I launched my start up, Anita’s Garden, about six months ago. It’s a good time to look back and reflect on how my business has evolved in that time and discuss my vision for its future. In this series of articles, I will draw on real-life experiences and examples and share a bit more about my journey as a business owner. I’m a very transparent person. In my business dealings, I like everything to be put on the table. I’m also very open to sharing my ideas on how I am running my business, as well as how I think a business ought to be run. As always, there’s a lot of ground I’d like to cover. This is the third post in on this subject. In Part I of this series, the issues that I touched upon were thematic in nature. In Part II of this series, I focussed on some practical matters that pertain to the day-to-day running of the business. In Part III on this subject, I would like to share some thoughts about some broad issues related to running a business.
1. Your most valuable asset as a business owner is goodwill
A business accumulates assets over time. What is an asset? Put simply, an asset is something of value that is used in the course of running the business. I firmly believe that a business’s most valuable asset is its goodwill. In accounting terms, goodwill is an intangible asset, making it difficult to quantify. It sits on the balance sheet of the business and is often overshadowed by tangible assets, which can be converted into cash more easily. The value of goodwill is only realised when it comes to selling a business. What is goodwill? A business doesn’t simply trade on its name. Over time, it develops a reputation. As discussed in a previous post, reputation refers to what a person or business is in fact. Image is what a person or business appears to be. If you are interested, you can read more about my thoughts on the issue of reputation in my Honours seminar paper and dissertation which I wrote as part of my law degree.
I have already become aware of the importance of my reputation as a gardener when I approached some leading businesses in the industry to enquire whether they would be interested in me becoming a brand ambassador and retailer for their products. Many already knew of me and had been following the development of my garden after it was featured in the New Zealand Gardener magazine. This helped me to break into the field (no gardening pun intended) and establish my business.
2. Running a business requires you to draw on many different skills
As discussed in a previous post, in order to run a business successfully, you need to be able to draw on a broad knowledge base and skill set. Having a commerce degree or an MBA may be helpful in understanding how a business operates and how to manage one, but this is only the starting point. As I mentioned in a previous post, I have neither a commerce degree nor an MBA, yet this hasn’t stopped me from creating and running my own start up.
As I was telling one of the partners from my team at Bell Gully, my previous employer, becoming a business owner has brought together so many different threads from my life. The hard work that I have put into different jobs and activities along the way has really paid off. My Bachelor of Arts helped me develop strong writing skills, which are useful for writing my blog and weekly gardening newsletter. My previous experience in retail while I was a university student has helped me run my plant nursery. It also gave me a very good understanding of how a business functions from the bottom up. I sometimes use French when communicating with the wwoofers who stay with us and help around our garden if they come from France. Learning accounting while at secondary school helps with record keeping and the overall management of my business. My knowledge of maths is also quite helpful when making calculations in order to price stock appropriately. Law is central to my business as everything is regulated. I’ve found my legal skills useful in reading terms and conditions attached to trade by suppliers and also in negotiations in the course of my business. To read more about my thoughts on the subject of negotiation, please click here.
3. Be prepared to get your hands dirty as a business owner
A lot of people have asked me why I would leave a good job in a nice office with a panoramic view of Auckland Harbour for one where I have to work hard physically outdoors and get my hands dirty. I have also been told that I should be paying someone to do gardening work rather than being a gardener myself. There are a few things I would like to say in response. When I worked as a lawyer at Freshfields, the firm’s clients were some of the largest companies in Europe. Their core business wasn’t exactly the stuff of glamour and was rooted mainly in secondary industries such as manufacturing. One of the large cases I worked on while I was an associate in the International Arbitration group of Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer in Paris involved a dispute arising from the construction of a nuclear power plant. Even as a lawyer, I spent a lot of time on the actual construction site which isn’t exactly glamorous. Business owners often end up spending a lot of time on the factory floor. It’s good to be on the ground of your own business, even if you can afford to hire staff to help you with day-to-day activities. It helps you to engage with your business more closely as well as identify ways that it can be improved and developed. Don’t forget that some of the world’s most successful empires (and indeed many of New Zealand’s largest companies in the primary sector) were founded upon sheer determination, sweat and labour. The partner I did all of my work for while I was a lawyer at Bell Gully had a client who is one of New Zealand’s largest companies and manufactures whitewear. You can’t own a business like this if you don’t know how a washing machine is designed, manufactured and assembled. You need to spend time on the production line in order to understand your business well, even if you enter a business at a high level as an investor later on.
4. Distinguish yourself from your competitors
In order to succeed in business, you need to distinguish yourself from your competitors. Try to stand out. Be innovative. Find your niche and create a market for your products and services. For me, one of my selling points is my worksite. Most garden centres are located in a physical premise that is specifically fitted out for this purpose. I run my boutique plant nursery from home against the backdrop of our garden. My customers all love wandering around the garden for ideas and inspiration. It’s also really handy as I can refer to our own garden and show customers how to plant what they have purchased into their garden. As a boutique business, I offer a more personal service. Coming around to purchase plants from my nursery is akin to a personal shopping experience, which you wouldn’t find if you went to a large chain or even an independent garden centre. I also take orders on request, so I’m able to supply exotic herbs and veggie seedlings to my customers, many of whom come from countries in Asia such as Thailand, the Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, Fiji, India and South Africa. These customers have a hard time sourcing these items for their cuisine from local garden centres who mainly sell run-of-the-mill varieties. It’s gratifying to be able to link people with their culture through the garden and help them re-connect with their roots.
5. Be very clear about the terms of payment
In business, you need to establish an hourly charge out rate for professional services, much like lawyers and other trades. Obviously, retail sales are different because you are selling a product, not a service, but the price of course reflects overheads, including staff salaries. As I mentioned in a previous post, I have experienced some difficulty in developing a fee structure for my business because I didn’t know what I should charge for my services. My business is quite unique and it’s hard to find a comparator to create rates. I also feel really awkward about asking for and accepting money from other people, which is why I’m not really cut out for being in business. Unfortunately, I have learnt the hard way after having a bad experience. I was left with an unpaid account which I have written off as a bad debt. This is partly my fault, but I look at it as a learning curve, much like life itself. It’s not nice to be left feeling that someone has taken advantage of you so I had to pinpoint where I went wrong so I didn’t make the same mistake next time.
So what happened? In a nutshell, some work was done for a friend on a by donation basis. Due to the circumstances surrounding my services and products, as well as the fact that we were friends, I told her that the payment could be made later. It has been more than a month and the payment (whatever it would have been) is still outstanding. As she was a friend, it is awkward asking her for the payment. I had a chat to my cousin, who is a successful engineer with extensive experience working in the telecommunications sector in New Zealand, Italy, Brazil and the USA. He now runs his own business. Nick advised me to put everything in writing beforehand and berated me for not knowing better as I am after all a lawyer! Nick told me to create a pro forma invoice specifying my hourly charge out rate, any overheads, costs of materials and so on and agree the amount with the client beforehand. In cases where work is done on account, for example, landscaping, he recommended that I make a time estimate and ask for an upfront payment prior to commencing work, with the balance to be settled upon completion. This makes perfect sense and I should have done this from the start, but you learn from your mistakes.
As you may recall, on 31 October we received a visit from my friend Aimee Walker and her lovely three children. Aimee lives on the North Shore with her husband Dave and their kids. Aimee and I became friends while we were at law school. Although we stayed in touch over the years, we hadn’t seen each other in 13 years! Aimee recently decided to home school her kids and came to Anita’s Garden for a day of gardening education for Mischa, 11, Isabelle, 9 and Lucas, 2. Together, we compiled a little report that covers what we got up to during the day.
In July of this year our family embarked on a new adventure – homeschooling! We’ve been taking a theme each term and exploring how various subjects and disciplines intersect with it and this term we’ve had nature and the garden as our overarching theme. I wanted the girls to have a greater awareness of their environment and to start thinking about how we could pursue a more self-sustainable lifestyle moving forward. We’ve been dabbling in a bit of bird-watching, keeping a track of the different species that frequent our backyard; beginning to grow some seedlings that we got from New World’s ‘Little Garden’ promotion and have focused our cooking nights on using seasonal produce (once a fortnight the girls make a main and dessert that is connected to our current theme – last term was Italian, nom nom!).
I’ve known Anita since we were at Law School together and had enjoyed seeing her Facebook posts and pictures of what she had started with her garden, so I thought this term presented us with the perfect reason to make a trip across town and check it out for ourselves. I also want the girls to learn from people who are passionate about what they do and their area of specialty because we all know passion is contagious.
As you’ll read, we all instantly knew when we’d arrived at the right property when we saw her thriving and extensive garden. From the moment we arrived, Anita and her Mum were warm and inviting, opening up not only their garden but also their home. The information and activities that Anita had planned for the kids to do had been thoughtfully prepared and it was an incredible opportunity for us to glean from her expertise. We were stunned at the variety of produce that she has been able to grow and can’t wait to go back and see how her mini orchard is going.
What Anita has accomplished at Anita’s Garden is truly inspiring and while most of us will not be able to establish a garden on the same scale, her work gives us a window into what is possible and reminds us that we do not have to dream of moving to the countryside to be able to take steps towards a more sustainable lifestyle. We can start right where we are!
Which is exactly what we’ll be doing – here’s hoping my children have greener thumbs than their mother!
At first I was unsure which garden was Anita’s. To me, they all looked the same. But as we drove further down the street I knew which garden was hers - it was the only garden in the street that was full of colour and flowers… Lots of flowers.
One of the first things Anita did with us, was to take us through the garden. It was so incredible to see the plant nursery, the veggies, and the flowers. We were a bit hungry afterwards so we had lunch (it was delicious!).
It was exciting getting to harvest the veggies, my sister Isabelle and I harvested Kale, Broad Beans, and Silverbeet. I also loved getting to plant the tomato plants. We started by putting some dirt in the bucket then we put in the tomatoes and then we filled up the bucket with more dirt, added some fertiliser and then watered them. I think my brother Lucas enjoyed playing with the watering cans!
I think it would be hard but fun to be a gardener. Weeding the garden would be hard work and if the plants didn’t grow that would be terrible, horrible and NO good. But, it would be fun to be a gardener because you could watch the plants grow, get your hands dirty, and eat the food that you’ve grown!
Recently Mum took Misha and I to Anita’s Garden because we are learning about nature and planting vegetables. When we arrived we knew it was her garden because there were so many different plants on the front lawn.
One of my favourite things was the tour of the garden. I saw lots of beautiful fruits, vegetables and flowers. I thought the flowers were so pretty so I took lots of pictures.
Another one of my favourite things to do was plant tomatoes. The first thing we did to plant the tomatoes was put soil into plastic buckets, then we watered the soil. After that we put the tomato plants into the buckets and then watered the soil again. Then we got a piece of string and a long bamboo stick and tied the tomato plant to the stick so the plant wouldn`t fall over. After we finished planting the tomatoes we did some harvesting. We harvested silverbeet and broad beans - it was so much fun.
When my friend Aimee contacted me and asked if she could bring Mischa and Isabelle around for a day of education at Anita’s Garden, I immediately said yes. Aimee and I attended law school together and though we had not seen each other since graduating from university, we remained in close contact with one another even while I was living and working overseas. It was a fantastic opportunity for us to catch up, as we live on opposite sides of Auckland from each other. Home schooling is becoming increasingly popular in New Zealand. As a lot of you will know, I am a huge fan of education of any nature. I was therefore instantly on board with teaching the girls all about how food is grown and giving them a practical exercise so they could get some hands on experience in the garden.
I hadn’t met Aimee’s children before so we began with some introductions. We then took a detailed tour of the garden. The swan plants were a talking point for us. The girls had already studied the life cycle of the monarch butterfly and really enjoyed looking at the many caterpillars on the plants. Another stopping point was my patch of wildflowers. Everyone (including Lucas) was taken aback by the number of bumble bees drawn to the blue flowers. After our tour, we took a break for lunch, enjoying some fresh produce from the garden. Afterwards, the girls each planted a cherry tomato in a container to take home and look after. We also harvested some vegetables together – broad beans, kale, silverbeet, leeks and celery. There was also plenty of produce from Anita’s Garden and some plants for the Walker family to take home, as you can see from the photo. All in all, everyone had a wonderful day. This is something that I would really like to continue to do in future. I also really hope that Aimee and her family return to Anita’s Garden in autumn, so the girls can see how the garden has evolved and learn more about the harvesting process. I will follow up with another report later in the season which covers their next visit.
