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How to Start a Greenhouse Business

Written by:

Carolyn Young is a business writer who focuses on entrepreneurial concepts and the business formation. She has over 25 years of experience in business roles, and has authored several entrepreneurship textbooks.

Edited by:

David has been writing and learning about business, finance and globalization for a quarter-century, starting with a small New York consulting firm in the 1990s.

How to Start a Greenhouse Business

Fast Facts

Investment range

$17,000 - $100,000

Revenue potential

$93,600 - $312,000 p.a.

Time to build

3-6 months

Profit potential

$56,000 - $94,000 p.a.

Industry trend

Growing

Commitment

Flexible

Do you want to take your gardening to the next level? The greenhouse industry is set to grow more than 80% by 2027, so you could jump in on this booming market by starting your own greenhouse business. If you have property, you could build your greenhouse on it and open it to the public if you can get the proper permitting. If you don’t have property, you could purchase a small piece of land and build. You’d be doing what you enjoy and making good money while providing people with fresh, healthy produce or plants to beautify their yards. 

Before you get started on that greenhouse construction, though, you need to gain some business know-how. Fortunately, you’ll get all the entrepreneurial knowledge and skills you need by reading this step-by-step guide, designed to put you on the garden path to greenhouse success. 

Step 1: Decide if the Business Is Right for You

Pros and cons

Starting a greenhouse business has pros and cons to consider before deciding if it’s right for you. 

Pros

  • Great Lifestyle – Do what you love every day
  • Good Money – Profit margins on items you grow will be high
  • Promote Health – Grow healthy, fresh produce to enrich people’s lives

Cons

  • High Startup Costs – Greenhouse construction costs money
  • Crowded Market – Compete with greenhouses and large garden stores

Greenhouse industry trends

Industry size and growth

greenhouse industry size and growth

Trends and challenges

greenhouse market Trends and Challenges

Trends in the greenhouse industry include:

  • Greenhouse manufacturers are producing greenhouses that are more energy-efficient, which helps greenhouse businesses save money, particularly in light of rising energy prices.
  • Automated irrigation systems, pH sensors, and climate control software are being used to solve problems faced by greenhouse growers, such as disease prevention and pest management.

Challenges in the greenhouse industry include:

  • Labor shortages are making it difficult for greenhouse growers to find employees.
  • Rising energy prices are a challenge for greenhouse growers who cannot afford the most up-to-date greenhouse technology.

Demand hotspots

greenhouse industry demand hotspots
  • Most popular states The most popular states for greenhouse growers are North Dakota, Kansas, and Washington.((https://www.zippia.com/greenhouse-worker-jobs/best-states/))
  • Least popular states The least popular states for greenhouse growers are Arkansas, the District of Columbia, and Mississippi. 

What kind of people work in greenhouses?

greenhouse industry demographics
  • Gender – 54.9% of greenhouse workers are female, while 42% are male.((https://www.zippia.com/greenhouse-worker-jobs/demographics/))
  • Average level of education – The average greenhouse worker is high school educated.
  • Average age – The average greenhouse worker in the US is 40.7 years old.

How much does it cost to start a greenhouse business?

Startup costs for a small greenhouse business are about $17,000. Costs include the construction of the greenhouse and equipment. With a small greenhouse, you could sell your items at local markets, or from a farmer’s market stand. To start a larger greenhouse that you could open to the public could cost $100,000 or more. 

You’ll need a handful of items to successfully launch your greenhouse business, including: 

  • Irrigation system
  • Fans and hoses
  • Fertilizer
  • Tables
  • Pots 
Start-up CostsBallpark RangeAverage
Setting up a business name and corporation$150 - $200$175
Business licenses and permits$100 - $300$200
Insurance$100-$300$200
Business cards and brochures$200 - $300$250
Website setup$1,000 - $3,000$2,000
Greenhouse construction$10,000 - $70,000$40,000
Greenhouse equipment$5,000 - $20,000$12,500
Seeds, fertilizer, pots$1,000 - $5,000$3,000
Total$17,550 - $99,100$58,325

How much can you earn from a greenhouse business?

greenhouse business earnings forecast

Prices for your items will depend on the types of items that you grow. These calculations will assume that you’ll have a large enough greenhouse to allow people to come and shop, and that your average total sale per person will be $20. Your profit margin after energy and other growing costs should be about 60%. 

In your first year or two, you might get 15 customers a day 6 days a week, bringing in $93,600 in annual revenue. This would mean $56,000 in profit, assuming that 60% margin. As you gain traction and get repeat business, you might have 50 customers a day. At this stage, you’d hire staff, reducing your profit margin to around 30%. With annual revenue of $312,000, you’d make a tidy profit of around $94,000. 

What barriers to entry are there?

There are a few barriers to entry for a greenhouse business. Your biggest challenges will be:

  • The land required to build a greenhouse
  • The costs of greenhouse construction and equipment

Related Business Ideas

If you’re still not sure whether this business idea is the right choice for you, here are some related business opportunities to help you on your path to entrepreneurial success.
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Step 2: Hone Your Idea

develop a business idea

Now that you know what’s involved in starting a greenhouse business, it’s a good idea to hone your concept in preparation to enter a competitive market. 

Market research will give you the upper hand, even if you’re already positive that you have a perfect product or service. Conducting market research is important, because it can help you understand your customers better, who your competitors are, and your business landscape.

Why? Identify an opportunity

Research greenhouse businesses in your area to examine their products, price points, and what sells best. You’re looking for a market gap to fill. For instance, maybe the local market is missing a greenhouse that sells vegetables that include head lettuce, brussel sprouts, and tomatoes. Or it might be missing a greenhouse that sells bedding plants.

You might consider targeting a niche market by specializing in a certain aspect of your industry, such as decorative plants or fresh produce.

This could jumpstart your word-of-mouth marketing and attract clients right away. 

What? Determine your crops and products

You’ll just need to decide what products you want to grow, and what you have space for in your greenhouse. You could also make products like homemade tomato sauce that you package in jars. 

How much should you charge for greenhouse products?

Your prices will completely depend on the products you grow. You should check your local area for prices on similar items. You should aim for a profit margin of 60% when you’re working by yourself. 

Once you know your costs, you can use this Step By Step profit margin calculator to determine your mark-up and final price points. Remember, the prices you use at launch should be subject to change if warranted by the market.

Who? Identify your target market

Your target market will be broad, so you should spread out your marketing to include sites like TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook. 

Where to locate your greenhouse?

When choosing a location for a greenhouse business, several key factors must be taken into account.

First, consider the climate, land and soil quality, and the accessibility of the location. A suitable climate will reduce costs for climate control, while fertile land is essential for plant growth and greenhouse structure.

Easy access to transportation, employees, and customers is crucial for the success of your business.

Also, ensure that the area has access to resources like water, electricity, and natural gas, which are vital for maintaining greenhouse conditions.

Additionally, look into local zoning and regulations, infrastructure, orientation and topography, and the size of the land to accommodate your greenhouse and potential expansion.

Keep in mind the security and labor availability in the area, as well as the level of competition.

Lastly, ensure that the cost of the land, taxes, and other expenses align with your budget and business plan.

By carefully considering these factors, you can select an ideal location for your greenhouse business that promotes long-term success.

greenhouse business idea rating

Step 3: Brainstorm a Greenhouse Business Name

Here are some ideas for brainstorming your business name:

  • Short, unique, and catchy names tend to stand out
  • Names that are easy to say and spell tend to do better 
  • Name should be relevant to your product or service offerings
  • Ask around — family, friends, colleagues, social media — for suggestions
  • Including keywords, such as “greenhouse” or “greenhouse produce”, boosts SEO
  • Name should allow for expansion, for ex: “Blooming Botanicals” over “Cactus Kingdom”
  • A location-based name can help establish a strong connection with your local community and help with the SEO but might hinder future expansion

Once you’ve got a list of potential names, visit the website of the US Patent and Trademark Office to make sure they are available for registration and check the availability of related domain names using our Domain Name Search tool. Using “.com” or “.org” sharply increases credibility, so it’s best to focus on these. 

Finally, make your choice among the names that pass this screening and go ahead with domain registration and social media account creation. Your business name is one of the key differentiators that sets your business apart. Once you pick your company name, and start with the branding, it is hard to change the business name. Therefore, it’s important to carefully consider your choice before you start a business entity.

Step 4: Create a Greenhouse Business Plan

Here are the key components of a business plan:

what to include in a business plan
  • Executive Summary: A brief overview of the entire business plan, summarizing key aspects and goals.
  • Business Overview: Detailed information about the greenhouse business, including its mission, vision, and objectives.
  • Product and Services: Clear description of the greenhouse products and services offered, emphasizing their unique selling points.
  • Market Analysis: In-depth examination of the target market, including demographics, trends, and potential opportunities.
  • Competitive Analysis: Evaluation of competitors in the greenhouse industry, highlighting strengths and weaknesses.
  • Sales and Marketing: Strategies for promoting and selling greenhouse products, encompassing marketing channels, pricing, and sales tactics.
  • Management Team: Introduction to the individuals responsible for running the greenhouse business, outlining their roles and qualifications.
  • Operations Plan: Detailed plan on how the greenhouse will operate, covering production, logistics, and day-to-day activities.
  • Financial Plan: Comprehensive overview of the greenhouse’s financial projections, including revenue forecasts, expenses, and break-even analysis.
  • Appendix: Supplementary materials, such as additional data, charts, or documents supporting the information presented in the business plan.

