Selling Plants on Line, The Basics
Here in NY state, there are two essential bits of paperwork you need in order to do business. One is the certificate of authority which allows you to collect sales tax and the other is a nursery license issued by Agriculture and Markets. Selling without this license opens you to fines. In other states, check with state agencies to see what you need to do to be in business. The license is $100 for 2 years. An inspector comes and inspects your plants to make sure you are not trying to sell diseased or infested plants. They also check to make sure what the source of your plant material is so they can monitor whether or not you are bringing possible pests into the state. When selling seeds, there are certain things that must be on the label. The inspector will tell you what is needed.
Once the legalities are done, you can begin to sell. Local venues are ok, but I found them not to be very satisfactory. I live in a village and zoning prohibits a business in residential areas. I get around this by not selling from the property. I sell strictly on line. You can also do community events that allow you to sell for a "table" fee but I will be honest. It is a pain to do it this way. You have to lug all of the plants to the event along with enough water to keep them hydrated while they are there. Then, you hope you've sold enough to make the table fee, and then you drag them back home. It is much easier to sell on line using one or more of several venues.
There are several online venues and I suggest you use as many of them as possible. Online auctions such as eBay can be quite profitable. A site called Bonanza, although new to the market place, is showing promise in attracting customers. On Bonanza, it is free to list as many items as you wish. Customers can buy the item out right or make offers for your consideration. Bonanza takes a small fee when an item is sold. Your own website is also a possibility. If you are computer savvy and can build your own, that's great. I'm barely literate when it comes to computers and so chose a ProStore, a company of eBay, which provides a template to set up the site. I am not totally happy with the way the service is provided and may be changing to one of the free sites. With some template sites, you are charged a fee to have the site. There are also free website templates like eCrater which you only pay when you want an upgrade to get more features. EBay selling involves fees to list, fees taken when the item sells, and store fees if you have an eBay store. Prices for the products have to be high enough to cover the fees and still leave some left over to make you money. There are protections on eBay for buyers and sellers and once you've earned a reputation as a decent seller to deal with, more customers are attracted.
No matter what way you sell online, if you haven't all ready created a Paypal account, I highly suggest you do so. I like the convenience of it as well as the protection. Customers can pay with their accounts, their credit card or checking account, even without a Paypal account. It is essentially guaranteed money. You don't ship until the payment clears. They also charge a small fee per transaction but it is more than worth it. It is absolutely essential to have Paypal if plan to sell internationally. If you sell to someone in Europe, they pay with Euros and you get paid in dollars. Selling to the world increases customer base…by a lot. I've shipped seeds all over the world and sometimes, international sales outpace domestic ones. It definitely is a good idea to sell internationally. I will go into this aspect in depth in another article.
Whichever venue(s) you choose, spend some time investigating how other sellers set up their listings and what price they are asking for their plants and seeds. Then decide what you will ask for your products. What do you put in the listings? Information such as life cycle (annual, biennial, perennial), latin name, which USDA zones will it do well in (can be found on the web), a description of the plant and flowers, how tall will it grow, light, water, and soil requirements, and it's uses. Be careful not to diagnose or prescribe because many states will prosecute if they think you are practicing medicine or pharmacy without a license. Wording such as: "I've seen references", "traditionally used", or "personal experience" with the herb is ok. If the plant is poisonous or harmful in some way, that should be stated. I have a disclaimer, in all my listings, which clearly states use of the plant is the responsibility of the buyer.
One thing that is absolutely necessary when listing plants and seeds is pictures. Good pictures sell the plant for you. If it flowers, catch it in bloom. If it is just ornamental, catch it when it is at its best. Tomato pictures should include the whole tomato and one sliced open. There are sites on the web to obtain pictures but you shouldn't take someone's photos without their permission and particularly if they are copyrighted. All the selling sites I have mentioned have some way of uploading pictures. You can take regular photographs and scan them in or the easiest way is to have a digital camera. The photos can be manipulated in any way you wish, made larger, smaller, text included, etc, and they are easily uploaded to the sites.
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