Advice for potential orchid businessperson

Discussion in 'Orchid Vendor Sales' started by JAB, May 16, 2016.

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  1. May 19, 2016 #21

    jtrmd

    jtrmd

    jtrmd

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    That it is! The regular loyal customers I have had over the years, are worth the hassles that can come with Ebay.Without a better way to put it. I am also doing the selling as a hobby within the hobby, not my only income source/get rich.
     
  2. May 19, 2016 #22

    bigleaf

    bigleaf

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    I like selling on eBay. It's convenient for both seller and buyers. I don't like eBay's fee but it's price we paid for convenience and advertisement.

    I have my own website but I am lacking the time to give it a face lift. I just get better traffic on eBay than my website.

    eBay appeals to everyone probably because it has all type of orchids. Most growers like to try different plants. Not just a specific genus.
     
  3. May 19, 2016 #23

    Happypaphy7

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    Good customer service goes a long way.
    If you are polite and friendly, that alone could leave huge impact and help gain return customers. I don't deal with assholes like Norman's, and their plant quality was not all the great, either based on my a few "tryouts". Never again!

    Speaking of quality, whether it is plants or other goods, let your product speak for itself. Period!
    People will buy from you and talk about how great your plants are and you are.

    A bit of side tracking, but related to the topic, when I visit a store and people are not nice, I won't go there again when I have other options for similar products.
    When this happens at a big name store, I usually talk to the manager and let them know of their stupid low class people ruining their business. They need to know to better manage people. This is important for large scale stores as managers simply cannot be there for everyone every minute.

    With orchids not being a necessity, I could just stop buying altogether instead of going to "another" store if it makes sense.

    eBay is a great market place with huge traffic. So you get great exposure, which is a big plus and very important in getting recognition.
    As mentioned by BigLeaf, fees are for using their service. can't expect free, hello, people!
    Attaching your own website is a must. Most orchid vendors I see on eBay mentions or a link to their own website.
    This way, you could direct people to your own and avoid eBay fees hopefully.

    But people who love to shop on eBay like myself, the biggest advantage is that you can see and know what you are getting.
    No surprises there!
    BigLeaf for example, always send me spot free clean plants, and this is the most important part for me and for many others. no one likes sickly spotted plants.
    I only buy from nursery visits or from vendors I had bought nice plants because I assume and expect that they would send me the same quality plants other than letting me down.

    As long as you sell good plants, be polite with customer services and exercise smooth communications, you will not be worrying about getting bad reps with the exception of some really crazy unreasonable unhappy people out there. Even these wackos, you should be able to avoid bad reps if you do the right things. Once you are doing business selling to the public, this should be no surprise that there are some tough people to deal with. such is life. With internet, people do talk and words spread.
    So in the end, good business should be alright as people talk and get to know what's up. haha

    Good luck!
     
  4. May 19, 2016 #24

    JAB

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    Good points EHanes and Happy!
    I agree that Ebay is a pain but a necessary pain. If nothing else this forum has taught me that a lot of folks use Ebay to purchase orchids.
    Ehanes-
    Solid point about having a broad spectrum for customers to choose from.

    Thanks guys! Keep em coming!
     
  5. May 20, 2016 #25

    CambriaWhat

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    Don't forget about Facebook. Pages such as 'orchids trade and sale' are getting hotter and hotter in terms of members, vendors, and variety. Plus: no fees!
     
  6. May 24, 2016 #26

    Leo Schordje

    Leo Schordje

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    You've gotten some good advice.

    My 2 cents - role into it debt free. There is not enough of a margin to support interest payments. I was / am a hobby business seller, currently on a hiatus. I still have my personal collection, but have dialed back the orchid sales aspect. I still enjoy giving talks, and will do 3 or 4 a year, but I am not working shows, or ebay or my website at the moment. I may fire that all back up, but right now I have my hands full on a different project. The new "project" has enough space for a couple greenhouses, so in the future, I may be back as a vendor.

    As Ed Hanes mentioned, niche specialty markets are difficult if you focus on just one. I will add that different niche groups of orchids come in and go out of fashion. I have a Phrag, that I sold the first division of for $ 7000, back in 1994, and today I have a hard time getting $45 for a division of the same plant. Out of fashion these days. And hybridizing has brought the standards up past where that plant is at. Orchids have no fixed value, they are only worth what the customer perceives them to be. Presentation is important, salesmanship, and of course "fashion" will play into it.

    There are many times where the plants I sell at a show, just barely cover their own cost, and the profit for that show actually comes from the fertilizer or other supplies I sold.

    Turnkey product can work well if you can get the cost of the product low enough. Buying boxes of in bud and bloom plants from Hawaii, and selling them before you have to water them twice, can work out, but you won't be making a 100% mark up on them. If you can find a Phal wholesaler who will actually put name tags in their plants, you can do well with Phals.

    I made money on flasks when I had a current, up to date breeding collection of paphs and phrags, but it became difficult to keep ahead of the market for what was fashionable. Flasks were essentially turn key, get them in from the lab, then sell them. Selling seedlings did not work out as well as flasks. If your growing conditions are not ideal, seldom more than half the seedlings in a flask ever grow well enough to become saleable. They take time too. Depending on the species, some need a year or more in community pots before they can be put in individual pots to be sold. A lot can go wrong in that time, and mortalities will happen.

