Creating a viable small enterprise can be a source of great satisfaction or a great disappointment – it all depends on good planning and effective business strategies.
A small idea can be grown into a humming small business and an example of this is my business Riverina Iris Farm, which has grown to now occupy every waking moment on weekends and in March and October each year.
The original garden was established about 25 years ago by the previous owner and suffered greatly in the 10-year drought that consumed most of eastern Australia.
Since purchasing the property in 2010, we started rebuilding the garden around the established trees.
Inspired by my elderly mother’s love of irises, an iris garden was established inside the yard then spreading out into the paddock surrounding a beautiful old gum tree.
Surprisingly, it has turned into a tourist attraction with visitors coming from as far as Western Australia and Tasmania. The business opens the garden to the public for a month from mid-October with some 500 visitors coming to enjoy and order more than 1000 iris varieties.
There are also 200 daylilies that flower throughout summer.
Visitors love sitting in the shade enjoying home-made morning and afternoon teas in the pretty setting.
Last season more than $1200 was raised to assist the Wagga Wagga Rural Referral Hospital.
The main garden has lovely shade trees and some of our favourites – Crepe Myrtles, Magnolias, Hibiscus, Lilac, Callistemons and a Weeping Cherry.
Beds of iris and daylilies are scattered with bulbs such as Daffodil, Grape Hyacinths, tulips, Ranunculus and Dutch Iris. Liliums fill the centre of the daylily garden. The archways have our favourite roses sprawling over them.
In this business, I have applied all of the principles I have taught during my career as a trainer in farm business management and administration with Tocal College and NSW Department of Primary Industries.
The success of this iris farm as a business is no different to any other business, large or small, which must have a market for a product and a strategy to promote into that market, a quality product and an administration system.
So the success of this business hinges not only on growing beautiful plants, but on the promotion of the business through the website and social media. From a production perspective, the biggest challenges are keeping up with the watering, weeding, managing the digging and distribution of the sold irises.
Sales have grown faster than our plants can reproduce and sourcing additional rhizomes to fill orders is a challenge, which is managed by a detailed spreadsheet tracking stocks and sales.
Developing sufficient skills in photography, creating a web page and publicity brochures have been critical.
Each season more than 3000 photos are sorted, resized and the best are loaded on the online shop.
With a mix of hard work, support from family and friends and a little bit of luck, a retirement project is taking shape.