Question for anyone in the plant business

MojaveLove(5 - IL)December 19, 2011

I didn't know where else to ask this question lol - I know a few of you on here are currently or in the past have been involved professionally with plants. Over the last two years or so, like everyone else here, plants have become my hobby and passion. I'm young and still in my entry-level job almost 5 years later. I'm in Marketing and act as a manger. I started out with an internship in Chicago and have grown up around this industry my whole life so I've got a lot of exposure to it. Anyway my question is, is it possible for me to move into plants as a profession? Right now I'm in wholesale but it has to do with chemicals.

How exactly would I do that? I would like to hear all thoughts. First of all I wouldn't know what exactly I would be looking for. There are nurseries of course, but there are also companies that rent to businesses. Is there an association that many professionals belong to that have trade shows and whatnot?

I have zero background with this kind of thing but I don't know how in demand these kinds of jobs are either. I know the floral business is huge but I know nothing about the regular plant business or if they're considered the same. I was thinking about volunteering with the county forest preserve, they have a few restorations going on. At least get something in my background. Of course, I would be willing to do something else other than Marketing but since that is my background I'm assuming that this is what I would be looking for.

I don't know anyone that has plants as their hobby or that is in it professionally so I came here.

Thanks for helping me!! :)

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MojaveLove, if you are good in your field, you will probably do very well in the Sales Section of a full service landscape company.
It will involve knowledge of plants which grow well in the area in which you plan to work. Very often this body of knowledge is available as company information and if you are willing to work at it diligently, you could function effectively in 3 months.
You mention chemicals. If you mean agricultural/horticultural chemicals, then you may be able to obtain state certification as a Pest Control Operator. This involves passing an exam (you really have to work at this one!) and maybe work with a Pest Control company for a year or three.

    Bookmark   December 19, 2011 at 5:32PM
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In this economy, I'd definitely recommend being cautious about giving up a steady job, especially since sometimes something that seems fun as a hobby becomes tedious as a job. Maybe you could "start small" by doing things like selling plants/cuttings on ebay, etsy, or craigslist as a way of earning money on the side with plants before you quit your current job.

    Bookmark   December 19, 2011 at 6:50PM
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Stush2049 Pitts. PA, zone 6

Check out the nurseries on the internet like Bob Smoley's Garden World, or Glasshouse Works, find their phone numbers and call them for advise. I bet they tell you it is a down hill business. What with the big box stores selling plants so cheap. And some nurseries are buying from China in bulk to resell to grocery chains and so. I saw some places close up due to this. It is hard. I don't want to bust your dreams. Maybe you got something to make it. Hope so. Good luck.

    Bookmark   December 24, 2011 at 5:36PM
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zzackey(8b GA)

In Florida there is an association called FGNA.I think it stands for Florida Garden and Nursery Assocations They have yearly trade shows. If you can afford it, you could hire on at the lowest level in a wholesale nursery to learn alot. I was basically grunt labor when I did that. I was given phone sales a few months later which was alot easier. I learned alot and started my own business. Good Luck!

    Bookmark   December 25, 2011 at 1:13AM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

There are several organizations in your state, each with a different emphasis. You might look into, for example, the Illinois Green Industry Association.

You should also make contact with your University of Illinois. The horticulture department enjoys a very nice national reputation.

Gaining some excellent education in this field will not only open some employment doors for you, but expose you the the various types of interesting work out there.

    Bookmark   December 25, 2011 at 4:30PM
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zzackey(8b GA)

If you have the time you could take the Master Gardener course. It took me 6 or 8 weeks to complete it. I learned alot from it and I'm still learning alot. That would look good on an application. You do need to be able to give back a certain amount of volunteer hours in a year's time. I had to give back 75 hours Good luck! Please keep us posted about what you end up doing.

    Bookmark   December 26, 2011 at 12:40PM
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Mojave. A great idea, but I agree w/Stush.

When I worked at Rentokil, 'which dwelt in retail, wholesale and rental,) I met several people who opened nursery shops. Bonsai, tropicals, succulents, and hardy plants.

The last I heard, only one man is around, and he's not doing well. He sells bonsais and bonsai supplies. I ran into him at Navy Pier Flower Show. He told me he sells more supplies than plants.

Like Stush said, there's so much competition. Home Depot, Lowes, etc, orders large quantities, therefore the cost of one plant is less expensive than the same plant would cost in a smaller shop, 'eg Florists, gift shops.'

In order to make a profit, 'over-head, employees,' a plant in a smaller shop would have to be sold 3 times more than, let's say, Home Depot. Walk in a florist some time, check out their prices.

Also, since you're from Chicago, you may know large green houses that have been around a little over 100-years closed their doors.
Bo, which was located on Pulaski and Central shut down after 106 yrs. Both Jamacan Garden locations closed. Sid's shut their doors this year, 2011. There are others, too. All 3 locations were around a little over 100 years. Ted's in Tinley Park is the only green house left, and business is dwindling.

Opening a nursery is a dream job, but of what I heard, a big headache, and most likely, a financial loss.
Moreso, if you put a large amount of money into it.

Warmer states might work, but I imagine the competition is unbelievable. Not only big box stores, but smaller shops that's been around for years have customers who shop at these places religiously.

They're usually seeking volunteers at Botanical Gardens, Oak Park Conservatory and Garfield Park Conservatory. Volunteers w/o pay.
But, you never know if you volunteered long enough you might eventually be hired, but the waiting list could take years. Still, it never hurts to check. Good luck.


    Bookmark   December 27, 2011 at 3:37PM
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