If you’ve never created a business plan, it can be an intimidating task. You might consider hiring a business plan specialist to create a top-notch business plan for you.

Step 5: Register Your Business

Registering your business is an absolutely crucial step — it’s the prerequisite to paying taxes, raising capital, opening a bank account, and other guideposts on the road to getting a business up and running.

Plus, registration is exciting because it makes the entire process official. Once it’s complete, you’ll have your own business! 

Choose where to register your company

Your business location is important because it can affect taxes, legal requirements, and revenue. Most people will register their business in the state where they live, but if you’re planning to expand, you might consider looking elsewhere, as some states could offer real advantages when it comes to greenhouse businesses. 

If you’re willing to move, you could really maximize your business! Keep in mind, it’s relatively easy to transfer your business to another state. 

Choose your business structure

Business entities come in several varieties, each with its pros and cons. The legal structure you choose for your greenhouse business will shape your taxes, personal liability, and business registration requirements, so choose wisely. 

Here are the main options:

types of business structures
  • Sole Proprietorship – The most common structure for small businesses makes no legal distinction between company and owner. All income goes to the owner, who’s also liable for any debts, losses, or liabilities incurred by the business. The owner pays taxes on business income on his or her personal tax return.
  • General Partnership – Similar to a sole proprietorship, but for two or more people. Again, owners keep the profits and are liable for losses. The partners pay taxes on their share of business income on their personal tax returns.
  • Limited Liability Company (LLC) – Combines the characteristics of corporations with those of sole proprietorships or partnerships. Again, the owners are not personally liable for debts.
  • C Corp – Under this structure, the business is a distinct legal entity and the owner or owners are not personally liable for its debts. Owners take profits through shareholder dividends, rather than directly. The corporation pays taxes, and owners pay taxes on their dividends, which is sometimes referred to as double taxation.
  • S Corp – An S-Corporation refers to the tax classification of the business but is not a business entity. An S-Corp can be either a corporation or an LLC, which just need to elect to be an S-Corp for tax status. In an S-Corp, income is passed through directly to shareholders, who pay taxes on their share of business income on their personal tax returns.

We recommend that new business owners choose LLC as it offers liability protection and pass-through taxation while being simpler to form than a corporation. You can form an LLC in as little as five minutes using an online LLC formation service. They will check that your business name is available before filing, submit your articles of organization, and answer any questions you might have.

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Step 6: Register for Taxes

The final step before you’re able to pay taxes is getting an Employer Identification Number, or EIN. You can file for your EIN online or by mail or fax: visit the IRS website to learn more. Keep in mind, if you’ve chosen to be a sole proprietorship you can simply use your social security number as your EIN. 

Once you have your EIN, you’ll need to choose your tax year. Financially speaking, your business will operate in a calendar year (January–December) or a fiscal year, a 12-month period that can start in any month. This will determine your tax cycle, while your business structure will determine which taxes you’ll pay.

The IRS website also offers a tax-payers checklist, and taxes can be filed online.

It is important to consult an accountant or other professional to help you with your taxes to ensure you’re completing them correctly.

Step 7: Fund your Business

Securing financing is your next step and there are plenty of ways to raise capital:

types of business financing
  • Bank loans: This is the most common method but getting approved requires a rock-solid business plan and strong credit history.
  • SBA-guaranteed loans: The Small Business Administration can act as guarantor, helping gain that elusive bank approval via an SBA-guaranteed loan.
  • Government grants: A handful of financial assistance programs help fund entrepreneurs. Visit Grants.gov to learn which might work for you.
  • Friends and Family: Reach out to friends and family to provide a business loan or investment in your concept. It’s a good idea to have legal advice when doing so because SEC regulations apply.
  • Crowdfunding: Websites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo offer an increasingly popular low-risk option, in which donors fund your vision. Entrepreneurial crowdfunding sites like Fundable and WeFunder enable multiple investors to fund your business.
  • Personal: Self-fund your business via your savings or the sale of property or other assets.

Bank and SBA loans are probably the best option, other than friends and family, for funding a greenhouse business. You might also try crowdfunding if you have an innovative concept. 