Okra (also known as Ladies’ Fingers or bhindi) is one of my favourite Indian vegetables. The origin of okra is contested, but it comes from Africa and South East Asia. While a little more challenging to grow in New Zealand’s more temperate climate, it is nonetheless possible to grow okra successfully, at least in the Auckland region and further north.
Okra is traditionally green, but it is also possible to find the seeds for burgundy and orange okra in New Zealand. Homegrown okra tastes so much more tender and fresher than imported okra, which can sometimes be quite tough, not to mention expensive. Okra is a very versatile vegetable. It is highly prized in Asian cuisine and makes a wonderful addition to curries. It is also used in gumbo (a type of stew) in the southern states of the USA. We enjoy it cooked in a pot with a little onion, chilli and turmeric. It doesn’t take long to cook and is so delicious! We like having okra as an accompaniment to dahl and curries.
The main trick is to not sow okra too early in the season. My other tip is to try growing okra in containers if like me, you don’t have luck growing okra in the ground. I hope that with the help of information in this guide, you’ll be able to grow some of your own successfully this season.
In my experience, okra should be started undercover in mid-November and no earlier. Don’t forget that okra is a subtropical vegetable that performs best in really hot weather. While it’s natural to want a head start on the season, my advice is to not be in a rush to sow okra seeds and plant out seedlings. There is often a dramatic difference between day and night time temperatures at this time of the year and the weather can still be quite temperamental. Young seedlings are particularly tender. Once they’ve been hit by a sudden cold snap or exposed to consistently low temperatures, they never really recover. It’s therefore a good idea to wait until mid November to start sowing okra seeds, when temperatures are warmer. This way, the seedlings you plant out in December will be a bit more established and strong enough to survive any setbacks along the way. This might seem very late and many people are simply too impatient to wait, but in my experience okra started any earlier almost always ends up dying at some point simply due to the temperatures being too cool.
Whether you can grow okra successfully or not does depend on where you live. New Zealand’s climate varies dramatically from region to region and I do have to remember that not all of my audience lives in Auckland or even New Zealand for that matter. My personal gardening experiences are limited to our urban homestead in the Auckland region, so please take this into account when considering my advice. On the same token, what grows well in my environment may not necessarily thrive in your own microclimate. In my opinion, it is possible to grow okra successfully in Auckland and north of Auckland. It may be possible to grow okra successfully in other parts of New Zealand, in certain parts with the help of a glasshouse.
Sowing okra from seed
Now is the perfect time to sow okra. It can be hard to find okra seedlings at the garden centre, so why not try growing okra from seed? It’s very easy, provided you sow seeds when it’s warmer. Okra germinates relatively quickly, so it will only take about 10 days to two weeks until your plants reach a stage where they’re large enough to transplant outside, either in the ground or in pots.
As okra seeds have a very hard coat, I find it helpful to soak seeds for a few hours prior to sowing. This improves the rate of germination.
Even in November, I still raise okra seedlings undercover to protect them from fluctuating night time temperatures. Okra seeds need warmth in order to germinate. I germinate seeds in punnets filled with seed raising mix from Gardn Gro. I like Gardn Gro’s seed raising mix as it is very fine in texture, enabling seeds to push through the mixture easily as they rise to the surface. I place the punnets inside plastic incubators which you can purchase from garden centres. I then place the incubators on a heat pad indoors and spray plants with water once daily or twice if the seed raising mixture is very dry. If you don’t have a heat pad you can also use your hot water cupboard which will also provide seedlings with a warm environment so they can germinate successfully.
If you’re planning to grow okra from seed, you’ll find that they come in range of colours. Egmont Seeds have two varieties, Burgundy and Emerald Green. I’ve grown both of them in the past, with great results. To order seeds from the very extensive Egmont Seeds range, visit http://www.egmontseeds.co.nz/.
I have green okra in my nursery at present and am selling punnets of six seedlings for just $2 each.
How to care for okra plants
Being sub-tropical, okra needs at least 6 hours of sunshine per day, so be sure to plant seedlings in the sunniest spot in your garden. Before planting okra seedlings, take the time to prepare the bed properly so plants receive adequate nutrition. Dig the area over that you wish to plant your seedlings in. Mix plenty of compost and some sheep pellets into the ground. I highly recommend Gardn Gro’s Wonder Nuggets, which are 100% organic and function as an excellent fertiliser. Rake the ground so that it is nice and level. Add some tomato fertiliser to each plant’s hole at the time of planting, to give plants a strong start to life and encourage fruiting.
Alternatively, you can grow okra in pots. We grew okra in both the ground and in containers one summer. We found that plants grown in pots were bigger and more fruitful than their counterparts in the ground. The soil temperature in containers is warmer than the ground and black pots will radiate the heat. Pots are also prefect if you’re short on ground space or want to devote the area to crops that need room to spread, such as pumpkins and melons or root crops such as potatoes and kumara, which require depth in order to grow successfully.
Be sure to water plants every day, preferably early in the morning or in the evening. In December, plants are in their most active growing phase. Liquid feed okra plants weekly to encourage the growth of healthy leaves and the formation of flowers, which will develop into fruit.
Pollination of okra
Okra are self-pollinating and do not require the assistance of insects or the wind for pollination, unlike a lot of other summer vegetables.
Harvesting your okra
It can take what seems like forever for your first okra to be ready for picking but be patient! In early summer, it will usually be cooler so it might take awhile for them to grow to full size. You can pick okra at any stage. I prefer to pick them when they are smaller because they are tender and you can stay on top of your harvest. If left on the plant for too long, okra can become tough to chew. Got a glut of okra that you can’t get through all at once? This is quite a nice problem to have! Okra can be stored in the fridge for up to 2 weeks prior to consumption, or you can give some away to family, friends and neighbours.
So far, all of my growing guides for flowers have been for annuals or bulbs/tubers. Over the next few weeks, I would like to cover some of my favourite perennials. The difference between annuals and perennials is that annuals will grow, set seed and die after one growing season (meaning that you will have to resow them unless they self-seed freely), whereas perennials stay alive in the ground and will reflower in subsequent seasons. By their nature, perennials are low maintenance plants. I think there’s a place for both annuals and perennials in any garden. Anita’s Garden contains both annuals and perennials. This is the reason that there are normally flowers in the garden year round, which is very important to us.
