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Advice on starting a permaculture landscaping business

 
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Hello, all! I have this growing desire to start a permaculture landscape business. What I mean is: I want to start a landscape company that makes urban (or not so urban) residential landscapes more sustainable and edible. Currently I am working as a landscaper. I've never started a business before, much less a permaculture business. I wonder if there is any demand in my area for edible Landscapes, food forests, restoring the soil, composting, water harvesting.

Has anybody done anything of this sort before? How did you get started? What equipment did you use? How did you find clients? Did you have to educate people in order for them to want something other than an ornamental landscape?
 
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Some general thoughts and questions for you.

1) How are you defining urban ? In the US this typically means the inner city ... there isn't much land here which isn't owned by the "public"
2) a permaculture business isn't any different than a normal business ... it has simply chosen to adhere to permaculture ethics and principles.
3) To find demand why not try asking people or canvasing areas you think you will work in to see what reactions you get ... you don't need to own a business to determine if there is demand first.
4) Realize most people won't know what permaculture is or even care to know ... don't use this word less the client already knows it, seriously. Rebrand it as something else that targets your market.  "Would you be interested in landscape which is functional and feeds you?" "Do you want a little oasis you can retreat to in the city (this for those fortunate to own a balcony or a small plot of sand behind their row home) to escape to after coming home from work" etc etc ...

You can "sell" permaculture and have an ethics base company without "selling" the word ...

On that note I would find other local small business owners ... create a business plan, present it to them, etc ... you could run it past jack spirko if you want a no-nonsense response. He also has a couple podcasts on the topic of "permaculture businesses" ... if your concern is the business side of it start there while trying to find your niche.

For the latter you need to ask yourself "what would people who interested in XYZ also do" and then target those activities if it makes sense to find clients. Example: ... lets say you are targeting upper middle class city moms who live in a townhouse which have small postage stamp back yards where the HOA doesn't care what they do ... then find what activities they do ... do they do spin classes, farmers markets, wine tasting, etc ... know your target audience then go to their social events and introduce yourself that way to future clients.
 
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Nate Hornbrook wrote:I wonder if there is any demand in my area for edible Landscapes, food forests, restoring the soil, composting, water harvesting.


I think this is your place to start. As a landscaper you probably have (or could acquire) info on who your clients would be, what kind of demand there would be, and how you could access this client base. There's no point starting a business if you have no clients, no interest, or if your potential clients can't pay you.
If you live in a place with water shortages, water harvesting could be a hot topic. If you live in a place where fruit is appreciated and grows well, and you have an active farmers market (showing interest in food) that might be a way to access people interested in planting their own food forests and maybe buying fruit tree starts. Talking to people buying seedlings in spring could give you ideas of how people are already growing (and what they might be open to trying).
Is the area developing, with new houses being built? Or are people moving out to your area in the country to start homesteads? Both offer very different opportunities.

I run two businesses and I'm a strong believer in market intelligence. It stops you from wasting time, effort and money pursuing things that won't get you a return. First, assess the environment. Then your potential clients, then the market need. Not to say that if your market is a buy-big-ag-starts-and-toxic-gick-from-home-depot place that you need to do the same, but meaning that you need to think about your clients and meet them in a place where they feel comfortable enough to give you money, and maybe even try something new.
 
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I've been landscaping my dad's front yard in the city and getting constant compliments from passers-by.  My dad lives on a cul-de-sac, so there isn't much traffic.  I think a few projects in prominent areas could garner plenty of business.  I think the key will be the ability to blend the permaculture design with the feeling of the rest of the neighborhood, so it doesn't look awkwardly out of place.

https://permies.com/t/128295/permaculture-projects/Urban-permaculture-project-San-Antonio
 
pollinator
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I've been thinking of doing the same thing. More on a larger scale for folks with larger properties. Installing swales, ponds and so on. I still need to buy a rotating laser transit and use in conjunction with my excavator.. Plus I have a degree in Horticultural practices and am starting a permaculture food forest nursery here at home. I just need to work on advertising etc...
 
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Nate Hornbrook wrote:Hello, all! I have this growing desire to start a permaculture landscape business. What I mean is: I want to start a landscape company that makes urban (or not so urban) residential landscapes more sustainable and edible. Currently I am working as a landscaper. I've never started a business before, much less a permaculture business. I wonder if there is any demand in my area for edible Landscapes, food forests, restoring the soil, composting, water harvesting.