Step 8: Apply for Greenhouse Business Licenses and Permits

Business Licenses and Permits

Starting a greenhouse business requires obtaining a number of licenses and permits from local, state, and federal governments.

Federal regulations, licenses, and permits associated with starting your business include doing business as (DBA), health licenses and permits from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), trademarks, copyrights, patents, and other intellectual properties, as well as industry-specific licenses and permits. 

You may also need state-level and local county or city-based licenses and permits. The license requirements and how to obtain them vary, so check the websites of your state, city, and county governments or contact the appropriate person to learn more. 

You could also check this SBA guide for your state’s requirements, but we recommend using MyCorporation’s Business License Compliance Package. They will research the exact forms you need for your business and state and provide them to ensure you’re fully compliant.

This is not a step to be taken lightly, as failing to comply with legal requirements can result in hefty penalties.

If you feel overwhelmed by this step or don’t know how to begin, it might be a good idea to hire a professional to help you check all the legal boxes.

Step 9: Open a Business Bank Account

Before you start making money, you’ll need a place to keep it, and that requires opening a bank account.

Keeping your business finances separate from your personal account makes it easy to file taxes and track your company’s income, so it’s worth doing even if you’re running your greenhouse business as a sole proprietorship. Opening a business bank account is quite simple, and similar to opening a personal one. Most major banks offer accounts tailored for businesses — just inquire at your preferred bank to learn about their rates and features.

Banks vary in terms of offerings, so it’s a good idea to examine your options and select the best plan for you. Once you choose your bank, bring in your EIN (or Social Security Number if you decide on a sole proprietorship), articles of incorporation, and other legal documents and open your new account. 

Step 10: Get Business Insurance

Business insurance is an area that often gets overlooked yet it can be vital to your success as an entrepreneur. Insurance protects you from unexpected events that can have a devastating impact on your business.

Here are some types of insurance to consider:

types of business insurance
  • General liability: The most comprehensive type of insurance, acting as a catch-all for many business elements that require coverage. If you get just one kind of insurance, this is it. It even protects against bodily injury and property damage.
  • Business Property: Provides coverage for your equipment and supplies.
  • Equipment Breakdown Insurance: Covers the cost of replacing or repairing equipment that has broken due to mechanical issues.
  • Worker’s compensation: Provides compensation to employees injured on the job.
  • Property: Covers your physical space, whether it is a cart, storefront, or office.
  • Commercial auto: Protection for your company-owned vehicle.
  • Professional liability: Protects against claims from a client who says they suffered a loss due to an error or omission in your work.
  • Business owner’s policy (BOP): This is an insurance plan that acts as an all-in-one insurance policy, a combination of the above insurance types.

Step 11: Prepare to Launch

Launching a Business

As opening day nears, prepare for launch by reviewing and improving some key elements of your business. 

Essential software and tools

Being an entrepreneur often means wearing many hats, from marketing to sales to accounting, which can be overwhelming. Fortunately, many websites and digital tools are available to help simplify many business tasks. 

You may want to use industry-specific software, such as et GROW, redbud, or Velosio, to manage your costs, inventory, ordering, invoices, and payments. 

Accounting

  • Popular web-based accounting programs for smaller businesses include Quickbooks, Freshbooks, and Xero
  • If you’re unfamiliar with basic accounting, you may want to hire a professional, especially as you begin. The consequences for filing incorrect tax documents can be harsh, so accuracy is crucial. 

Develop your website

Website development is crucial because your site is your online presence and needs to convince prospective clients of your expertise and professionalism.

You can create your own website using website builders. This route is very affordable, but figuring out how to build a website can be time-consuming. If you lack tech-savvy, you can hire a web designer or developer to create a custom website for your business.

They are unlikely to find your website, however, unless you follow Search Engine Optimization (SEO) practices. These are steps that help pages rank higher in the results of top search engines like Google. 

Marketing

Here are some powerful marketing strategies for your future business:

