Starting a business with bonsai

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Starting a business with bonsai

Post  Beverly on Thu Mar 30, 2017 10:55 am

Hello guys,
I love making bonsai and I often gift it to my beloved ones. I feel like a garden is incomplete without a bonsai. Seeing my passion in making bonsai, my husband asked me to start a bonsai business. He has assured to get me self-employment mortgage to meet the initial expenses. I am not sure whether I am perfect in making it and I don't have any experience marketing them. I googled and gathered some ideas for marketing (http://www.grassrootsadvertising.com/blog/marketing/4-affordable-marketing-strategies/). Can anyone here suggest some marketing ideas and their implementation? Some of my friends suggested having an online portal, will it be costly? I am looking for cost down marketing methods. Any suggestions or ideas?

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Various methods of selling

Post  Bolero on Thu Mar 30, 2017 12:41 pm

Ebay, Craigs list, Facebook, all valid & the exposure is Huge.....also try a Peddle cart around downtown Toronto...
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Re: Starting a business with bonsai

Post  bilbo on Thu Mar 30, 2017 3:41 pm

Having started and ran my own two businesses for 30+ years, I could provide some detailed insights on the marketing gimmick which is the business of "marketing".
But I can summarize it to say, most of it is crap.
What their doing is marketing "marketing" to you.

I suggest the KISS method.
eBay, Amazon, Craigslist are all good.
Certainly an important tie on all the above, and perhaps best over all is your own website (NOT a "portal").
Portals are just another gimmick designed to for others to get a piece of your pie.
There are several hosting companies, GoDaddy comes to mind, where you can get a domain name, and hosting services for your site, databases for your back-end, and merchant services all available.
In the beginning, don't be overly worried too much about costs because you'll lose site of what's important to your consumers.  There is plenty of time to trim and fine tune expenses later but unless you first build your client list how much your saving up front won't matter.
Remember, penny wise can often mean pound foolish.
The business is your product and you.

Now, as a consumer, I feel like I can add different value for you.

Much of the online bonsai business I've found is cheap, consumerish crap.
There are, from my observation three primary avenues:
1. Novelty consumer bonsai crap
2. Finished bonsai specimen product
3. Pre-Bonsai material

There is no shortage of #1 & #2 and trying to enter those crowded markets seems either to be soul starved (#1) or 10's of years in the process (#2).

However, for people beginning in bonsai as an actual hobby/interest, or even for people already active in the field, #3 seems wide open for an actual quality product, at any price.
Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of sellers of sticks in pots they call pre-bonsai.
Problem is, almost all of it is so pre-bonsai their products will be years before they are ready for step 2 in the bonsai process (assuming step 1 is buying the tree).
I'm not saying there aren't vendors of quality bonsai ready products in this market space, but they are few and far between and the few that do exist do a horrible job of presenting their product.
So, in my mind, as a consumer getting active in the hobby, I'm looking for actual pre-bonsai material ready upon receipt to start doing one or more actual bonsai steps; wiring, pruning, potting, etc.
For the most part, if you look on Amazon, eBay, craigslist, or Bing, you find 1,2,3 year old sticks, nowhere near ready to don anything but watch them grow for another 1-3 years.

So, there's my 2 cents

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Re: Starting a business with bonsai

Post  kevin stoeveken on Thu Mar 30, 2017 8:08 pm

Bolero wrote:try a Peddle cart around downtown Toronto...

actually brilliant.

seriously. Wink

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Re: Starting a business with bonsai

Post  Leo Schordje on Sat Apr 15, 2017 1:43 pm

A brick & mortar retail location should be located where "plant people" and shoppers would be passing by, so they could notice your place. For example if the main road approach to the local botanic garden has a section with shops, or a strip mall, that might be good. People will drive up to an hour to visit a specialty shop, for example an orchid only nursery. Some will drive further, but numbers drop rapidly as distance increases. You need at least a million people within an hour drive to support a specialty retail location. At least this is info I gleaned from orchid specialty nurseries, orchids were my first hobby.
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Re: Starting a business with bonsai

Post  Leo Schordje on Sat Apr 15, 2017 1:48 pm

Mail order, via eBay and other outlets are the way to go if you don't want to maintain a retail location. Beauty of mail order is you can take a vacation, just pull down offerings, back up when you're back.
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Re: Starting a business with bonsai

