Product Creation/Development: Indoor Bonsai

Here’s another entry in my continuing series on product creation and development for the small business or solo entrepreneur.

I know a woman with a thriving business growing and selling indoor bonsai trees/plants from her apartment.

What? Who would think of any kind of garden-related business being done in an apartment? But that’s what makes her business work. When customers find that they can have bonsai that will grow indoors, even in an apartment, they want them. That is a big attraction factor.

Bonsai are very desirable plants. Many more people would buy them, but have always heard that you have to grow bonsai outdoors — at least part of the year. That you can only have it inside for short periods of time to display it, and then, back it goes to the outdoors. Yet the desire of most people who want bonsai is to be able to have a small tree growing inside the house.

Furthermore, most people are told that bonsai care is so delicate and complicated that only dedicated hobbyists and professionals should be bothered with them. Indeed, most people who have bought them ended up killing them with neglect or ignorance.

The truth is that not all bonsai can be grown indoors, but there are quite a number of species that adapt quite well to it. Furthermore, while bonsai may need a little extra care, it’s not as extensive as you might think. Most people who can successfully care for the usual houseplants you see in homes and offices can easily add bonsai to their collection. All plants, indoor or outdoor, need attention to placement, soil, lighting and water.

There’s a difference between what my friend does and what nurseries and other sellers do. It’s what makes her business thrive and her customers keep coming back and referring others to her. She takes the time to educate her customers.

With each of her plants, she includes a little booklet about the care of that particular plant. In detail. With images.

Since she’s raised those plants in an apartment, she knows exactly how they need to be treated to survive and grow indoors, in all kinds of nooks and crannies. So, if her customers do as she tells them, their plants live long, healthy lives. And look beautiful.

So, her first secret is the added value of offering the (free) plant-specific care booklet with each purchase.

Her second secret is that she gives monthly “tutorials” in her apartment for her customers. (She charges a small fee for this.) Many folks who are new to caring for bonsai want more than the booklet and initial instructions. They want hands-on demonstrations of things like trimming and training. Since her living room can accommodate about ten people, she can hold small demonstrations there. She treats it as if she’s having a party. She also has understanding, supportive neighbors who won’t snitch on her.

Her third secret is that she designs the pots and other accessories for the plants and can give a complete custom look to every one. So, her plants are not just the most popular bonsai, they are living decorator items.

You can tell from what I’ve said so far that she sells her plants locally. But she could just as easily ramp up and sell nationally. She could sell on her own website and/or through ebay,, or other outlets. She could sell to specialty nurseries nationwide.

She could still do her monthly demos through webinars. She could make video courses to go with the plants.

And all of it could still be done from an apartment, by a solo entrepreneur.

Give you any ideas?

To get you started on the how-to’s if you are intrigued by this I’ve listed a couple of good books below: