This is a follow up story for CamelliaShop. If you're interested in reading how they got started, published about 2 years ago, check it out here.
Hello again! Remind us who you are and what business you started.
I’m Debbie Odom and I am a horticulturist and cofounder of CamelliaShop. We are a grower of Ornamental Camellias and Camellia sinensis Tea Plants. We currently sell to customers in the USA.
We have a long-standing family-owned nursery in southeast Georgia which is nestled along the coast between Charleston SC and Jacksonville FL. The mild climate in the southern part of the US is ideal for Camellias which are covered by gardeners as one of the most unique ornamental plants. CamelliaShop was developed to meet the needs of gardeners both in our part of the country and throughout the entire US. While our retail nursery supplies walk-in customers, Camelliashop remains to mail-order only.
Tell us about what you’ve been up to! Has the business been growing?
Our business continues to grow despite all of the challenges of 2020. Operating a business that is considered ‘non-essential’ during a pandemic has been devastating to so many small businesses. Covid-19 and the fallout from it have caused many businesses like ours to close their doors.
It’s hard to be unique in the world of copycats. Take an idea and make it your own.
We felt the sting from Covid-19 for our walk-in retail nursery as we decided to close in spring, missing the largest income-producing part of our business for the whole year. We were scared, we were on uncertain ground and not really knowing what to do to. It turns out that closing was the right choice for us.
Camelliashop continued to sell and it was the saving grace for our business and our family. We kept up with our email marketing through Constant Contact and even boosted advertising on Facebook, Instagram, and Google Shopping. It was a risk, but it was one we had to take.
It paid off and in a huge way. Our internet sales from CamelliaShop began coming in so fast we were afraid we would not keep up with the demand. Our sales went up 400% during March-April 2020. It seems that even though our plants may be non-essential in today’s definition, they proved to be very essential in giving people, shut-in at home, something they could do and enjoy - Gardening.
What have been your biggest lessons learned in the last year?
Without a doubt, we’ve learned this last year that nothing is on solid ground. Everything can change and you will get a lot of unexpected trials.
Planning for the worst has to be in the back of the minds of any business owner. If you don’t play ‘what-if’ you won’t be prepared. We didn’t plan for a pandemic - who would?
So many businesses saw inventory shortages and the plant industry was no exception. Without knowing shortage possibilities, it’s impossible to be able to pull out extra inventory on a moment's notice. We have had our own shortages at CamelliaShop and our customers have very understanding.
What’s in the plans for the upcoming year, and the next 5 years?
We plan to do what we can when we can. We have had to try to invent other products that we can sell and replenish faster than Camellias alone. On our small family farm where our camellias are grown, we also grow our own food for our family. We have enjoyed the bounty that it provides and we want to share that with our community and beyond.
In the coming years, we are working on opening our farm to visitors where they can pick their own plants and they can also purchase plants to take home. We will also have a new website that will be devoted to providing edible plants like blueberries, olives, and other fruit trees and handcrafted items such as Artisan soaps and bath salts. We are also developing a line of premium quality Teas that we can provide to our customers.
And our most exciting project will be the completion of our Farm-Wagon. This customized trailer will take our farm products on the road for all types of venues. This will come post-COVID-19.
Have you read any good books in the last year?
Yes, I have! Because we were limited in where we could go and what we could do, I have been reading up on agritourism and how to introduce it to customers in the community as a way to expand our business to other sales opportunities.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who might be struggling to grow their business?
First and foremost, find a product that is unique to you. It’s hard to be unique in the world of copycats. Take an idea and make it your own.
Secondly, play ‘what-if’. Now you can add, ‘what-if’ we have a pandemic and worldwide shutdown? How can I survive? What products can I sell and how can I remain unique in a world of uncertainty.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
We are not looking to hire.
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
Want to start your own business?
Hey! 👋I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
We interview successful business owners and share the stories behind their business. By sharing these stories, we want to help you get started.
Interested in starting your own business? Join Starter Story Premium to get the greatest companion to starting and growing your business:
- Connect + get advice from successful entrepreneurs
- Step by step guides on how to start and grow
- Exclusive and early access to the best case studies on the web
- And much more!
Did you know that brands using Klaviyo average a 95x ROI?
Email, SMS, and more — Klaviyo brings your marketing all together, fueling growth without burning through time and resources.
Deliver more relevant email and text messages — powered by your data. Klaviyo helps you turn one-time buyers into repeat customers with all the power of an enterprise solution and none of the complexity.