You have found the perfect business idea, and now you are ready to take the next step. There is more to starting a business than just registering it with the state. We have put together this simple step guide to starting your community garden. These steps will ensure that your new business is well planned out, registered properly and legally compliant.
STEP 1: Plan your Business
A clear plan is essential for success as an entrepreneur. It will help you map out the specifics of your business and discover some unknowns. A few important topics to consider are:
- What are the startup and ongoing costs?
- Who is your target market?
- How long it will take you to break even?
- What will you name your business?
Luckily we have done a lot of this research for you.
What are the costs involved in opening a community garden?
A community garden’s startup costs are between $3,750 to $7,500. Costs include establishing the garden near a source of water, maintaining city fees, insurance and contractor wages. A large community garden can even cost as much as $30,000.
What are the ongoing expenses for a community garden?
Every community garden needs liability insurance, which can cost between $750 and $2,000 per year. Any plots not maintained by members can be maintained at about $50 to $100 per year. Monthly rent can be between $2,000 and $4,000, depending on the lot’s size and location.
Who is the target market?
The best community garden clients are those with a deep understanding of plants, fruits, vegetables, and gardening. While community gardens frequently help customers maintain their growths, improper care can damage the overall garden. Customers should be respectable to the area, have a basic understanding of wildlife, and be trusted with ongoing sanctuary access.
How does a community garden make money?
A community garden thrives on its community members. Typically, they make money through ongoing memberships. These memberships can either be basic or provide ongoing gardening supplies. Additional revenue opportunities exist in gardening shops, seed shops, classes, and similar visitation experiences. Some community gardens have wildlife tours, wherein members can pay a fee to access beehive grounds, bird feeding grounds, and similar areas.
How much can you charge customers?
Community garden customers can be charged between $25 and $50 a year. This price varies depending on their plot size, however. If you want to sell seeds, you can charge between $2 and $15 per packet, depending on the size.
How much profit can a community garden make?
If a community garden is smart about maintaining memberships and selling produce, it can make as much as $50,000 per year in revenue. This number varies from garden to garden, however. If the community garden exists in a highly-populated urban development, rent costs can be higher. Also, expenses vary on a year-to-year basis. Having a sustainable food operation depends on the local economy, as does a lot’s ability to market and retain members.
How can you make your business more profitable?
When possible, give members an incentive to sell their produce. If a community garden can distribute produce for profit, it’ll generate a lot more revenue. Scaling a community garden can be difficult, but food spending power is typically high. Make sure any distributed produce follows a competitive weight selling standard.
What will you name your business?
Choosing the right name is very important. We recommend checking if the business name you choose is available as a web domain and securing it early so no one else can take it.
STEP 2: Form a legal entity
Establishing a legal business entity such as an LLC prevents you from being personally liable if your community garden is sued. There are many business structures to choose from including: Corporations, LLC's, and DBA's.
You should also consider using a registered agent service to help protect your privacy and stay compliant.
For most small businesses forming an LLC is a great option, but if you still want to weigh all your options check our our article, What Structure Should I Choose for My Business?
STEP 3: Register for taxes
You will need to register for a variety of state and federal taxes before you can open for business.
In order to register for taxes you will need to apply for an EIN. It's really easy and free!
You can acquire your EIN for free through the IRS website, via fax, or by mail. If you would like to learn more about EINs and how they can benefit your LLC, read our article, What is an EIN?.
STEP 4: Open a business bank account & credit card
Using dedicated business banking and credit accounts is essential for personal asset protection.
When your personal and business accounts are mixed, your personal assets (your home, car, and other valuables) are at risk in the event your business is sued. In business law, this is referred to as piercing your corporate veil.
Open a business bank account
- This separates your personal assets from your company's assets, which is necessary for personal asset protection.
- It also makes accounting and tax filing easier.
Get a business credit card
- This helps you separate personal and business expenses by putting your business' expenses all in one place.
- It also builds your company's credit history, which can be useful to raise money and investment later on.
STEP 5: Set up business accounting
Recording your various expenses and sources of income is critical to understanding the financial performance of your business. Keeping accurate and detailed accounts also greatly simplifies your annual tax filing.
STEP 6: Obtain necessary permits and licenses
Failure to acquire necessary permits and licenses can result in hefty fines, or even cause your business to be shut down.
State & Local Business Licensing Requirements
Certain state permits and licenses may be needed to operate a travel photography business.
Learn more about licensing requirements in your state by visiting SBA’s reference to state licenses and permits.
In addition, certain local licensing or regulatory requirements may apply.
- Check with your town, city or county clerk’s office
Get assistance from one of the local associations listed in US Small Business Associations directory of local business resources.