Post  Leo Schordje on Sat Apr 15, 2017 1:54 pm

Another outlet is if you like to teach, or demonstrate, look for "gigs" where you are allowed to sell as part of the talk. In the orchid world, I get an honorarium for the lecture, plus travel expenses, plus sales. This works for me, but I don't use it to pay the mortgage, only to support my orchid & bonsai hobby. So if you enjoy getting in front of a crowd, it is a possibility.
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Re: Starting a business with bonsai

Post  augustine on Mon Apr 17, 2017 2:13 pm

Another idea is to become associated with an established nursery or garden center who will allow you to sell plants on consignment. I think that teaching classes and generating interest would be mandatory with any kind of brick and mortar location.

It would be very tough to support a retail store unless rent and overhead were very cheap and you could get into a short term lease. I think generally it is a very tough business.

Good luck

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Re: Starting a business with bonsai

Post  BrendanR on Wed May 03, 2017 10:17 am

Tough to do other than online. In live in the UK. On Saturday I visited a trader who has owned his shop for 20 plus years. He lives above the shop and his whole life seems wrapped around it.

https://bonsai-ko.co.uk/

He has to peddle what sells - so indoor trees that he buys in good health in the "S" shape that consumers call Bonsai. He then has a lovely sales talk about how to look after them. And repeat - ad nauseaum.

He can't sell good material as his shop display is indoors - and outdoor trees can't be displayed indoors except for a few short months a year. But he's on a ery good busy Bo-Ho high street and the footfall justifies the display of Chinese Elms, Buddah Pined, Pepper Trees, crassula ovata, portulacaria afra, redwoods, ficus and ligistrum.

Note - no carmona macrophylla - no one can grow them safely as a beginner and they would kill his reputation as fast as the clients kill their trees.

I walked in and asked for jin pliers, and suddenly I am in his private back garden and we are swapping stories etc.

My 2c worth. Sell what sells.

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Re: Starting a business with bonsai

Post  Vance Wood on Wed May 03, 2017 6:00 pm

There is an experssion amongst bonsaiist that have gone down this road: The only way to make a small fortune in bonsai is to start with a large one.
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Re: Starting a business with bonsai

Post  Kev Bailey on Thu May 04, 2017 8:03 pm

Vance is quite correct that this is not a business that many people are going to make much money at, despite what most people think, at the outset. A few VERY experienced bonsai artists manage to make a good living and sell some very good stuff as well. They supplement their sales income with talks, demonstration tours and books that they have written. I doubt that many of them become wealthy from their bonsai efforts. It is a lifestyle choice and rather a hard way to make a living, especially if you are a newcomer to it.

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Re: Starting a business with bonsai

Post  kevin stoeveken on Fri May 05, 2017 4:07 pm

i think the best that can be hoped for, as i am pursuing, is to be like a drug dealer in order to support your own habit... alien
in other words, trying to have the "plus column" keep up with the "minus column" lol!

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Re: Starting a business with bonsai

Post  Vance Wood on Sun May 07, 2017 1:12 am

Leo Schordje wrote:Mail order, via eBay and other outlets are the way to go if you don't want to maintain a retail location. Beauty of mail order is you can take a vacation, just pull down offerings, back up when you're back.

Trouble is you have to take care of licensing and Department of Agriculture certification and attention to quarantine and if you are using the mail as part of the business you will probably have to go through local Department of Agriculture inspections to make sure you are not dealing with infected or forbidden material.
Now there is the issue of what are you going to be selling.  If you are going to do sticks in pots aka pre-bonsai trees you have to find out which raw material stock will be worth selling, and which will be a bust.  If you cannot make a profit why bother?  

