It starts with little to no start up costs. A worm farm fits the profile and there is a surprisingly solid market for worms. Especially with the public’s renewed interest in gardening as they turn to growing their own fruits and vegetables to combat escalating food prices.
Another niche market for worms is recreational fishing and it’s only growing stronger. Worm farms require a few simple things to get started; containers, dirt, old newspaper and worms.
But First, Know your product. There are 6,000 species of earthworms. Some are popular for gardens and composting, while others are favored by fishermen. It’s important for you to know what type of worms are in demand for your niche market, because you can’t sell what you don’t know. When marketing to a garden center, for instance, it’s good to know that earth worms benefit the garden by tunneling into the earth, opening up the soil, and exposing it to the air, enriching the soil with nutrients for lush garden plants. They are also the pit-bull of the garden, as the earthworm’s waste acts as a natural repellent for garden pests and protects garden soil from disease. Understanding the value of your product leads to enthusiasm, and let’s face it, enthusiasm is contagious; even to an overworked business owner.
Strategize your market. Researching market potential for worms is just as important as learning about them. For the sake of argument, let’s say your target market is recreational fishing. Many dedicated fisherman think nothing of heading for their favorite fishing spot before daybreak. That means the retailers you’ll definitely want to call on are 24-hour convenience stores that either sell worms or must be convinced by you why they should sell them. Vending machines have begun to sell worms and some are real moneymakers. You can also call on bait and tackle shops, sporting goods stores and Marina’s. The point here is to think about where there is a need for your product (in this case fishing worms), and to follow the trail where you’re likely to gain business.
Once you’ve made a list of the retailers that you can wholesale to, it’s time to start gathering your marketing “arsenal”. Go to a few retailers on your list and buy a competitor’s container of worms. Why? You need to know what the competition’s up to; what’s the going rate for a container of worms, and how many worms are provided per container? You will use this information to market your worms. Make sure to bring along an indelible pen so you can jot down the name of the retailer where it was purchased and the worm count
Price out your overhead costs. By making a few calls or shopping the Internet, you can price out container costs. Make sure you get the wholesale price and ask if they offer better pricing for larger orders.
The final step is to estimate gasoline costs for routine deliveries, and pencil in just a bit more for unexpected deliveries. By understanding the upfront costs, you’ll get a better idea of potential income and whether you can price your worms just a little under your competitor’s price or offer more worms per container than the competition does.
You must set a competitive price. Good wholesale pricing is typically of the retail price. Great wholesale pricing offers a higher profit margin for the owner, which allows them to pass the savings on to their customers. A successful business owner knows lower prices will drive traffic through their door where customers are likely to purchase other items like fishing line, fishing rods and reels and other products. This market strategy is what keeps their doors open. Never assume that the price of your seemingly insignificant container of worms doesn’t matter to a business owner. It does!
Design a flyer that is eye-catching and professional. It should include your name, address, cell phone number, email address and pricing.
Now, it’s time to hit the streets and promote your idea! Ask for the owner or manager because you can dazzle the wrong person all day long and still not get their business. It’s likely you won’t be able to meet with the decision maker on your first visit. That’s not necessarily a negative. It gives you the chance to investigate. Employees are the ones who handle complaints when the retailer runs out of worms because the supplier “didn’t get around to delivering them”. And they are also the sounding boards over stingy worm counts. And if you can offer a solution to the problem when you get that meeting with the decision maker, you’re likely to walk away with their business!
Just in case you’re able to meet with the owner or decision maker, always have a flyer handy. Typically, a first meeting is a “fact finding” mission. Ask them if on-demand deliveries are important to them and discuss your intention to provide great customer service, which includes making sure he never runs out of worms. But if you say it, you have to mean it. This is how you will get referrals from existing retailers for new business contacts. It’s called a “warm” lead and gaining new business in such circumstances is much more likely.
Should the decision maker claim his supplier is stingy with their worm count, mention you can provide more worms in your containers for the same price. After all, worms cost you nothing but left over table scraps to feed them.
Take it to the limit. When you feel ready, it’s time to expand your business by repeating the same strategy you used for marketing fishing retailers for marketing garden centers, landscapers, farm supply stores and farmers markets. If you are really in the zone, you can take your worm business online with your own website, or sell over E Bay or Amazon. The only difference between local sales and Internet sales is some of your business day will be run from your computer. Find out what type of worms are selling for composting and gardening and the average cost. Next check the pricing for online competitors. Are they charging a king’s ransom for shipping? If so, splash FREE or REDUCED shipping across your website in bold colors. In no time, you’ll gain new customers from brand X. No one likes a price gouger!
Consider specializing by looking in to fish farms. Some fish are fed worms as part of their diet. If this looks like a good possibility, you can set up a separate website specifically for this niche market.
How to Make a Do-It-Yourself Worm Farm
Starting a worm farm isn’t difficult. Scrounge or purchase bins around 2 feet X 3 feet that are at least 12 inches tall. Make a “nest” of shredded paper approximately 8 to 10 inches high. Mix in 1 to 1 pounds of rich garden soil. But don’t scrimp. If the soil in your yard is an anemic mess, then purchase some from a garden center. The final step to make your worms house a “home” is adding water to moisten, not soak, the contents, mixing as you go. Before introducing your worms to their new home, let the moistened soil and shredded paper sit for 48 hours to “meld”.
Worms thrive in temperatures of between 60 to 90 degrees. Any hotter or colder and you may have to toss out their poor little corpses.
You can dig your own earthworms or you can order quantities of them to get started on a larger scale. Just remember to research what worms are most in demand for your targeted market.
Once you’ve placed your moneymakers into the bins and allow them to make themselves at home, you should feed them once a week. Worms are happy to feast on farmyard manure, paper, cardboard, garden waste, and fruit and vegetable table scraps. If you don’t produce much in the way of kitchen scraps, think about introducing yourself to your local produce manager and offer to cart off old fruits and vegetables slated for the garbage bin.
As with any guest, especially guests that are willing to work for you that provide an income, the only remaining courtesy required is to change their bedding every two weeks. That’s all. Now go forward and make money!