A perennial that I only discovered last season is coreopsis. This wonderful yellow flower is so cheerful, easy to grow and once established in your garden, will pop up year after year without you having to worry about resowing or replanting seedlings. The flowers are on long stems so they are perfect for picking and placing in a vase inside, or adding to other floral arrangements. One of our Early Sunrise coreopsis plants is flowering at the moment, so it seemed like a good time to write a blog post about how to grow them. I hope that this guide will encourage others to give this beautiful, hardy plant a go, too.
Sowing coreopsis from seed
Coreopsis can be started from seed. It takes approximately 100 days from the time of the germination of a coreopsis seed until flowering, which isn’t too bad.
Coreopsis can be started from seed indoors in October or even earlier if you live in a more temperate zone and have a hot house to protect them from the cold. Coreopsis seeds need warmth in order to germinate. I germinate seeds in punnets filled with seed raising mix from Gardn Gro. I like Gardn Gro’s seed raising mix as it is very fine in texture, enabling seeds to push through the mixture easily as they rise to the surface. I place the punnets inside plastic incubators which you can purchase from garden centres. I then place the incubators on a heat pad indoors and spray plants with water once daily or twice if the seed raising mixture is very dry. If you don’t have a heat pad you can also use your hot water cupboard which will also provide seedlings with a warm environment so they can germinate successfully.
How to care for coreopsis seedlings
For new gardeners, those who don’t wish to start their coreopsis seedlings from seed or if you’ve simply left it too late, plants are available for sale in nurseries from October onwards. Awapuni also sell high quality, large grade coreopsis seedlings and plants delivered direct to your door. Look out for Amulet, Early Sunrise, Rising Sun and Sunburst varieties. If you order 7 or more bundles of seedlings or at least 9 established plants, delivery is free.
I am also selling established coreopsis plants in my nursery this year. I have ten each of the varieties Early Sunrise and Rising Sun. Each plant is a very large grade and comes in a potting bag, so it’s ready to plant straight into your garden. The plants are actually in flower at the moment and they look lovely! They are just $5 each. Please text me on 021 02762091 if you are interested in purchasing plants. Please specify which variety you would like and how many plants you require.
If you’re planning to grow coreopsis from seed, you’ll find that they come in an impressive array of colours, sizes and heights. Egmont Seeds have a variety called Sunfire, which has received the Fleuroselect Quality Mark, widely recognised by gardeners and professional growers worldwide. To order seeds from the very extensive Egmont Seeds range, visit http://www.egmontseeds.co.nz/.
How to care for coreopsis plants
Coreopsis need at least 6 hours of sunshine per day, so be sure to plant seedlings or plants in the sunniest spot in your garden. Before planting coreopsis seedlings, take the time to prepare the bed properly so plants receive adequate nutrition. Dig the area over that you wish to plant your seedlings in. Mix plenty of compost and some sheep pellets into the ground. I highly recommend Gardn Gro’s Wonder Nuggets, which are 100% organic and function as an excellent fertiliser. Rake the ground so that it is nice and level. Be sure to water plants every day, preferably early in the morning or in the evening. Liquid feed coreopsis weekly to encourage the growth of healthy leaves and the formation of flowers.
As stated above, coreopsis is a perennial which means that they will reappear in your garden next season. It’s therefore a good idea to give some thought as to where you want to plant them, given that their location in the garden will be permanent.
Planted out your summer garden but unsure about how to take care of your precious plants? Want to make sure you get the most out of the money, time and effort spent on your summer garden? Come along to a workshop at Anita’s Garden and learn about how to look after your plants so that they thrive this summer!
The duration of the workshop is one hour.
Saturday 2nd December 2pm
Sunday 3rd December 2 pm
Location: Anita’s Garden, Papatoetoe, Manukau.
Spaces are limited. There is a cover charge of $10 per person.
To register, please text me on 021 02762091 or email me at email@example.com.
I launched my start up, Anita’s Garden, about six months ago. It’s a good time to look back and reflect on how my business has evolved in that time and discuss my vision for its future. In this article, I will draw on real-life experiences and examples and share a bit more about my journey as a business owner. I’m a very transparent person. In my business dealings, I like everything to be put on the table. I’m also very open to sharing my ideas on how I am running my business, as well as how I think a business ought to be run. As always, there’s a lot of ground I’d like to cover. In Part I of this series, I covered my first five reflections on Anita's Garden. These topics were more philosophical in nature. This week, I would like to focus on some practical matters that pertain to the day-to-day running of the business.
1. Plant orders
I accept plant orders. If a customer requests an item that is not currently in stock, I am usually able to source the item for them which they can collect later on. To facilitate the process, I have a book that I write customer orders in. I take down details of what they are looking for, the desired quantity, their name and contact phone number. When the item arrives, I contact them and arrange a time for them to visit the nursery and collect their order. This system has been working well for the most part, but there have been a few exceptions which have actually made me re-think whether it’s worth the effort. It does require quite a bit of admin work on my part, and I’m always flicking through my order book to remind myself of what is outstanding and whether customers need to be contacted if orders have become ready. As usual, it’s always the minority that spoils it for the rest. A number of customers haven’t been coming to pick up orders when notified that they have arrived, meaning that their order sits in my holds bay for a long time. Obviously I have to care for plants in the interim. I don’t mind doing this as I understand that people may not be able to come immediately. But if the customer doesn’t come to collect their order at all, this ties up stock which may be sought after by someone else. It also takes up space, meaning I can’t re-order more stock to infill the nursery. Worse still, some customers simply don’t respond to my text notifying them that the order has arrived. I feel that this is rude. Even if they have changed their mind and don’t want the item anymore (which is within their right and I’m very understanding about this), I think it’s courteous to at least respond and let me know, given that they originally requested the item and I went to the effort of sourcing it for them. Sorry, that’s my little grumble for the day.
