers.
- On farm sales
On farm sales can range from something as simple as a roadside stand to a pick your own field cut flower operation to a fully developed family entertainment centre with animals, areas for children, tours, and educational displays. Note that floricultural crops such as cut flowers or bedding plants are often sold with fruits and vegetables.
One benefit of on farm sales is being able to manage all aspects of the business from the farm. While of course the disadvantage is the need to maintain the farm in a highly presentable condition. Location is especially important as the general public must be able to easily locate the business.
Note that the traditional florist shop is a key outlet for cut flowers. They sell large amounts of cut flowers and foliage, most times in the form of flower arrangements. They also sell decorated potted flowering and foliage plants. Much of the florists sales are based on events such as holidays, birthdays, funerals, anniversaries, and parties.
In addition to local sales, florists act as agents for nationwide floral wire services, such as American Floral Services (AFS) or Florist Telegraph Delivery (FTD).
- Mass markets
These market outlets are those companies including grocery stores, department stores, and other stores that sell plant materials as part of a broad range of items. Ideally, cut flowers may be a crucial part of the business; they rarely constitute the majority of sales for the business. The commitment to floriculture sales by mass markets ranges from a few buckets in the vegetable section to full service florists or garden centres that operate the entire year.
These individuals bring in products from many growers allowing the retailers to obtain all, or most all, their cut flowers from one location. Note that from the growers’ point of view, prices received from the wholesaler tend to be low, but so are marketing costs.
The price per unit must be recovered by efficiently growing and selling large volumes of plant materials. Wholesalers are also concerned with buying from reputable growers who will be able to deliver a consistent and high quality product.
Strategies for Winning Competitors in the Cut Flower Business
Starting this business is not an easy task. Aside from being labour intensive, it takes a great deal of strength to outshine your competitors and get your products sold. Ways to win your competitors may include:
- Being innovative and creating new ideas
- Creating a customer-centric culture
- Don’t compete on price but on quality
- Remember that saturation can mean strength
Increasing Customer Retention in the Cut Flower Business
In the agricultural business, customer acquisition costs are sky-rocketing. That is why to succeed, you need to focus on building a customer experience to increase customer satisfaction. Possible ways to increase customer retention in your cut flower business are;
- Listen to customers
- Start a mailing list
- Teach a class
- Offer a subscription service
- Have really healthy plants
Boosting Broad Awareness and Corporate identity in the Cut Flower Business
You can produce the best flowers but if your prospective consumers do not know you exist, then your suffering might as well be a waste of time. One of your most important jobs as a business owner is to create brand awareness for your product.
You need to create an identity that let’s people know who you are and where you are, what you sell and how you sell them. Ways to boost your brand awareness and create a corporate identity for your cut flower business may include:
- Produce Healthy flowers
- Explore when you are starting out
- Get creative
- Create an Internet profile
- Sell at the right places
- Have a good business and marketing plan