Most businesses are required to collect sales tax on the goods or services they provide. To learn more about how sales tax will affect your business, read our article, Sales Tax for Small Businesses.
Certificate of Occupancy
A community garden business is generally run out of a vacant plot of land. Businesses operating out of a physical location typically require a Certificate of Occupancy (CO). A CO confirms that all building codes, zoning laws and government regulations have been met.
- If you plan to lease a community garden location:
- It is generally the landlord’s responsibility to obtain a CO.
- Before leasing, confirm that your landlord has or can obtain a valid CO that is applicable to a community garden business.
- After a major renovation, a new CO often needs to be issued. If your place of business will be renovated before opening, it is recommended to include language in your lease agreement stating that lease payments will not commence until a valid CO is issued.
- If you plan to purchase or build a community garden location:
- You will be responsible for obtaining a valid CO from a local government authority.
- Review all building codes and zoning requirements for your business’ location to ensure your community garden business will be in compliance and able to obtain a CO.
STEP 7: Get Business Insurance
Insurance is highly recommended for all business owners. If you hire employees, workers compensation insurance may be a legal requirement in your state.
STEP 8: Define your brand
Your brand is what your company stands for, as well as how your business is perceived by the public. A strong brand will help your business stand out from competitors.
How to promote & market a community garden
You should find volunteers. A community garden’s promotion and marketing surround its membership program. These volunteers should have leaders, and these leaders should promote the community garden in nearby fundraising events, book fairs, school events, and in gardening supply stores.
Recommended: Get started with local advertising for your business with a $300 credit from Yelp.
How to keep customers coming back
You’ll attract customers by creating easy sign-up opportunities. Send emails and brochures to local clubs. If volunteers are arriving, teach them about gardening via workshops. A lot of community garden members are one-time growers. To retain these one-time clients, you’ll need to give them many harvesting opportunities. Tap into existing organizations, reach out to civil groups, school classes, and Scout groups.
STEP 9: Establish your Web Presence
A business website allows customers to learn more about your company and the products or services you offer. You can also use social media to attract new clients or customers.
Start A Community Garden In Your State
Select your state below for an in-depth guide on completing each of these steps in your home state.
Any individual who enjoys gardening, running a garden, planting or harvesting crops is perfect for a community garden. Individuals who live in urban areas, too, are a good fit. Because community gardens can exist in urban or rural areas, those who thrive in crowded areas may find a home in a community garden. A successful community garden owner loves exploring the many variations of seeds, plants, and gardening options. Additionally, community garden owners can become part of The American Community Garden Association.
What happens during a typical day at a community garden?
A community garden owner needs to maintain the community garden’s lot. A lot owner must cultivate healthy growing regions, assisting members with their own plant growths, harvests, and creative gardening processes. On a day-to-day basis, garden owners must maintain educational signage across the garden, rotate crops, prepare for seasonal weather, handle vertical planting, handle composting, and save seeds. Other various jobs include handling bees, birds, and other small animals which can pollinate the area. Of course, administrative jobs like management, financial preparation, and marketing also apply.
What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful community garden?
Understanding which fruits and vegetables grow together can pay off. The ideal community garden will be arranged and maintained to promote plant synergy. A community garden is an organic establishment, so you’ll need to maintain the premises by taking care of the garden’s individual lots. A successful community garden will also have a lot of growing options, membership options, and seasonal highlights. Too few community gardens offer deals which can capitalize different growing months.
What is the growth potential for a community garden?
If a community garden is one of the area’s only community gardens, it can expect to grow quite a bit in popularity. Because it’s an experience, rather than a product-selling business, community garden ownership will be restricted in terms of scale. It’s possible to become a preferred provider in an area, but owners shouldn’t expect to expand beyond their area. Community gardens are similar to parks. While communities can plant and take their own vegetables and plants, their growth is contingent on constant visitation.
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Having a support network in place to turn to during tough times is a major factor of success for new business owners.
What are some insider tips for jump starting a community garden?
As the garden’s organizer, you’ll need to create a space which is maintainable through small costs. Gardening is hard work, and it costs money to create growing options. Start small, offer a variety of growing options and develop a vision. Hold open meetings about the garden’s goal, and discover your garden’s main growing sections up front. Will you product food? Will you teach members about food? Or, will your garden exclusively offer growing areas for flowers?
How and when to build a team
From the get-go, you’ll need to rely on volunteers to maintain the garden. Fortunately, a community garden can eventually be run by one to three people. Because a lot of a garden’s upkeep is completed by the members, work-side needs can be surprisingly low. That said, you’ll need to have a solid team to maintain the premises during off hours. As your community garden grows, it might be advantageous to hire more workers for seasonal harvesting times.