2. Special requests
Linked to taking orders for customers, I can also do special requests from customers, provided I am able to source the seeds or plants within the country. Importing seed from overseas and having to deal with MAP is just too difficult these days. I have customers from many different ethnic communities – Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, India, Fiji, South Africa and others. These different groups have requested special vegetables and herbs for their cuisine, many of which I had never heard of before! Sometimes while I’m helping a customer, they might mention their background. I’ll mentally run through orders received from other customers from the same country for items unique to their cuisine and ask if they would also like to order these items. This has worked really well so far. I have managed to source and supply Double Beans (Lima del Papa) and Gem Squash for customers from South Africa and Snake Beans for customers from various parts of Asia. I have also started lemongrass and moringa for my customers from the Philippines. If you’re having a hard time sourcing veggies and herbs that you use in ethnic cuisine, please don’t hesitate to contact me with your request and I’ll see what I can do. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org or you can text me on 021 02762091.
3. Pre-order and collect
Part of my orders service is the facility for customers to pre-order what they need for their garden and collect later in the week. Normally what happens is customers send me an email requesting items and specifying desired quantities. I then get back to the customer confirming that I have the stock (or offering alternatives in the event I’m unable to supply particular items or quantities requested). We then finalise the order together and I prepare an invoice. I locate and package the plants. I then notify the customer when their order is ready to be picked up, attaching the invoice. Payment can be made either by bank transfer or in cash upon collection. This is perfect for busy people with demanding jobs, children and chaotic households generally. I think we can all relate to this! Sometimes it can be challenging finding the time to go to the garden centre, search for plants and get the advice you need to plant them so I have hopefully managed to take some of the stress out of it. For orders of $50 or more, I offer a 10% discount.
If you would like to pre-order plants from the nursery, please email your order to email@example.com. A list of available stock in the plant nursery can be viewed on my Facebook page, Anita’s Garden (it’s the pinned post).
4. Mail orders
I also accept mail orders. As mentioned in Part I of this series, I didn’t originally envisage sending plants by post when I set up my business. However, this soon changed when I started receiving requests for plants from customers outside the Auckland region.
I can post plants from my nursery anywhere in New Zealand. A shoe box filled with plants sent by overnight courier (and tracked) costs just $12 + cost for plants. $3 extra for Rural Delivery. This is great value as my prices are lower than garden centres, I stock interesting and unusual varieties that aren’t available commercially and will also save you a trip to the garden centre! Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you wish to place an order. A list of available stock in the plant nursery can be viewed on my Facebook page, Anita’s Garden (it’s the pinned post).
Here is the feedback that Richard from Mangawhai gave me after he received his plants on the overnight courier service (you can also read this review on my Facebook page, Anita’s Garden):
***** (5 stars!!)
Well good people, I was recommended this site as being a place that I could buy some Asparagus Crowns and hence my relationship with Anita started. I bought 30 Crowns and whilst discussing delivery etc I saw that she had some Snake Bean plants (been after these for ages) so ordered some of those as well. Anita then packaged up the plants and Couriered them to Mangawhai where they arrived on overnight Courier well packaged and in perfect condition. I would thoroughly recommend her to you all as being a top person forgetting that her plants are so cheap it's unbelievable I'm sure she will upset the big players in the industry due to awesome prices. Check her out you won't be sorry.
Here is the feedback that Noelle from Te Kuiti gave me after she received her plants on the overnight courier earlier this week (you can also read this review on my Facebook page, Anita’s Garden):
***** (5 stars!!)
I had placed an on line order of mixed vegetable on Monday to Anita and I received it this morning nicely packed in a shoe box. I have already potted them to get them settling before planting them in the garden. It was a pleasure to do business with Anita she offers some interesting vegetable varieties and is so diligent in her replies. Thank you very much Anita I’ll definitely keep an eye on your nursery.
5. Visiting the plant nursery
As most of you will be aware, at the moment visits to the plant nursery at Anita’s Garden is by prior appointment only. I run my business by myself, so I’m not always able to attend to customers, especially on a drop-in basis. As many of you will also know, the nursery is actually a small (but very important) part of my business. However, I need to devote time to other services I offer such as gardening education in the form of workshops for both adults and children, interactive guided tours of the garden and the supply of flowers for special occasions. I also need time to develop my blog and write my free weekly gardening newsletter, which are really important to me. In order to fit everything in, I can’t make myself available to customers all day, every day during the week. I recently decided to close the nursery on Tuesdays to give myself a day off every week as I found myself working seven days a week and feeling really run down.
At the moment, appointment slots are one hour long but as I have gotten busier, I have decided to change this to half hourly appointments. If you think you might need more than half an hour to find everything you need for your garden, simply request a double booking or re-visit the nursery another day!
If you arrive early for your appointment, I will serve you straight away if I’m free. Sometimes I am with the previous customer or having my meal break (which is incredibly hard to fit into a busy day!), so please be understanding if I’m only available at the agreed time.
I am having a one-off open day at the plant nursery this Saturday 25th November from 9am until 5 pm, where customers can come by without making a prior appointment to pick up plants for their summer garden. Depending on how this goes, I may consider making Saturdays my one drop-in day at the nursery each week going forwards. Saturdays are always a busy day for retailers given that most people work during the week and only have time to go shopping over the weekend. So don’t worry, I won’t be making Saturdays my day off and will make sure I’m here to help you with your garden.
6. Employing staff
As most of you will be aware, I don’t employ any staff to assist me in running my business. Yet in the short time that I have been operating Anita’s Garden, I have already received two job applications and two requests for work placements! I’m flattered that others want to be a part of my team. Unfortunately at the moment I can’t afford to employ anyone to help me as I barely pay myself a salary! In order to provide a better service to customers in future, I may consider hiring someone to assist me. However, this clearly comes at a cost which will have to be passed on to customers in order to meet the financial obligations which come with being an employer and paying wages regularly. Not only will this affect price point (a major factor that drives a business), but it will also change the dynamics of Anita’s Garden. This is something that I will reflect on further as my business continues to grow and I will keep you informed of any developments in this area.
7. Payment by eftpos at the plant nursery
At the moment, I only accept cash at the nursery. A lot of customers have asked if I accept eftpos. I am aware that it is possible for small retailers such as myself to install an eftpos facility on a smartphone, using BNZ, even if you are a customer of a different bank. I am looking into this! I honestly do listen to feedback from all my customers and jot down ideas in my business development notebook to follow up later on when I have some time in the evenings. I may not be able to implement everything straight away as I need time to look into these matters, so please be patient with me! Watch this space for future developments.
Payment for other services such as the supply of flowers, workshops and tours can be made via internet banking by prior arrangement.
