You're staring out the window at the piles of snow, with more still coming down. Your far Northern climate means you only have a limited amount of warm weather each year, which gives you precious little time to cultivate the flowers and plants you love. This year, however, you're bringing the gardens' beauty indoors, and sharing it with others. Your passion has blossomed into the creation of a shop dedicated to indoor gardening.
Poll your target markets. Identify groups likely to become customers, and ask them what products they would like the store to stock. Here are two examples: (1) Ask local Garden Club members to list the plants and flowers they would like to cultivate during the "indoor" season. These might include bulbs, seedlings and exotic flowers; and (2) Consult avid cooks for their favorite herbs and edible flowers. Herb selections can range from a windowsill herb pot to a full-fledged mini-garden using special "grow lighting." Finally, ask your "consultants" to suggest gardening demonstration topics.
Create a theme for your store. When customers think of your store, consider what image comes to mind. Here are some examples of indoor gardening store themes: (1) Indoor Islands, with lush plantings and exotic flower displays; (2) Organic Oasis, with organic gardening supplies and plantings; and (3) Environmental Escapes, with decorative planters, terrariums and miniature trees that are adapted for indoor growth.
Confirm lease and logistics arrangements. Choose a location that's easily accessible with adequate parking. Ensure that your store interior will accommodate several product displays, along with sufficient space for browsing and demonstrations. Meet with an accountant, an insurance agent and other business advisors.
Educate yourself so you can teach others. Once you've chosen your store theme, make a detailed list of the products that reflect the theme. Since you will be considered a gardening authority, make sure you can accurately communicate how each product is used.
For example, let's say you're offering hydroponic gardening systems (for plants grown in water with nutrients, but without soil). Ensure that you understand the proper uses of lighting systems. If you are stocking exotic orchids, immerse yourself in orchid cultivation so you can teach others to grow the orchids successfully. If you have store staff, make sure they are knowledgeable as well.
Order your products and engage your experts. Don't get lost in the bewildering array of indoor gardening products. Choose products that mix well with your store theme, and postpone other purchases until you get sales results from your initial product line. To familiarize yourself with a wide range of indoor gardening products, browse the Indoor Garden Store website. You will find examples of hydroponic garden systems, lighting products, growing media, and organic gardening supplies (See References 1). The Resources section contains referrals to other indoor gardening stores with a more specialized product selection.
Contact any experts who will conduct specialized gardening demonstrations. Ask your gardening pros to visit the store first, and provide you with a list of any supplies they will need.
Create advance "buzz" for your store. Generate excitement within several targeted groups: (1) Invite Garden Club members for a "sneak preview" with refreshments; (2) Introduce middle school and high school biology teachers to your products, partner with the teachers to educate their students about the plant kingdom; (3) Provide local chefs with samples of your indoor-grown herbs and (4) Invite local media for a private tour, complete with indoor gardening "grab bags."
Hold a blooming Grand Opening. Even if the weather is cold, make your store an oasis of warmth and greenery. Here are several ways to welcome your customers and build your business: (1) Give away packets of starter seeds (and sell the growth media); (2) Conduct several drawings throughout the day (and create a mailing list); and (3) Book experts to speak on indoor gardening topics (and point out the location of supplies to help customers create similar gardens).