Independents and workshops

Jodee commented in the last post about holding workshops or classes through the summer for beginning gardeners. I think classes or workshops are a great idea for the garden center. There are a lot of people who find gardening interesting but don't know how to begin. Yes, there is all sorts of information on the internet but many people would rather connect and learn from people in the garden. The problem with the internet is there is too much info, and often not localized enough. The only problem with summer classes is the competition with other activities that pop up. I have found that once school gets out in June the attendance seems to drop. Just because the attendance drops does not mean you can't hold classes that will be beneficial for the gardener and nursery.  We will be holding our drip irrigation class in two weeks. By then people will be dealing with the chore of watering their gardens and looking for more efficient ways to water. I think people will respond to most classes if the subject matter is important enough to them.

We've had classes that where very well attended, and classes where NOBODY showed up. The important thing is to just do them and try to make changes that will attract more people next time. Workshops are a great way to connect with the community and gain customers. Often the same people who attend the workshops end up enthused and purchase goods turning a slower day into a more profitable one.

We had a class last week on using native plants for fire protection. Fire is our biggest threat here in the foothills and the proper landscaping can mean the difference between saving or loosing ones home. The class was put on by our native plant wholesale partners, Lotus Valley Natives. A couple of weeks earlier we had Carolyn Singer who authored the book Deer in My Garden speak. The Divide Garden Club and guests showed up and everyone enjoyed her talk. Right as she started we lost power to the workshop building. Oh well, run extension cords and get the coffee machines back up and running! We have had it rain on classes, had the wrong date posted, no one show up, too many show up, etc. The main thing is to just keep doing them.

Become indispensable to your community.  If all we do is carry the same things that the local box stores carry then we are doomed. Find the areas they are not addressing and build a niche. Become the local information center for all things horticultural. There is a real need out there for information presented in a friendly atmosphere. Most people who are developing an interest in gardening are also aware there is so much to learn. They will embrace a place that provides that information on a regular basis. Many also like the idea that we are a smaller operation that really appreciates their patronage. Their hard earned money can make a difference they can see, both at their homes and your store.