8. Price point
As mentioned above, price point is a major factor that drives a business (and its customers). Obviously, I try to keep prices as competitive as possible, but as discussed in Part I of this series, I do need to cover operating costs and use any potential profits from plant sales to re-invest in further inventory which is essential to the continuation of my business. I can only think of one instance where this has happened in the short time that I set up my business, but the prices of items may fluctuate over time. Ever wondered why the prices at the supermarket are different from week to week? To put it simply, it’s not always possible to fix prices and guarantee to always sell items for a certain amount (or less). For starters, there is inflation, which is driven by the consumer price index. The price of many commodities often increases over time. There are of course some exceptions in sectors like technology, where items become cheaper over time as the pool of consumers becomes bigger. As an example, consider how the prices of flat screen TVs, digital cameras, computers, smartphones and other gadgets have dropped since they first became available on the market. Prices are also determined by the economic principle of supply and demand, which you have probably heard of. Basically, this means the quantity of a particular and how much demand there is for it. Where items are sourced from suppliers, I have to negotiate wholesale rates with other businesses and this sometimes fluctuates depending on supply and demand. This goes for other retailers, such as supermarkets and service stations. So this is why prices can fluctuate, but I do try my best to minimise this in the course of my business.
9. Deliberate damage to inventory
Recently, I was saddened to find that during the night someone had deliberately damaged some inventory. This is the first time that an act of vandalism has occurred at Anita’s Garden. The most common question we get asked is whether stock or produce from the garden gets stolen or vandalised, given that the section is unfenced and most of the garden is infront of our house. Up until now, we have been very fortunate to have not had any issues in this regard.
Damage to inventory can occur in a number of ways. It can be accidental, for example, if I damage a plant by dropping it accidentally. It can also be caused by a force of nature, such as the wind or rain, or another element of mother nature such as slugs and snails munching on seedlings. Damage to stock, whether accidental, deliberate or an act of nature, is an operating cost which must somehow be recouped in the course of the business. In determining the price point for inventory, it is necessary to factor in damage to inventory. Up until now, I had only accounted for accidental damage to stock and damage by mother nature. For now, I am writing the incident off as a bad debt (in a manner of speaking), but if this keeps happening, I may have to make a slight price adjustment to factor in deliberate damage to stock. I hope it doesn’t come to this, as it is really unfair to my wonderful customers who are so respectful and a pleasure to assist. As I often tell customers, through my business I have gotten to meet some wonderful people in the community. But as always, it’s the minority that spoils it for the rest, similar to the small number of customers who have not been honouring customer orders, as described above.
10. Free weekly gardening newsletter
As many of you will be aware, I write a free weekly gardening newsletter which I circulate to a mailing list and upload on my website, my Facebook page, my Twitter account and also on Neighbourly. I really enjoy writing my weekly newsletter and have received very positive feedback from both customers and businesses for whom I am a brand ambassador. Even though it’s challenging finding the time to provide all the services and products I want to my customers, I definitely intend to continue to write a free gardening newsletter on a regular basis. I will be taking a short break over the Christmas and New year period but will resume my newsletter in the new year. Don’t worry, I still hope to circulate four more issues before this happens! I am considering whether I may circulate the newsletter less often during the winter, when activity in the garden slows down. Or I may put out a bigger winter edition at the start of the season, giving you all the advice you need to cover you for the winter period. Whatever I decide, please don’t worry, I won’t leave you all wondering what to do around your gardens!
I launched my start up, Anita’s Garden, about six months ago. It’s a good time to look back and reflect on how my business has evolved in that time and discuss my vision for its future. In this series of articles, I will draw on real-life experiences and examples and share a bit more about my journey as a business owner. I’m a very transparent person. In my business dealings, I like everything to be put on the table. I’m also very open to sharing my ideas on how I am running my business, as well as how I think a business ought to be run. As always, there’s a lot of ground I’d like to cover. In this blog post, I would like to share five major reflections on Anita’s Garden.
1. Excellent customer service is the key to a successful business
As the saying goes, the customer is king. Great customer service is what makes people happy. If customers leave satisfied, they are more likely to return and recommend your business to others. While I do my best to make customers happy, I occasionally make mistakes. After all, I’m only human and sometimes glitches do occur. Orders can get mixed up and this happened to me last week. A customer had sent me a text asking if he could order four Dok eggplants. I replied saying yes and did put them aside for him, but I got distracted during the day and didn’t get around to putting his name on the order. I sold them to another customer by accident. When he arrived to pick up his plants, he was not happy to discover this. I followed up by sending him some texts admitting to my mistake, explaining that the mistake was genuine rather than intentional, and offered to give him a box of complimentary plants (which included some seedlings from our personal stock for the home garden as I had started running low on certain varieties in the nursery) as a way of apologising for the error. What happened next completely amazed me. The customer’s wife rang me and couldn’t stop praising me. She said that she had a background in customer service and was really impressed with the way I had handled the situation. They both graciously accepted my apology and offer to put things right, and the customer came over the next day to pick up the complimentary plants that I had offered them.
You learn from your mistakes. The encounter highlighted the need for me to develop a better system for recording orders. I now note orders in a separate book (rather than on pieces of paper!) with the customer’s name, a description of the plants they require, the quantity and a mobile number so I can text them when the order is ready to be collected. On a broader level, the mistake also highlighted the need for me to be more organised and I now have separate notebooks for recording workshop attendees, plant sales, business development ideas, tasks for woofers, things to do and appointments. It’s a bit late to purchase a day per page diary for this year, but I obtained one from Whitcoulls for next year as it will make recording my daily appointments with customers much easier. I’m constantly finding better ways to organise myself and run my business. I definitely don’t want this sort of situation arising again if I can help it.
2. There’s nothing wrong with outsourcing as you can’t do everything yourself!
I have a boutique business. Anita’s Garden is located on a suburban sized section in Manukau City. I don’t employ staff and run the business by myself, so there’s only so much I can get done in a day, even with assistance from the wwoofers who stay with us and help out around the garden. I also don’t have access to high tech horticultural equipment that you would find in a commercial nursery. I have started receiving very large orders requesting a high quantity of particular varieties. Some seedlings, such as snake beans, are in such high demand and I am struggling to fulfil orders in a timely fashion, especially large ones. I have been looking into ways to outsource some of the seed raising work to nurseries that have access to more space, better propagation technology than home gardeners such as myself and more staff on hand to assist.
