Sonja Peters knows how fulfilling it is to grow something from a simple seed of an idea. She planted seeds and tended plants for years, working for others in the fields of agriculture and horticulture. However, after she moved to rural Lumby to live with her partner, she decided a change was in order.
That’s when she decided to start her own business. With the help of Community Futures North Okanagan’s Self-Employment Services, she is now growing her own plants at her Greenbush Greenhouses and Farm.
Sowing the Seeds
Born and raised in Kelowna, Peters always had an interest in plants.
She graduated with a Bachelor of Science from the University of Victoria, where she majored in biology and minored in environmental studies.
After graduating in 2003, she returned to the Okanagan and started working as a grower at a local greenhouse and later for CropHealth Advising and Research, where she advised public agencies, landscape companies, golf courses, nurseries, and greenhouses on plant health care and pest management.
After moving to rural Lumby three years ago, Peters decided it was time to do something different.
“My partner and I had talked about getting into the greenhouse industry and being where we were, we decided to build one,” she says.
While Peters had the knowledge and technical expertise to grow plants and her partner had experience in building and equipment maintenance, neither knew what it took to start and operate their own small business.
That’s when Peters sought out Community Futures North Okanagan for help.
Plowing a Path
Peters, who was a client of the Employment Program of BC, entered CFNO’s Self-Employment Services Program, and with help from business service coordinator, Kazia Mullin, she was able to come up with ways to get her greenhouse idea off the ground.
She attended different workshops offered by business experts from both CFNO and the local business community, which she says helped her get some great information and also provided networking opportunities.
“Community Futures really helped me with the business side of things. I learned about marketing and accounting and about making a business plan,” says Peters. “They give you the base knowledge from which you can build upon.”
Tending the Garden
After using their savings and getting a bank loan, Peters was able to build her dream.
She and her partner ordered a prefabricated greenhouse and put all the pieces together to build a 60-by-30-foot structure on their property.
Erected over winter, the couple next set out to heat and supply water to the greenhouse and then fill it with plants.
“We started with a hanging basket program, along with herb planters, this spring,” says Peters. “Our target market is selling them to sports and community clubs to be used as fundraisers.”
“It’s been a bit of learning experience looking at our niche and how we can distinguish ourselves from everyone else,” she adds.
To do that, Peters has also been looking at using more sustainable growing methods from pest management to containers to nutrient management. She has also invested in a chip boiler, which uses wood chips taken from trees on her property to heat the greenhouse.
“We also hope to diversify with vegetable and annual transplants and target garden centre markets and market farmers,” she says.
While mostly wholesale, Greenbush Greenhouses and Farm is open for retail by appointment only and will also be at the Vernon Farmer’s Market next spring.
Do you have an idea for a small business and don’t know where to start? Find out how our self-employment business planning workshops and one-on-one counselling can help you by contacting Community Futures North Okanagan’s business team.