Starting a small garden center.

I have been talking with Anna who is contemplating "trying to start a small garden centre in the south of Spain. The area is a south-facing mountain range (about 1000m above sea level) and to date there are no other garden centres in the entire area." She continues, "This is obviously not necessarily good news (no customers, perhaps?!), but I think there is a niche. The area is changing from traditional agriculture (old men on donkeys picking their almonds) to rural tourism and lots of foreigners buying second homes (a culture of shopping in garden centres, an interest in gardens (as opposed to agriculture) and (hopefully) disposable income!). The nearest garden centres are at least 30 minutes drive (most are an hour) and are very 'industrial' experiences when you get their, if you know what I mean (low plastic greenhouses, no landscaping, no cafe, no personal touch)."

How exciting! I love hearing from people thinking of opening a small garden center or nursery. The above picture is my brother-in-law and I working on the landing to the garden shop before opening. Many of the same issues face us with regional differences of course. While I don't know much about the regional habits of the clientele the questions Anna brings to the table are the same that we all face. She asks "is it a realistic way of planning to make a living?! There are days when everything points to the fact that we may actually get huge orders, particularly for the local trees (people have immense plots of land and in theory - rumour has it! - need large quantites of trees, every so often) and then other days I try to calculate how many 1 euro geraniums we will have to sell to pay the rent, overheads, wages........ and I go pale!" That just about summarizes everyone's fear when thinking about starting a business.

What do I say? That there are days when you will "go pale" There are also day's when you can't keep up with the orders. It's a huge risk and there are no guarantees. But with the risk comes the potential of being first in the area and setting the standard.

We are going on our third year and sometimes just being able to open your doors for another day of business is a success. You have to be able to keep moving forward when the weather and those around you might be less than encouraging.The reason why business successes are often hard to come by is they are "hard to come by".

When Anna mentions there are no garden centers in the area she is right to ask "This is obviously not necessarily good news (no customers, perhaps?!), but I think there is a niche." How bold she will have to be to take a chance and be the first and develop that niche. I believe that she needs to trust her instincts, do some research (but don't over research it), start small, but get started! How many times have we said, "I wish I had thought of that's", but did nothing? I hope that we will be able to watch a new garden center sprout as the area changes, bringing new customers and causing Anna one day to ask what it was that she was so worried about.