If you want to make something a little better than pre-bonsai you have to have the materials like wire and pots and the kind of bonsai artistic skills that will make this kind of investment in time and material pay for itself.  I know right now it is fun but it is surprising how quick fun can turn into a drudge when you have to deal the frustrations of what wont sell and the disgust at what will sell.  Having gotten this far you have to realize that the world is full of dummies that will buy on impulse a tree that will die.  They will expect you to give them their money back and or replace the tree.  You have to decide how you will deal with this process.  This could take paragraphs just by itself to discuss.
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Re: Starting a business with bonsai

Post  Zach Smith on Fri Jun 16, 2017 1:28 am

There is only one key to success in the bonsai biz and that is, you'd better looooooooove bonsai. If you don't it will quickly become a drag, as you struggle to make a small amount of money actually making and selling them. Past this, you need to become really good at some aspect of bonsai which will allow you to develop a niche and ultimately a brand. Only you can figure out what this is, and it will take time. And loving your chosen niche, of course.

Then keep at it for about 25 years, at which point you should be pretty well established.


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Re: Starting a business with bonsai

Post  augustine on Mon Jun 19, 2017 3:08 pm

Another thing, start small and don't borrow money.

Listen to the people preaching caution. Many people would love to make a living in the bonsai business but very few do.




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Re: Starting a business with bonsai

Post  M. Frary on Wed Jun 21, 2017 7:20 pm

Zach Smith wrote:There is only one key to success in the bonsai biz and that is, you'd better looooooooove bonsai.  If you don't it will quickly become a drag, as you struggle to make a small amount of money actually making and selling them.  Past this, you need to become really good at some aspect of bonsai which will allow you to develop a niche and ultimately a brand.  Only you can figure out what this is, and it will take time.  And loving your chosen niche, of course.

Then keep at it for about 25 years, at which point you should be pretty well established.

Listen to this advice right here.
This man owns a bonsai business.

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Re: Starting a business with bonsai

Post  kevin stoeveken on Tue Jun 27, 2017 7:09 pm

mike - when i saw that you commented on this, i thought it would be to suggest stocking foemina... and LOTS of it Razz Twisted Evil

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Re: Starting a business with bonsai

Post  Leo Schordje on Sun Jul 23, 2017 2:59 pm

Vance Wood wrote:
Leo Schordje wrote:Mail order, via eBay and other outlets are the way to go if you don't want to maintain a retail location. Beauty of mail order is you can take a vacation, just pull down offerings, back up when you're back.

Trouble is you have to take care of licensing and Department of Agriculture certification and attention to quarantine and if you are using the mail as part of the business you will probably have to go through local Department of Agriculture inspections to make sure you are not dealing with infected or forbidden material.
Now there is the issue of what are you going to be selling.  If you are going to do sticks in pots aka pre-bonsai trees you have to find out which raw material stock will be worth selling, and which will be a bust.  If you cannot make a profit why bother?  

If you want to make something a little better than pre-bonsai you have to have the materials like wire and pots and the kind of bonsai artistic skills that will make this kind of investment in time and material pay for itself.  I know right now it is fun but it is surprising how quick fun can turn into a drudge when you have to deal the frustrations of what wont sell and the disgust at what will sell.  Having gotten this far you have to realize that the world is full of dummies that will buy on impulse a tree that will die.  They will expect you to give them their money back and or replace the tree.  You have to decide how you will deal with this process.  This could take paragraphs just by itself to discuss.

Licensing can be a serious issue, but there are work arounds. I'm in IL, where there are fewer regulations than some states. Since I have no "brick and mortar" presence, and my sales are less than a certain amount a month, l am more or less exempted, or at least I fall through the cracks. I never try to ship to Arizona, California, or Hawaii. That way I avoid the need to have a Phytosanitary Cert.

Check local regulations before you start.
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Re: Starting a business with bonsai

Post  kevin stoeveken on Mon Jul 24, 2017 7:02 pm

i am in the process of launching a small bonsai venture... but i will most definitely NOT be quitting my day job

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Re: Starting a business with bonsai

Post  LanceMac10 on Mon Jul 24, 2017 7:05 pm

kevin stoeveken wrote:i am in the process of launching a small bonsai venture... but i will most definitely NOT be quitting my day job





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Re: Starting a business with bonsai

Post  kevin stoeveken on Wed Jul 26, 2017 12:47 pm

a small venture called Wisco Bonsai
The bonsai business world needs a Penny-Stock, Wolf of Wall Street, Barnum & Bailey type operation  jocolor geek lol!

but seriously, more to follow mid August-ish Wink

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