Building an Microgreens Business – The Beginning

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I’ve been experimenting with gardening techniques for about two years now. I started back in 2010 with my brother and Square Foot Gardening, a super-easy method of gardening at home. Funnily enough, I now also work for the author and his non-profit foundation.

After SFG, I got into hydroponics and soil-free gardening. This was (and is) a great hobby of mine and only led me further down the rabbit hole of affordable gardening you can do at home. I’m very health conscious so I like to dream up ways to supply food for myself.

In looking for newer and more unique ways to grow food at home, I stumbled upon microgreens. I asked the members of r/hydro, a gardening community I created, if they would be interested in growing any as an experiment with me. Some were, and the orders for seeds, trays, and soil were placed.

I’ll admit that I had the idea of selling these to restaurants before I even ordered my kit – but like many of my business ideas it was only a small idea in my mind. I was primarily interested in growing them for fun and for food, but it turned out to be much more than that. Little did I know I would be starting a fully-operational microgreens business!​

Getting to Growing

I ordered a seed kit with a bunch of different varieties and chose four to plant: Red Amaranth, Red Cabbage, Kogane, and Purple Basil. I chose coconut coir to grow in and used 10×20 trays. Other than that, I added nothing besides fresh, properly pHed water.After a few days the seeds had sprouted and were looking absolutely gorgeous.​

Time to Harvest

I taste-tested all of my greens then immediately decided that instead of eating them, I wanted to sell them. Fortunately, I live about three miles below an affluent area of town with a lot of great restaurants. I already worked with a client up there for my other business, so I had a good idea of the restaurants in the area.​

Putting On My Pitching Persona

Now I had pitched clients in the past but I was very unfamiliar with how to deal with restaurants, chefs, and produce. This was my very first time ever doing something like this, so I was definitely a little nervous. Here’s what I did to prepare:

  • Got a haircut
  • Dressed in grey khakis, a dress shirt and nice shoes (despite the 85 degree weather)
  • Recruited the help of my cousin

Pro Tip: Looking fresh does wonders for your confidence, which does wonders for your ability to pitch.

Look Fresh, Sell More

After I’d prepared myself, I had to prepare the greens. We put about an ounce of each green into clear bowls, adding ice and a 10×20 tray to carry them in. While this looked nice, in retrospect it was really cumbersome and hard to hold because the 10×20 trays are pretty flimsy.​

The Pitching

We parked on one end of a long street with great restaurants lining both sides. We made sure to do this from 2-4pm, when restaurants are usually dead. Both of us were a bit nervous to get started, so we decided to approach some restaurants that were probably unlikely to say yes – higher end chains, pizza places, etc. As predicted they said no, but the benefit was that it gave me a chance to refine my pitch.

As we moved along down the street, confidence grew and so did responses from restaurants. I had no business cards, no sell sheet…nothing but the greens. I left my information with a sushi restaurant that seemed interested as well as a couple other places…but no one had committed to purchasing yet.​

“The Big One”

The last restaurant that we were targeting that day was by far the most prestigious on the street and arguably is one of the better restaurants of it’s type in the city / state. Needless to say, the pressure was on. Both of us walked in and confidently told the girl at the front that we were here to see the chef and we grew microgreens. After a confused look, she walked to the back and grabbed two of the sous chefs. They came out, chatted with us and tried the product.

As luck would have it, this restaurant was one of the most local-focused and also already used microgreens in their cooking, though they were getting them from another supplier. I pressed them a little bit about what they didn’t like about their other supplier. They said that it was more expensive, less fresh, and sometimes was packed down far too much, so only the middle of the package was actually usable.

These were great competitor discovery facts that I could use to market my next restaurant.

Lesson Learned: If a customer comments about a competitor, poke around and figure out what they do and don’t like about that competitor to gain valuable market knowledge.

The chefs really liked my product and put in a large order for delivery in 10 days. I told them that I could grow anything that they wanted and bring it in, despite not having the seeds. I had to two day air them in and pay MORE in shipping than the seeds were worth just to make good on my promise.

In the end, I had to make it happen, regardless of my situation.

If you CAN get it done, even if it’s not convenient, do it. Under promise and over deliver.

