Start a medicinal herbs business by following these 9 steps:
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 guide to starting your medicinal herbs business. These steps will ensure that your new business is well planned out, registered properly and legally compliant.
Check out our How to Start a Business page.
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 much can you charge customers?
- 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 medicinal herbs business?
The cost of starting this type of business differs greatly depending on the business model but there is a place in this industry for people with almost any budget.
The easiest and cheapest way to start this type of business is to purchase medicinal herbs through a wholesale distributor and then resell these herbs online. This type of setup would require getting the proper licenses, a website, bulk herbs, and packaging material. Someone could start this type of business for less than $300 if he or she already owns a computer. For only a little more money, someone can easily rent a booth at a farmers market or fair and sell directly to customers.
Opening a permanent store to sell medicinal herbs requires a person to have access to much more capital. The biggest expense is rent, which can be thousands of dollars a month. In addition, if someone wants to go this route, they will need to invest in inventory, store fittings, utilities, insurance, and everything else which comes with running a retail location. Potential medicinal herb business owners who are interested in operating a retail location may want to consider one of the medicinal herb retail franchises which are available.
The largest expense for those who decide to grow their own medicinal herbs is the land. Land costs vary depending on the location and the quality of the land. Potential business owners who do not currently own land may wish to rent land at first to save money. Besides the cost of the land, costs include seeds, tools, water, and labor. Greenhouses and polytunnels can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars, but can extend your growing season. In order to label herbs as "organic", growers need to apply for at least one certifying organization in the US for an organic certification. The certification process can cost up to $1500. Transporting products to market is an additional expense.
What are the ongoing expenses for a medicinal herbs business?
Depending on your business model, you will have to pay monthly for rent, utilities, seeds, inventory, and labor.
Who is the target market?
Medicinal herb businesses have several kinds of customers. The best retail customer is a person interested in living a natural, healthy lifestyle and already has experience with herbal medicine. A good wholesale customer is an established herbal medicine store which is looking to expand its product line. Herbal practitioners interested in earning more money by creating a white-label brand under their own name are great potential customers.
How does a medicinal herbs business make money?
Medicinal herbs business owners make money by selling herbs.
How much can you charge customers?
It depends on your product's quality, uniqueness, and where you choose to sell. Resellers who handle name-brand products can face stiff competition online which can drive down the prices customers will pay. Business owners with unique products have much more flexibility on setting their own prices.
How much profit can a medicinal herbs business make?
Growers can earn as much as $25 a square foot over the course of a year depending on the type of herbs they grow and the customer base. Medicinal herbs businesses which re-sell bulk herbs typically charge 30% or more over their costs.
How can you make your business more profitable?
Businesses which grow medicinal herbs can also plant culinary herbs to diversify their customer base. All owners of medicinal herbs businesses can create "value-added" products like herbal pillows and gift sets. Teaching classes in the proper use of herbs or on herb gardening is also a good way to increase profits.
What will you name your business?
Choosing the right name is important and challenging. If you don’t already have a name in mind, visit our How to Name a Business guide or get help brainstorming a name with our Medicinal Herbs Business Name Generator
When registering a business name, we recommend researching your business name by checking:
- Your state's business records
- Federal and state trademark records
- Social media platforms
- Web domain availability.
It's very important to secure your domain name before someone else does.
STEP 2: Form a legal entity
Establishing a legal business entity such as an LLC or corporation protects you from being held personally liable if your medicinal herbs business is sued.
Form Your LLC
Read our Guide to Form Your Own LLC
Recommended: You will need to elect a registered agent for your LLC. LLC formation packages usually include a free year of registered agent services. You can choose to hire a registered agent or act as your own.
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?.
Small Business Taxes
Depending on which business structure you choose, you might have different options for how your business will be taxed. For example, some LLCs could benefit from being taxed as an S corporation (S corp).
You can learn more about small business taxes in these guides:
There are specific state taxes that might apply to your business. Learn more about state sales tax and franchise taxes in our state sales tax guides.
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.
Additionally, learning how to build business credit can help you get credit cards and other financing in your business's name (instead of yours), better interest rates, higher lines of credit, and more.
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.
Recommended: Read our Best Banks for Small Business review to find the best national bank, credit union, business-loan friendly banks, one with many brick-and-mortar locations, and more.
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
In most states, it is necessary to obtain an herb business license. Certain state permits and licenses may be needed to operate a medicinal herb business. Learn more about licensing requirements in your state by visiting SBA’s reference to state licenses and permits.
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.
For more information about local licenses and permits:
- 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.
Certificate of Occupancy
A medicinal herb business is generally run out of a garden. 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 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 medicinal herb 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 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 medicinal herb business will be in compliance and able to obtain a CO.