  • Professional Branding — Create a brand identity that reflects natural vitality and expertise in plant care, visible in your logo, signage, greenhouse design, and marketing materials.
  • Website Optimization — Develop a website that displays your plant catalog, care tips, and details about your services. Optimize your site for local searches with keywords related to gardening and greenhouse services.
  • Local SEO — Regularly update your Google My Business and Yelp profiles to strengthen your local search presence.
  • Social Media Engagement — Utilize Instagram and Facebook to post beautiful photos of your plants, share gardening tips, and announce new arrivals or events.
  • Content Marketing — Run a gardening blog with posts on plant care, greenhouse tips, and horticulture trends. Produce video tutorials covering topics like plant care and greenhouse tours.
  • Direct Outreach and Partnerships — Connect with local garden clubs, schools, and landscapers for educational partnerships and business opportunities. Collaborate with local businesses for cross-promotion.
  • Email Marketing — Send newsletters to update your customers on new plants, workshops, and seasonal gardening advice.
  • Experiential Marketing — Host gardening workshops and classes to attract visitors and demonstrate your expertise. Organize open house events for tours and direct plant sales.
  • Community Engagement — Participate in community gardening projects or school educational programs to enhance your visibility and contribute positively to the community.
  • Customer Loyalty Program — Implement a loyalty program that rewards repeat customers with discounts or special benefits.
  • Referral Incentives — Offer incentives for customers who refer new clients, enhancing your word-of-mouth marketing efforts.
  • Targeted Local Advertising — Advertise in local media, on community bulletin boards, and online, particularly during the key gardening seasons.
  • Seasonal Promotions — Run special promotions during peak gardening times and on holidays like Mother’s Day to attract more customers and boost sales.

Focus on USPs

unique selling proposition

Unique selling propositions, or USPs, are the characteristics of a product or service that sets it apart from the competition. Customers today are inundated with buying options, so you’ll have a real advantage if they are able to quickly grasp how your greenhouse business meets their needs or wishes. It’s wise to do all you can to ensure your USPs stand out on your website and in your marketing and promotional materials, stimulating buyer desire. 

Global pizza chain Domino’s is renowned for its USP: “Hot pizza in 30 minutes or less, guaranteed.” Signature USPs for your greenhouse business could be:

  • Fresh, organic produce straight from the greenhouse to your table
  • Healthy, organically grown plants to beautify your landscape
  • Start your vegetable garden with our young, healthy plants

Networking

You may not like to network or use personal connections for business gain. But your personal and professional networks likely offer considerable untapped business potential. Maybe that Facebook friend you met in college is now running a greenhouse business, or a LinkedIn contact of yours is connected to dozens of potential clients. Maybe your cousin or neighbor has been working in greenhouses for years and can offer invaluable insight and industry connections. 

The possibilities are endless, so it’s a good idea to review your personal and professional networks and reach out to those with possible links to or interest in greenhouses. You’ll probably generate new customers or find companies with which you could establish a partnership. 

Step 12: Build Your Team

Building a Team for a New Business

If you’re starting out small from a home office, you may not need any employees. But as your business grows, you will likely need workers to fill various roles. Potential positions for a greenhouse business include:

  • Greenhouse Workers – care for plants, make sales, customer service
  • General Manager – scheduling, ordering, accounting
  • Marketing Lead – SEO strategies, social media

At some point, you may need to hire all of these positions or simply a few, depending on the size and needs of your business. You might also hire multiple workers for a single role or a single worker for multiple roles, again depending on need. 

Free-of-charge methods to recruit employees include posting ads on popular platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook, or Jobs.com. You might also consider a premium recruitment option, such as advertising on Indeed, Glassdoor, or ZipRecruiter. Further, if you have the resources, you could consider hiring a recruitment agency to help you find talent. 

Step 13: Run a Greenhouse Business – Start Making Money!

Running a Business

If you’ve got a green thumb, a greenhouse business could be a fabulous opportunity for you to follow your passion and make good money at the same time. The greenhouse industry is booming as demand for healthy produce grows in a more health-conscious world. It does take a bit of investment and commitment to get started, but the returns are considerable. 

You understand the business side of things now, so you’re ready to start growing your way to entrepreneurial success!

Greenhouse Business FAQs

Is a greenhouse business profitable?

Yes, you can make a relatively good profit margin on greenhouse items. You just need to focus on growing high-quality items that a large market of people want to buy.

What should I grow to sell in my greenhouse?

The possibilities are endless since so many plants can grow well in a greenhouse. It’s probably best to specialize in either greenhouse produce or decorative plants that people will buy for their landscaping.

What is the most profitable greenhouse product?

The most profitable greenhouse product depends on factors such as location, demand, and market trends. Some popular greenhouse crops that can be profitable include tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, lettuce, and herbs.

What is the cheapest way to heat a greenhouse?

The cheapest way to heat a greenhouse is to use passive solar heating techniques such as insulation, thermal mass, and glazing. Additionally, you could consider using a wood-burning stove or a propane heater or installing a geothermal or solar heating system.

Does a greenhouse need sun all day?

A greenhouse does not necessarily need sun all day, but it does need sufficient light to support plant growth. Ideally, a greenhouse should receive at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day, although this can vary depending on the type of plants being grown and the climate in your area. 

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How to Start a Greenhouse Business