Author Topic: How to run a successful bonsai nursery in the USA???  (Read 8665 times)

bwaynef

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Re: How to run a successful bonsai nursery in the USA???
« Reply #15 on: September 29, 2011, 05:10 PM »
I'm in no danger of losing my money in a failed bonsai business ...for several reasons.

(Ir)Regardless, I've found the input of several on this thread with inside knowledge particularly interesting.  Thanks for sharing.

Attila, I've missed your input lately;  Welcome back.
 

Attila Soos

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Re: How to run a successful bonsai nursery in the USA???
« Reply #16 on: September 29, 2011, 07:07 PM »
Hey, thanks,

And great to see some old names around here, that I haven't heard of for a long time.

I've forgotten about this site, but somehow I stumbled back here. And the first thing I did, as soon as I've read a few threads this morning, was to order all of Boon's instructional videos from his site. About seven of them.  I figured that even old dogs can learn one trick or two from Boon. So, thanks guys for making me buy those videos. I am looking forward to receiving them in a week.

Also, to me this time signals the beginning of a new bonsai year. Late September, that is. The heat is gone, and from now until the end of next spring, I have more time to do actual bonsai work (styling, wiring, the root work comes in a few months) because I don't need to worry about constant watering and weeding in my backyard. In January, when people close the old year, and start the new one, I am already deep into bonsai work, because this is Southern California. It's also the beginning of the new hockey season, but that's irrelevant to what we do here. :)

So, this is the beginning of the new year for me, and I am looking forward to it.

« Last Edit: September 29, 2011, 07:09 PM by Attila Soos »
 

cbobgo

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Re: How to run a successful bonsai nursery in the USA???
« Reply #17 on: September 29, 2011, 08:07 PM »
I'm surprised that Brent hasn't chimed in on this thread, but maybe he does not check in this forum very often.

I've spent a bit of time working with him at his nursery (evergreengardenworks.com)  over the last 5 years and I can tell you a few things that have helped him be successful.

1. Minimal overhead.  He has no employees, except for occasional temp help for labor intensive jobs.  90% of the time it's just him and his wife taking care of 5000ish trees.

2. Mail order/ web based business.  He has no retail store, almost all of his business is over the web - which also helps to keep overhead down.  He doesn't have to waste time with customers browsing his isles, asking questions but never buying anything.  He will occasional have people check the place out in person, invitation only, and these are people he knows will be buying trees, not just window shopping.

3. Involvement in the online community.  Everyone in bonsai who spends any time in the forums has heard of Brent and almost everyone has read his articles, I suspect.  He spends alot of time answering peoples questions online (since he can do that when he has the time, not when he's busy working on the trees.)  This draws alot of business to him.

4.  Focus on a particular aspect and do it well.  For Brent that is propagating starter material.  He has made production of new starter trees his focus, he does it well, and thus can offer many species of trees that you can't find anywhere else.

5. Reasonable expectations.  Brent makes a living at this, but he is not a wealthy man.  He makes enough to get by, but he is not raking in the dough.  He does it because he loves it and would rather be poor doing bonsai than rich doing something else.

That's what works for him, I'm sure that style would not work for everyone.  And anyone who is seriously considering getting into a bonsai business should send him an email.  He has alot of wisdom to share, and is not stingy with it.

- bob


 

bwaynef

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Re: How to run a successful bonsai nursery in the USA???
« Reply #18 on: September 29, 2011, 09:56 PM »
I'm surprised that Brent hasn't chimed in on this thread, but maybe he does not check in this forum very often.
Feel free to invite him again.  We'd love to have him as a (participating?) member.

Quote
I've spent a bit of time working with him at his nursery (evergreengardenworks.com)  over the last 5 years and I can tell you a few things that have helped him be successful.

None of those were surprises, from what I've come to know of Brent, but it is a pretty concise list of things to focus on to be effective.  I don't think you can over-emphasize the reputation he's built online and what that surely must mean to his business.

This is another, does-it-because-he-loves-it guy ...and it shows.
 