    So, try to roll in with no debt, put together several "turnkey" product lines. Find a couple niche markets you understand. Keep an eye on what is coming in and going out of fashion. Bulbophyllums were the rage, then people got tired of smelling them. ;) Always present a product that the customer will feel is worth more than what you promised.

    It can work, but there are many easier ways to make a living. The work involved will cause your enthusiasm for orchids to wear, orchids will become more work than fun. But there is a lot of satisfaction too. And when it all works well, it is rewarding.

    Do the calculations, figure out how much in gross sales you need a week to give you a weekly net you can live off of. After listing all the expenses, your net will likely be less than 10% if the gross. Those numbers, if you are realistic, should scare you away from doing orchids full time. Part time hobby-business it can be fun, when I worked it I was able to afford to eat out more often. But I never made enough to make more than one mortgage payment a year.

    Good luck.
     
  7. May 24, 2016 #27

    Leo Schordje

    Leo Schordje

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    wilted blossom

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    One more thought. Anything in bloom will sell at a show or other setting where the customer can see it in person, and you can get top dollar for a plant in bud or bloom. Once it is out of bloom, it has lost value, or is less saleable.

    Seedlings are most valuable at near blooming size, once seedlings have bloomed, most serious orchid collectors will assume you kept the best and view previously bloomed seedlings as less valuable. Something to keep in mind when trying to make a million in orchids.
     
  8. May 25, 2016 #28

    JAB

    JAB

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    Wow, thanks Leo! Lots to digest there. I too worry about burning out on orchids, but I work in a field now that was once a hobby and thus far only the idiot people I work under have burnt me ;)
    Ideally I would love to go into any business situation with no debt but I just don't see that happening, and that will ultimately be the deciding factor whether I like it or not.
    This is all food for thought. We shall see. I appreciate all of your offerings.
    Jake
     
  9. May 29, 2016 #29

    Leo Schordje

    Leo Schordje

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    wilted blossom

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    Step into it. It will take time.

    I assume you already have some orchids. Sell one. Save that money to buy a flask, or another plant or plants for resale. Once you have your growing space maxed out, keep selling and bank the sales in a separate account. If you can't slowly increase that bank balance, you need to rethink your sales.

    One problem I had was designating too many plants to be in the "personal collection" and therefore not for sale. In my small space only a third of the space was available for sales. If you have a real business 75% to 90% of the growing space must be stuff for sale, and you need to cycle the plants through that bench space. Each square foot costs you a certain amount per year, anything occupying that space needs to generate at least that much per year, preferably several times that much per year. If you are not able to do that, its just a hobby.

    Finishing Phals, or other in bud plants from wholesale growers, you can cycle through a space 3 to 12 times a year, depending how much "finishing time" you need to get flowers open, and how many shows you are willing to work.

    Then there is always the issue of the stock plant mortality. Lay out hundreds or thousands for stock plants, to have some die, really hurts the business model, but think of orchids like fresh vegetables, they are a perishable product. You need to learn how to transport them to shows without damaging them. Always pack you car or van so that if the van rolls over, your plants won't be too badly damaged. (I got that T-Shirt, still was able to sell seedlings from the rental I finished the trip with). Don't do an "Orchids by Vera", a tragic accident where Vera was killed driving home tired from a show.

    Are you still sure you want to do this?
     
  10. May 30, 2016 #30

    jtrmd

    jtrmd

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    good advice Leo. Its pretty much what every vendor would say.
     
  11. May 30, 2016 #31

    JAB

    JAB

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    Leo
    Solid advice and I truly appreciate it.
    As for "really want to do this"... not sure. Hence me asking questions here and learning what I can before I commit to anything (which is years away as is). Your advice about personal collection vs. sales is great and I have already started to think of things that way. Just went through the collection the other day looking at what could be culled etc.
    I am so sorry to hear of Vera. That is terrible no matter the circumstances.
    So in regards to limited space and focus... do you feel starting small like me it is still detrimental in terms of focusing on a specific niche (say just slipper orchids)? Or is it still best to have a diverse sales collection even being on the super small side?

    Thank you Leo. I owe you a beer or four ;)

    Cheers
    Jake
     
  12. May 30, 2016 #32

    Ray

    Ray

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    Jake,

    There's nothing wrong with starting small, but be prepared to grow the business slowly at the same time.

    I suffered a complete loss of a 20-year collection (most was stuff I literally collected from the wild {pre-CITES}, or purchased from street vendors while on international business trips) to a heater failure on a seven degree F night. I purchased a few plants, later dividing them, and offered those to others via a black text on white web page, mentioned on the CompuServe gardening forum. The money I got selling those allowed me to purchase more plants, repeating that cycle, and start rebuilding my collection.

    A bit later, I saw some plants at H&R that I wanted, so bought enough of them to qualify for a wholesale discount. I kept a couple for myself and sold the others at a price that paid for the lot. That is, my plants were free, and the purchasers got a better price than they could, otherwise.

    As time went by, more and more items fell in the "I want it, so I'll buy it wholesale, and resell it" category - plants, fertilizers, pesticides, potting media, pots, etc., etc., ending up with over 400 items for sale some 22 years later.

    As to doing your own breeding, or raising plants from flask, I've done both, but you need to understand the space and time commitment that comes with it.
     
  13. May 31, 2016 #33

    JAB

    JAB

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    Thanks Ray.
    Exactly... space is key raising wee ones.
    Good points on wholesale buying and patiently dividing plants as they grow.
     

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