I will keep everyone informed if and when this happens, but for now just know that even if I don’t propagate every plant I sell in my nursery here at Anita’s Garden, at some point in their life all plants have been cared for by me. I would never sell anyone a plant which is in bad condition at the time it is in my plant nursery and I only work with brands that I fully endorse and businesses I have been a customer of long before I set up my own business. I am currently a brand ambassador for some of New Zealand’s leading gardening businesses so it is obvious for me to look to them for assistance in this area in the first instance. Click here to read more about me becoming a brand ambassador.
3. For business development, listen to your customers!
Feedback from customers should be taken into account when considering how to develop your business. If you really engage with your customers when they come to your business, as I do, they should provide you with valuable feedback about your products and services. Listen to what your customers want and try to accommodate them! In the short time that my plant nursery has been open, I have received many requests for eftops. This is something which I am seriously considering in future, especially as I am aware that it is now possible to pay by eftpos via your smartphone. Another example is mail orders. Initially, I didn’t envisage that the scope of my business extended to posting plants. Then I received my first mail order request. I realised that it was in fact a simple process, the plants arrived in a timely manner on the overnight courier service and were in perfect condition. I am now in the middle of processing my second mail order. I also received a request for a seed order. Again, I wasn’t intending to sell seeds as part of my business but really wanted to try and help the customer obtain an unusual ethnic veggie so she could grow it in her garden this summer. I sourced seeds for her, packaged them up and posted them to her. This also went really well, so I am happy to take orders for seeds in future.
4. Marking up stock and making a profit is essential to the continuation of a business (and doesn’t make you a bad person!)
I still struggle with this. I’ve always felt (and still feel) that I’m just not cut out to be in business. While I know that most shops import stock cheaply (usually from overseas), mark it up and then on-sell it for a profit, I’ve never felt entirely comfortable about doing this myself. It’s not that it’s morally wrong. After all, making a profit is essential to the survival of a business. It just seemed a little soulless to me. However, I’ve had to rethink things and have had a complete shift in mindset. When the business generates income, it is used to cover expenses such as overheads (the day-to-day costs of running a business) and also capital expenditure, known as the purchase of assets. In this way, profits enable you to re-invest in your venture so that you can continue to provide a service or supply a product. If you sell at cost or below it, there is no windfall so how will you purchase further inventory to replace outgoing stock? This is really the key to the continuation of my business. For example, part of the revenue generated from plant sales is used to purchase further inventory (stock), so I can continue to meet demand and supply customers with plants in my nursery. I am also looking into purchasing more heat pads so I can raise more seedlings simultaneously to meet customer orders in a more timely manner. In order to provide a better service and broader range of products to customers in future, I do need to generate income over and above meeting overheads.
The bottom line for me is that running a business is about more than merely making a profit. It is about exchanging something of value with customers. When customers come in to purchase plants, they leave not just with things for their garden, but also advice, ideas and inspiration, which is the slogan of Anita’s Garden. I’m not ripping people off. This is simply how a healthy business should function and it’s something that I’ve had to come to terms with as a new business owner.
5. There’s nothing wrong with paying yourself a salary as a business owner
Originally, I envisaged Anita’s Garden as a not-for-profit entity, as I have a heart for the community. As mentioned in a previous blog post, I have always had trouble accepting money from other people. This situation was avoided in my former career as a lawyer, because I was simply paid a salary by the law firm. However, I have come to realise that I do need to pay myself a salary so I can look after myself, especially my health. I was recently hit with a number of different expenses at the same time – new frames and lenses for my glasses, extensive dental work and the cost of seeing a specialist for a medical issue. An old injury to my neck has also resurfaced, so I have to pay for treatment at the physio and need to see a chiropractor. In order to be able to help other people, I need to be in a good state of health. This means that I do need to be able to cover bills of this nature. Now that I have dedicated myself to Anita’s Garden full time, I have no other revenue streams. In short, I can’t do everything for free. While I will continue to take on work on a pro bono (without payment) basis, a mix of both paid and unpaid work is essential to not only the survival of my business but also my personal well-being. As an adult, I need to be responsible and able to support myself financially. This all became much clearer to me as I began reading a book called God, Money and Me by Paul de Jong, the head pastor of Life. Over a five week period, we are discussing each chapter at church services and our small group meetings. I am only part way through this book but it has already helped me to adopt a more healthy approach towards money and running my business.
Here's my weekly round up of what's been happening at Anita's Garden over the past week.
Supply of flowers
As mentioned in a recent blog post, I received my first flower order! I have been waiting for this for a while and was excited but at the same time saddened by the purpose for which the flowers were used. I supplied fresh flowers from the garden for the tangi (the Maori word for funeral) of my friend’s aunt which took place in Northland last Friday.
My client and her two relatives came to visit the garden about a week prior to the Tangi. I asked that they do this incase the flowers in the garden were not appropriate, so it would give them enough time to find an alternative supplier. I gave the three ladies a tour of the garden, focussing on flowers and greenery. As we walked around the garden, I made a list of all of the flowers and plants that had caught their eye. They were particularly impressed by our lilies, canna and calla foliage as well as the hydrangea foliage. We agreed that they would come and collect the flowers during the morning prior to departing for Northland for the Tangi. The ladies asked for just the flowers and plants, as they were happy to do the arranging themselves. They needed enough flowers and plants for approximately 25 tables at the Tangi.
The day before, I picked the flowers and plants that the client had requested and put them into vases and buckets of water. Some plants, such as the canna foliage, were too large to keep inside so I kept the plants in buckets of water outside the house.
The day of collection, I packaged the plants by wrapping them in damp newspaper, as you can see in the picture above. I put the plants into Sistema crates as they were too big to fit into cardboard boxes.
If you would like fresh flowers from the garden for any occasion, be it a wedding, funeral, Mother’s day, or a birthday, please get in touch with me at email@example.com or text me on 021 02762091 to find out what is available at the moment in the garden.
Anita’s Garden partners with the Cordis Hotel in Auckland!
Formerly known as the Auckland Langham, this is Auckland city’s leading hotel and my personal favourite!