When selling food, you will need licensing from a local health department; all establishments serving food are required to pass a health inspection. Tips for faring well on a health inspections
There are federal regulations regarding what can and cannot be added to, sold as, and processed with food. Attached is a resource from the Food and Drug Administration detailing the process of starting a food business: How to Start a Food Business
STEP 7: Get business insurance
Just as with licenses and permits, your business needs insurance in order to operate safely and lawfully. Business Insurance protects your company’s financial wellbeing in the event of a covered loss.
There are several types of insurance policies created for different types of businesses with different risks. If you’re unsure of the types of risks that your business may face, begin with General Liability Insurance. This is the most common coverage that small businesses need, so it’s a great place to start for your business.
Learn more about General Liability Insurance.
Another notable insurance policy that many businesses need is Workers’ Compensation Insurance. If your business will have employees, it’s a good chance that your state will require you to carry Workers' Compensation Coverage.
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.
If you aren't feeling confident about designing your small business logo, then check out our Design Guides for Beginners, we'll give you helpful tips and advice for creating the best unique logo for your business.
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How to promote & market a medicinal herbs business
The best way to market a medicinal herbs business which sells straight to individuals is to provide information about the benefits of medicinal herbs. You may wish to do this online, through articles and websites, or in person by giving talks and hosting classes on herbal remedies. You should contact large companies directly if you plan to sell wholesale.
How to keep customers coming back
Become part of the community by being a resource for more than your products, but for your knowledge as well. Since this industry is part of healthcare, customer service is especially important.
STEP 9: Create your business website
After defining your brand and creating your logo the next step is to create a website for your business.
While creating a website is an essential step, some may fear that it’s out of their reach because they don’t have any website-building experience. While this may have been a reasonable fear back in 2015, web technology has seen huge advancements in the past few years that makes the lives of small business owners much simpler.
Here are the main reasons why you shouldn’t delay building your website:
- All legitimate businesses have websites - full stop. The size or industry of your business does not matter when it comes to getting your business online.
- Social media accounts like Facebook pages or LinkedIn business profiles are not a replacement for a business website that you own.
- Website builder tools like the GoDaddy Website Builder have made creating a basic website extremely simple. You don’t need to hire a web developer or designer to create a website that you can be proud of.
Using our website building guides, the process will be simple and painless and shouldn’t take you any longer than 2-3 hours to complete.
Start A Medicinal Herbs Business In Your State
Select your state below for an in-depth guide on completing each of these steps in your home state.
Is this Business Right For You?
The owner of a medicinal herbal business should have a background in using herbs as a medicine, even if they are not a certified herbalist. Owners who plan on growing their own medicinal herbs need a background in gardening and enough land to grow herbs. All owners should be open and care about people, and they should have a desire to give back to their communities, but the industry also requires a shrewd business sense to stay profitable.
Want to know if you are cut out to be an entrepreneur?
Take our Entrepreneurship Quiz to find out!
What happens during a typical day at a medicinal herbs business?
Herbal medicinal business owners spend much of their time handling marketing and sales. This may mean working in a store or creating websites and running ads to sell online. Medicinal herb business owners which grow their own herbs will spend a good portion on their days planting, tending to, and harvesting herbs. Those owners which buy wholesale will need to talk with suppliers, order supplies, and repackage herbs.
What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful medicinal herbs business?
The owner of a medicinal herbs company needs to have an understanding of the proper use of medicinal herbs. This does not mean that everyone who owns this type of company needs to be a certified herbal practitioner, but this would certainly help. Owners who grow their own herbs need to have an adequate level of gardening skills and knowledge. All owners of this type of business need to know how to run a retail or wholesale operation and have some experience with marketing.
What is the growth potential for a medicinal herbs business?
There is a massive growth of natural products and healthier alternatives to more common medical issues in the US. This will mean there will be a higher demand for medicinal herbs in the future.
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Take the Next Step
Find a business mentor
One of the greatest resources an entrepreneur can have is quality mentorship. As you start planning your business, connect with a free business resource near you to get the help you need.
Having a support network in place to turn to during tough times is a major factor of success for new business owners.
Resources to Help Women in Business
There are many resources out there specifically for women entrepreneurs. We’ve gathered necessary and useful information to help you succeed both professionally and personally:
If you’re a woman looking for some guidance in entrepreneurship, check out this great new series Women in Business created by the women of our partner Startup Savant.
What are some insider tips for jump starting a medicinal herbs business?
Do enough research to learn about the current demand for medicinal herbs in your local area or the area where you plan to sell. Ensure that you actually have a viable market before investing in purchasing or growing herbs. Once you have a good sense of who your customers will be, start off small. Avoid a financial disaster by building your business slowly.
How and when to build a team
Larger retail and growing operations will require employees. Make sure when hiring new employees they share your vision and dedication to herbal medicine. Consider hiring long-time customers as employees if they show interest.