Artisans

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Re: How to run a successful bonsai nursery in the USA???
« Reply #19 on: April 28, 2013, 11:33 AM »
Hello Guys & Gals,

I am new to this group. I have a physical bonsai nursery in florida and an online sales program (my own website & ebay). I have 100% customer satisfaction (that helps) and would LOVE to say more however, not being sure of the forum rules I will refrain from posting anything else on it until I re-read them (little direction please mr. moderator??? any advertising possibilities on this site??).

However, I don't believe that you must resort to "mallsai". That NEVER works! That will just get you a bad name real quick and its no fun making junk! The real trick is have TONS of pre-bonsai material (I do LOTS of collecting), a physical presence AND a strong mailorder program as well (90% of my sales are shipped out of state). I have all 3 and it seems to be working very well. Of course, low overhead as mentioned helps also.

First, there is an abundance of plant material available for free all around you, use it! Nothing helps the old overhead more than getting trees for free and selling them for 50 to 100 dollars or more (disclaimer: get owners permission and any state or local approvals first). I can fill up a 1/2 acre in a few days with collected, free material. Of course your time is worth something as well. (I collected 150 + lantana camara in 1 hour by myself the other day). Think "URBAN YAMADORI" (just a little hint).

Second, provide a place where customers know they can come during regular business hours (without calling for an "appointment" first). Nothing ticks me off more than having to "call" before I come or arriving and finding that they are closed.

Next......LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION. Bonsai is a very visual thing and driveby's will stop in. I HATE when I have to drive 26 miles off of the interstate, over backroads that only the locals know about, through someones yard with a barking dog to finally arrive wondering how in the heck am I ever going to find my way back out OR back to the nursery ever again. 

You MUST have a place where they can get direction and continued help with their purchase. A FORMER partner of mine felt he was "too good" to spend time providing "service after the sale". THAT was a fatal mistake (for him).

Lastly, you MUST understand that if you are going to cater to the bonsai industry ONLY then you will fail because, as mentioned in another post on this topic, there are not enough real bonsai artist to keep you alive (specially locally). However, you can't survive selling "mallsai" either (besides God will punish you for being a hack :-). I found that the only option is to train the "mallsai crowd" on what good bonsai REALLY is. Once they get it through their head what bonsai really is "the light goes on and the pocketbook opens up"! They finally realize that bonsai trees ARE NOT the same as "junipers".


Lastly, say what you do & do what you say (even if it costs you). NOTE: Be careful not to be taken advantage of either though.

I hope this helps you guys,
Joe
 

Artisans

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Re: How to run a successful bonsai nursery in the USA???
« Reply #20 on: April 28, 2013, 12:23 PM »
I would think a goal of a nurseryman is to stay above the fray of snarkiness that can go on at the local club level. I imagine if x-nursery allies themselves with y-personality in the club, that could potentially hurt the business?

My solution, I don't belong to any club(s) and therefore do not get involved in club politics & personallities. I just sell pre-bonsai, bonsai, wire, tools, etc. and provide good info. Everyone is treated the same.
 

Artisans

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Re: How to run a successful bonsai nursery in the USA???
« Reply #21 on: April 28, 2013, 12:33 PM »

5. Reasonable expectations.  Brent makes a living at this, but he is not a wealthy man.  He makes enough to get by, but he is not raking in the dough.  He does it because he loves it and would rather be poor doing bonsai than rich doing something else.


There is absolutely no reason to "be poor doing bonsai" (can you say Brussels!). I make a very good living selling trees, even in this economy. This has got to be the most lucrative business I have ever had (former firefighter with MANY businesses on the side before this). Now, 30 years ago when I first tried it, NO WAY!

(hint) Profit margins on collected material are OUT OF THIS WORLD!
 

John Kirby

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Re: How to run a successful bonsai nursery in the USA???
« Reply #22 on: April 29, 2013, 06:53 AM »
Brussels has tremendous overhead and floats because of things like 1800flowers, brussels bonsai sales to box stores and a traditional bonsai nursery (sort of). The capital investment at Brussels is huge, the investor(s) associated with the business have worked have helped build a business model that appears to be sustainable.