Has anybody done anything of this sort before? How did you get started? What equipment did you use? How did you find clients? Did you have to educate people in order for them to want something other than an ornamental landscape?



Nate, I’ve had this same idea recently as well! I have never done landscaping for money though, just work on my own property. I’m curious, where are you located and how is this coming along? Please keep us updated!
 
Nate Hornbrook
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Brody Ekberg wrote:
Nate, I’ve had this same idea recently as well! I have never done landscaping for money though, just work on my own property. I’m curious, where are you located and how is this coming along? Please keep us updated!



Thanks for asking Brody! Everyone's comments are really helping me think this through. I live in Lynchburg, VA and after taking with several people in my area, I have come up with a plan. What do you think?

I would do a soft launch selling and building herb spirals. Herb spirals are inovative in my area and I think they would be easy to sell as beautiful and efficient raised bed gardens. As I am building relationships with clients, I hope to sell other ideas to them such as edible landscapes and food forests and rain water harvesting etc. My dream job right now would be to have mostly local clients that are so close I could walk or ride my bike to their house and we create a friendly neighborhood community around growing and sharing food... but not sure how realistic that is yet.

We bought a house in August and so we are just getting started growing a food forest and herb spiral at my own house. So I don't think I'll be able to quit my job this year and fully launch a business but instead it'll be a side hustle for a while (unless demand for my services explodes).

What do you think? Am I missing anything?

Bonus question: would a door-to-door survey be a good idea to measure the interest in my neighborhood or should I just go door-to-door selling the herbal spirals?
 
Tereza Okava
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Door to door anything scares the patootie out of me. I think you would get a lot better mileage seeing if you could build (and maintain) a spiral in a public place with lots of visibility-- library yard, daycare center yard, etc. Maybe even a house yard, somewhere visible. Make up a nice sign with your info. A great way to meet people in your new community too. Generally, people are pretty open to this sort of thing if they don't have to do the work.
 
D. Nelson
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With the possible pandemic spread of Corona virus, many folks are going to avoid contact with strangers at their doors. I'd make some flyers and door hangers promoting your business.
 
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Since you mentioned that you hope to stay in your neighborhood, you can also make a post on FB marketplace and target your area, and then there is the local craigslist, too. There is also something called nextdoor.com which allows people in an area to communicate with one another. Lynchburg is likely a part of it. You can post there to allow your neighborhood to know what you are offering. I don't know the rules since I don't belong to it, but it may be worth looking into to see if there is some way to make a service offer/ business post.
Good luck with your venture- it sounds like a great idea!
 
Brody Ekberg
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Nate Hornbrook wrote:

Brody Ekberg wrote:
Nate, I’ve had this same idea recently as well! I have never done landscaping for money though, just work on my own property. I’m curious, where are you located and how is this coming along? Please keep us updated!



Thanks for asking Brody! Everyone's comments are really helping me think this through. I live in Lynchburg, VA and after taking with several people in my area, I have come up with a plan. What do you think?

I would do a soft launch selling and building herb spirals. Herb spirals are inovative in my area and I think they would be easy to sell as beautiful and efficient raised bed gardens. As I am building relationships with clients, I hope to sell other ideas to them such as edible landscapes and food forests and rain water harvesting etc. My dream job right now would be to have mostly local clients that are so close I could walk or ride my bike to their house and we create a friendly neighborhood community around growing and sharing food... but not sure how realistic that is yet.

We bought a house in August and so we are just getting started growing a food forest and herb spiral at my own house. So I don't think I'll be able to quit my job this year and fully launch a business but instead it'll be a side hustle for a while (unless demand for my services explodes).

What do you think? Am I missing anything?

Bonus question: would a door-to-door survey be a good idea to measure the interest in my neighborhood or should I just go door-to-door selling the herbal spirals?



I think you’ve got yourself a pretty cool thing going! I really dont think any door to door tactics would be necessary or even preferable. I agree with local craigs list, facebook groups, flyers posted in public places...and i like the idea that was mentioned of trying to build one at a public library or something similar.

I am super curious how it goes for you now that you bought a house. When we bought ours, I was full of passion and inspiration and didnt realize how expensive (to both buy and maintain!) a house is. It sucks up a lot of my time and as of now, I need my full time job to pay for it along with other debts. We too want to grow a food forest at our house, but it has been kind of lagging with everything else going on. I intend on planting trees this spring, but we also need a roof and windows, so we will see!
 
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