From Idea to Business in 10 Days

The biggest thing I learned from this part of the story is that it does not hurt to market test your idea ASAP. Yes, my situation is a bit easier to test than a SaaS app or a retail store, but there are ways to do it. Validate early and validate often. I was fortunate enough to get validation from one of the best restaurants in San Diego on the very first day…but it wouldn’t have happened unless I got out there and tested my idea


If you enjoyed this first post, please let me know! I want to do a better and better job of documenting the process for everyone, so please leave a comment, ask questions, and make suggestions for future posts. Thanks!​

Learn how I started a microgreens business in my garage on a total whim. It's not smoke and mirrors...just solid, practical advice for starting out!
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29 thoughts on “Building an Microgreens Business – The Beginning

  1. Lovely article. I’m definitely going to look into this. I’m from durban in South Africa. So I think the climate is ideal.

  2. Hello Kevin,
    Thanks for the article, it was a great perspective to hear! I’m interested in starting a microgreen business just outside of LA, California – I think there will be enough restaurant demand to support it despite possibly high competition. But I am having a hard time finding out about the legal business aspects. Do I have to grow/package the greens in a certified kitchen space? Permitting, etc?
    Thank you!

  3. Hi Kevin,
    I am from Aruba and a bio engeneer from Colorado came to our island to help us setting up a greenhouse structure for hydroponic growing.Iam new in growing greens and would like some guidelines to grow micro and baby greens in this climate which is very hot an windy. Do I need to use ac and soil to start growing? Regards, Gerard

  4. Hi Kevin, your story really gives me hope of starting a microgreens business. I’d like to learn more about microgreens, and want to have a try. But, the problem is that I am not sure if the microgreens will grow well in my area, tropical Southeast Asia.

  5. I have recently been throwing the idea of growing microgreens to add to my flower sales. I grew some and took them out to my daughters restaurant. She was thrilled and going to buy some. She knows lots of people in restaurants and is willing to help out with contact for me. I loved your article and will be keeping an eye on your page

  6. I’m wondering about the legal side of it… weather it is legal to grow and cut and package the microgreens product from home, or do you have to have a commercial kitchen to legally package and distribute?

  7. Great website and thanks for sharing your experiences so eloquently. It’s nice to see good content being offered without a million popups and requests for email address. Thanks again! Are you still growing and selling microgreens? I have just started growing for a small local farm-shop and I am getting nice crops, but the mould is a real challenge. I am using a dollar’s worth of food-grade peroxide a day delivered right to the roots, and this is on just 5 trays! Wish me luck, and luck to you too.

    • Thanks Daniel! I’m just growing them for myself and friends, but not selling commercially anymore. For mold, keep air flow high, make sure you don’t plant too close together, and monitor with grapeseed extract spray if necessary!

  8. when did you start this venture? the post isn’t dated. I am wondering if this is still a viable biz idea- or whether the market is saturated. I don’t have a farming or recent restaurant background, so Id want to test my grow before committing to delivering…

    • I started this venture in late 2013 and shelved the project because I started up another company in a different space. Your message is timely though, because I’m in the middle of restarting the microgreens business! Stay tuned for more and check out the Epic Gardening YouTube channel because I’m going to be filming follow-along videos!

  9. hi kevin, looking to do the same here for myself in san diego.

    What is your company name?
    would love any more info on producing good amounts of this produce, as i am a sous chef at a busy restaurant in la jolla and would like to provide for ourselves.
    Thanks for any help.

    • Hey Brandon – It was called Espiritu Microgreens. I shut it down to focus on other projects, but was actually supplying George’s at the Cove for a while. Feel free to reach out to me via email at kevin@epicgardening.com if you want to chat, I can teach you everything to set it up for your restaurant!

  10. Ha, funnily enough, this reminds me of an episode from my childhood (I grew up on an organic farm). My dad made my brother and I march into restaurants as a teenager and offer to sell Mange Tout, peas, courgettes and so on. We actually did get quite a few restaurants and even supermarkets signed up and sold quite amount that way.

    • Hey Thomas,

      Great story, would actually love to hear more about this from you! I have a not-so-secret desire to have grown up on an organic farm myself, so it’d be awesome to hear from you and what your life was like…maybe we could even collaborate on a post for the blog! Thanks for the comment and hope to hear from you.

      Kevin

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