I am so proud to announce a partnership with my favourite hotel in Auckland! Most of you will know this hotel as the Auckland Langham on Symonds Street, but it recently changed its name to the Cordis hotel.
The concierge desk has kindly agreed to keep some brochures about Anita's Garden for travellers interested in visiting a private garden and seeing an urban self-sufficiency project in action.
I am so excited about this development as it means that the range of visitors to Anita’s Garden may potentially be broadened to include foreigners from all around the world!
Thank you, Cordis! I hope this will be the start of a lovely relationship with you!
NEW - Gift Certificates!
These just arrived in the post the other day! I am so excited to introduce gift certificates for Anita’s Garden.
Take the stress out of shopping for birthday and Christmas presents, and give a gift that keeps on giving!
These nifty vouchers can have any value and do not have an expiry date, meaning that the recipient can enjoy shopping at Anita’s Garden at any time in the future.
Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or text me on 021 02762091 if you wish to purchase a gift certificate.
I discovered wildflowers a few seasons ago, when I sowed a packet of Wildflower Bee Attracting Mix from Egmont Seeds in early spring. Just a couple of months later, I was amazed by the variety of flowers – poppies, cosmos, borage, phacelia, alyssum, nigella and many others – that sprung up and bloomed. What’s more, they kept popping up in autumn and spring in subsequent seasons, so I dedicated that area in the garden to wildflowers.
While we enjoy their cheerful colourful display, the main reason we sow wildflowers is to attract bees to the garden in the springtime. Bees aid the pollination of fruit trees, which are normally blossoming at the time wildflowers are in bloom. This is important for us as we recently added a mini orchard to our garden, consisting of dwarf fruit trees. There are already tons of fruits developing on our apple, peach and nectarine trees which is exciting, so we must have done the right thing!
Wildflowers can be sown in spring and autumn. For spring sowings, it’s best to wait until the risk of frosts has well and truly passed. For autumn sowings, you need to ensure that the ground is sufficiently moist to aid germination, so wait until around April when it starts to rain occasionally. In saying that, it does depend on where you live. New Zealand’s climate varies dramatically from region to region and I do have to remember that not all of my audience lives in Auckland or even New Zealand for that matter. My personal gardening experiences are limited to our urban homestead in the Auckland region, so please take this into account when considering my advice. On the same token, what grows well in my environment may not necessarily thrive in your own microclimate.
Sowing wildflowers from seed
It’s really easy to grow wildflowers from seed. It depends on the variety, but it normally takes about 90 days until maturity if you sow seeds in spring, sometimes even less than that. Mine usually flower in December and January. Autumn sowings will grow slowly over winter and flower in late spring, for me, it’s normally around November. It’s nice to sow wildflowers in both spring and autumn for a staggered display of flowers.
For the best results, sow wildflowers seeds directly where you want to grow them. You don’t really need to raise wildflowers in seedling trays and go to the effort of transplanting them later as they are one of those flowers that does best when sown direct. If you don’t want to grow wildflowers from seed or the wildflower seeds you sowed failed for some reason, Awapuni sells a bundle of flowers called Bee Mix, which is a variety of plants guaranteed to attract bees to your garden in spring and summer. Awapuni delivers direct to your door. Delivery is free if you order seven or more bundles of plants.
Wildflower seeds are very fine, so when you scatter them, you may find that they end up very close together. You can try thinning them out by transplanting seedlings, but be careful when doing so as you don’t want to disturb their roots too much.
Varieties in a packet of wildflower seeds
If you’re planning to grow wildflowers from seed, you’ll find that they come in an impressive array of varieties, colours, sizes and heights.
As mentioned above, Egmont Seeds have an amazing range of wildflowers in their packet of seeds called Wildflower Bee Attracting Mix. To order seeds from the very extensive Egmont Seeds range, visit http://www.egmontseeds.co.nz/.
How to care for wildflowers
Most wildflowers need at least 6 hours of sunshine per day, so be sure to sow seeds in the sunniest spot in your garden. They are generally not a plant for the shade. Before sowing wildflower seeds, take the time to prepare the bed properly so plants receive adequate nutrition. Dig the area over that you wish to plant your seedlings in. Mix plenty of compost and some sheep pellets into the ground. Rake the ground so that it is nice and level. For some reason, there are people that think that wildflowers will grow if you simply scatter them in the garden and leave it to mother nature! While they are not high maintenance, they do require being covered with dirt (like most other seeds) in order to germinate.
Be sure to water plants every day, preferably early in the morning or in the evening. Liquid feed wildflowers weekly to encourage the growth of healthy leaves and the formation of flowers.
Wildflowers can be picked and put into a vase or left outside to admire and attract bees. We tend to do the latter, as they make for such a beautiful display and help us tremendously with pollination.
Most types of wildflowers are an annual which means that they will grow, set seed and die after one growing season. You might find that your wildflowers self-seed as mine did and pop up in the same area in future seasons. In this case, you can do what we did and make that area dedicated to wildflowers in future seasons, or you can simply resow fresh seed where you want to grow wildflowers next year.
SAVE THE DATE! Anita's Garden plant nursery open day next Saturday 25th November 9am-5 pm! Papatoetoe, Manukau.
As many of you will know, my plant nursery is normally by prior appointment only. But for one day only, next Saturday 25th November from 9 am until 5 pm, I will be holding an open day where you can drop in and pick up the plants you need for your summer garden WITHOUT needing a prior appointment! It's not too late to plant a summer garden. Let me help you grow your own fresh veggies this summer, improve your family's health and reduce grocery bills.
I still have lots of plants left. Potted plants are $1.50 (except Dok eggplants which are $2 each), Herbs are $2 and Punnets of 6 seedlings are $2 each.
Plants available include:
Asparagus (green and purple)
Capsicum (various kinds)
Chillies (sweet and hot, lots of different varieties)
Lettuce (green and red, cut and come again varieties)
All I ask is your patience as there will (hopefully) be lots of people at the nursery and that you allow me a very short lunch break at some point!
Location: Anita's Garden, Papatoetoe, Manukau.
If you would like to attend, please text me on 021 02762091 or email me at email@example.com and I will send you our address. I didn't want to post it here for the whole world to see!!
To view a complete list of stock available, please visit and LIKE my Facebook page Anita's Garden. The stock list is the pinned post at the top of the page. Thank you.