If you have ever wanted to grow mushrooms to save money buying them, you might also consider growing them as a small start-up business. Once you learn the basics of mushroom cultivation, it does not take much more effort or training to grow them in sufficient quantities to market and sell. Because mushrooms remain in high demand and command many dollars per pound, you can sell them to wholesalers or offer them at retail prices and make a hefty profit.
Establish buyer accounts with retail markets such as local grocery stores known to work with local growers, farmers' markets or restaurants. Retail markets will charge either a shelf fee for your product, a commission on each sale, or they might purchase the product outright.
Register accounts at food co-op websites like Skagitvalleyfoodcoop.com or Puget Sound Food Network (see resources), and schedule times to market your product line to vendors and distributors.
Establish buyer accounts with local wholesale markets such restaurant owners or retailers wanting to carry a new product line. Wholesale customer require deep discounts, but they purchase in bulk. They also require consistent delivery of products.
Obtain recipes to broaden your product base to include mushroom sauces and dried mushrooms. Although you will want to market your fresh products, you can create more sales with a larger product line.
Obtain a tax ID number for your business, commonly known as an employer identification number (EIN) by visiting IRS.gov and completing online form SS-4. You will receive your EIN immediately, and with it you can report your business income for tax purposes.
Obtain your sales tax ID number by visiting the directory of state government sales tax departments at SkipMcgrath.com. Click your state to go to the appropriate state government website, and apply for your sales tax number by completing the online Retailers' Sales Compensating Use and Withholding Taxes form. You will receive your sales tax number immediately, and you can use it to establish vendor accounts, so you don't have to pay sales tax on item or ingredients used for resale products.
Choose a name for your business by visiting website like Bizfiling.com or Mycorporation.com to determine the availability of your business name. To encourage initial sales, the business name should consist of a unique, catchy, customer-friendly name that clearly identifies your product.
Visit your city hall to obtain your local licensing and permits that include fictitious name permit, local operating license, health department license and sales tax license. The fictitious name permit allows you to operate your mushroom business under the name you've chosen, and the local operating license allows you to conduct business from a location within the city limits. You need a health department license to sell food, and you can use your sales tax identification to obtain your local sales tax license.
Establish a location for mushroom cultivation, knowing that it should allow high humidity levels of 95 to 100 per cent and near total darkness. Starting temperatures must remain at 21.1 degrees Celsius, and general cultivation temperature should remain at 10 to 12.8 degrees Celsius.
Decide what types of mushrooms you want to grow, knowing that shiitake mushrooms provide an acceptable meat substitute for vegetarians and provide relatively easy cultivation. White button mushrooms offer a popular option for mushroom sellers, and portabello mushrooms require lengthy cultivation times as they represent the final stage of portobellini mushrooms.
Purchase your operating and growing supplies that include heating pads, growing pots, fertiliser, spray bottles, garden shears, food-grade packaging, cellophane wrapping, 8 1/2- by 11-inch sheets of price stickers, laser or inkjet printer, a thermometer and a portable humidifier with automatic humidity monitoring.
Purchase your spores or spawns either online at Earthstongue.com, Sporestore.com or Naturalmushrooms.com. Spores consist of the equivalent of mushroom seeds, and spawns consist of young mushrooms already growing.
Purchase or prepare your growing mediums, which can include "grow logs" for shiitake mushrooms or shallow 2-inch or four-inch ceramic bowls for white button mushrooms or portobello mushrooms.
Place the spores in the grow log or ceramic bowls, and heat them to 21.1 degrees Celsius using the heating pad. Allow them to heat for approximately three weeks.
Move the growing medium to the location designated as the growing location. It must remain between 10 and 12.8 degrees Celsius at near total-dark conditions.
Allow the mushrooms to cultivate for three to four weeks.
Harvest the mushrooms when the mushroom umbrellas form fully and the hood clears the stem.
Package and prepare for your markets.
For the best chance to make your business successful, you need to start by developing your markets. Establishing your markets represents a "Go - No-go" situation. If you can't develop any, you must stop (no-go) your business preparation and do something else. If you can successfully establish markets for your products, you can proceed (go) with establishing your business. If you establish your business, grow your mushrooms and then try to market your harvest products, you might find establishing markets impossible, and you will have wasted a lot of money and time.
Tips and warnings
- For the best chance to make your business successful, you need to start by developing your markets. Establishing your markets represents a "Go - No-go" situation. If you can't develop any, you must stop (no-go) your business preparation and do something else. If you can successfully establish markets for your products, you can proceed (go) with establishing your business. If you establish your business, grow your mushrooms and then try to market your harvest products, you might find establishing markets impossible, and you will have wasted a lot of money and time.
- Myco Masters: Mushroom Growing
- The National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service: Mushroom Cultivation and Marketing
- Start-up Biz Hub: Start a Mushroom Farm
- Small Business Findlaw: Starting a Business: License and Permit Checklist
- Univesity of Maryland Extension: Shiitake Mushrooms Production and Marketing