By Malia Durbano
John Wickman, owner of the independent garden center, Native Roots, has a degree in Horticulture, but not one in Business. That is why he approached Joe Keck of the SW Colorado SBDC for some advice on expanding his business.
The Garden Center does Landscape Design and Installation with a large retail section for do-it-yourselfers. They grow all their own trees, shrubs, annuals and perennials through their subsidiary, Pine River Plants. Wickman, “Learned a lot as I went along and take any advice I can get to help my business” he explains.
Keck helped with a diagnostic analysis of the horticultural industry and a cash flow analysis which enabled Wickman to attain a bank loan to move to their new location on Highway 160 between Wal-Mart and Home Depot.
Keck’s advice provided valuable direction by helping him build a spread sheet and “Put a sense of reality on everything.” Wickman explains how this helped him change the way he did business. “In the early 2000’s the economic climate wasn’t real. Banks were just throwing money at things.”
He now uses Quick Books and Intuit POS and learned the ins and outs of how different aspects of the business relate to one another. Keck, “Spent time with me and showed me how to focus on things day to day.”
The horticultural market is changing. To adjust his business accordingly, Wickman worked with marketing specialist, Louise Garnet. They defined his target market and determined how to reach them. Discovering that the 20, 30 and 40-year-olds do not want to do things themselves, the store now offers pre-made planters and other items that are ready made. Since the boomers really enjoy gardening, they have products to entice them as well.
While discussing the Native Roots niche with Garnet, they decided that they had to attract people who would shop at Wal-Mart or Home Depot, also capitalizing on their location between the two big box stores. She explained that, “In addition to reaching a lot of people, they also had to reach the right people.”
To do this, they began advertising on the radio and in the newspaper. Their message was the personalized attention and expertise Wickman and his staff can offer gardeners. With over 30 years of experience in the industry, Wickman can offer practical ideas and help people incurring problems.
Native Roots is open year-round, also carrying house plants, grow domes and hobby green houses. He now knows who his clients are and what they want.