Good to hear that you are doing well in the business.
 

bwaynef

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Re: How to run a successful bonsai nursery in the USA???
« Reply #23 on: April 29, 2013, 08:54 AM »
I am new to this group. I have a physical bonsai nursery in florida and an online sales program (my own website & ebay). I have 100% customer satisfaction (that helps) and would LOVE to say more however, not being sure of the forum rules I will refrain from posting anything else on it until I re-read them (little direction please mr. moderator??? any advertising possibilities on this site??).

I don't mind a link as long as you're not here JUST to sell.  (We don't even have a problem with you using this space to sell ...hence the marketplace forum, as long as you're contributing.)  That you would hesitate before posting is sign enough.  We'll let you know if it gets out of hand.
 

Artisans

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Re: How to run a successful bonsai nursery in the USA???
« Reply #24 on: April 29, 2013, 01:44 PM »
Brussels has tremendous overhead and floats because of things like 1800flowers, brussels bonsai sales to box stores and a traditional bonsai nursery (sort of). The capital investment at Brussels is huge, the investor(s) associated with the business have worked have helped build a business model that appears to be sustainable.

Good to hear that you are doing well in the business.

Thanks John. My point exactly. Brussels is a "successful bonsai nursery in the USA". I am stunned by their lack of design abilities (their cover tree is a good (bad) example), many times bordering on "mallsai" but they are a success as far as the dollars go.
 

Artisans

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Re: How to run a successful bonsai nursery in the USA???
« Reply #25 on: April 29, 2013, 02:02 PM »
I am new to this group. I have a physical bonsai nursery in florida and an online sales program (my own website & ebay). I have 100% customer satisfaction (that helps) and would LOVE to say more however, not being sure of the forum rules I will refrain from posting anything else on it until I re-read them (little direction please mr. moderator??? any advertising possibilities on this site??).

I don't mind a link as long as you're not here JUST to sell.  (We don't even have a problem with you using this space to sell ...hence the marketplace forum, as long as you're contributing.)  That you would hesitate before posting is sign enough.  We'll let you know if it gets out of hand.

Thanks! I am here to learn and pass on knowledge that I have as well. I would gladly pay for banner ads if you offer them. I will post in the marketplace as advised. Please advise if there is anything wrong with my posts. My intention is to provide awesome material for a great price to our forum partners. I have about 30 acres of material including many ground grown tridents, hornbeams and podos for sale.

I look forward to making many new customers/friends on this site.
 

Sulaiman

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Re: How to run a successful bonsai nursery in the USA???
« Reply #26 on: May 03, 2013, 09:48 AM »
Very interesting topic I stay in Cape Town, South Africa and blessed with 3 bonsai nurseries in a 40km radius and I think every bonsaiist who'd love to make there hobby an income as you become very passionate about bonsais and eat, sleep bonsai and it becomes very addictive ;D

I probably spend the same amount of money monthly as any other addict. ;D

I was lucky that one of these nurseries the guy started with field grown material and every year he brings out stock which is basically a trunk with no branches and this is how he got his customers because you get relatively thick trunks at relatively cheap prices.   

Otherways is bringing in yamadori stock from around the country.

Hope this helps.
Solly
 

Artisans

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Re: How to run a successful bonsai nursery in the USA???
« Reply #27 on: May 03, 2013, 10:23 AM »
I would LOVE to have a Baobab tree from South Africa. Will they even survive here in the USA? Awesome trunks!
Any links to these nurseries in SA?

Thanks.
Checkout this ground grown crepe myrtle trunk.
 

Owen Reich

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Re: How to run a successful bonsai nursery in the USA???
« Reply #28 on: May 03, 2013, 05:59 PM »
Silver Hill Seeds is based in Africa and sells Adansonia digitata and grandideri (I've bought and grown both from them).  The latter is a baobab from Madagascar and the leaves are too big for smaller bonsai IMO.
 

Artisans

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Re: How to run a successful bonsai nursery in the USA???
« Reply #29 on: May 03, 2013, 07:09 PM »
Cool. I found them http://www.silverhillseeds.co.za/. Wonder if they grow in Fla ok (I would think so)? I want to do a LARGE one so the leaf size won't matter.

Thanks Owen,
Joe