A plant nursery, even a small one, takes preparation. A plant nursery sells customers established trees and plants. You need to invest time and money into a small nursery business before you can make a profit. After planting, waiting for plants and trees to grow may take a year or more. As an alternative, some small nurseries purchase plants from large commercial growers or nurseries. If you don't have your own inventory upfront, this option allows you to get your small nursery started right away selling plants.
Become an expert in plants. This may be necessary if you want to get financing from outside sources. Work as a landscaper to gain experience. Get a degree or take classes in horticulture. Contact your state's extension service about a Master Gardener program. As a designated Master Gardener, you have access to more local communities and people who buy plants.
Draft a business plan. Determine whether you will specialise in certain types of plants. Some smaller nurseries sell only perennials, trees, lilies or peonies, for example. Write a business plan that explains specifically your goals, marketing strategy and future expansion plans for your business.
Inspect the land where you intend to plant your nursery inventory. Determine whether you have enough space to grow your plants. To keep things small, start out investing in certain types of plants at first. Install a watering system if needed. Factor into your business plan the cost of keeping pests away and whether you want to grow your plants organically or with chemicals.
Contact your local county or city clerk's office to find out which permits and licenses you need to sell trees and plants, especially if you are starting a small home-based business. In some states, rural nurseries don't need licenses. You need to register your business and business name, however, with the Secretary of State's office. You'll need to obtain building permits for all farm or greenhouse structures you construct.
Purchase your supplies and inventory. Buy various nursery containers, gardening tools, trees and plants and fertilisers. Purchase a small amount of inventory from other growers to sell to your customers, if necessary. Indicate to customers which plants you grew and which ones were pre-bought in case there are problems with disease or pests in the future.
Advertise your small nursery business. Develop marketing materials once your plants have grown to mature size or you have inventory from other growers. Design an unique business logo to show on newspaper ads, flyers, business cards and other advertising. Use marketing tools such as teaching gardening classes at your nursery, holding open houses and being available to media and the community to answer questions. Send local media outlets press releases announcing the opening your new plant nursery and any special events you host. Offer to write a column or blog about gardening for your local paper, to add to your credibility.
Sell your plants. Sell your plants directly to customers or rent a small stand at a larger nursery, community festival or farmer's market in the summer.
Hire a business attorney to help you set up your small business in your state. If you want to expand your nursery business, build a website and consider selling your plants online. You will need to learn how to ship your trees and plants without damaging them.