It's going to take me a moment to get to the answer of that question, you probably know me by now, I sometimes take the long way around, lol...
The other day I got a message that asked "What size are these succs and why soo expensive??" No context as to the specific succulents in question, just a generic question that has a lot of variables depending on which cultivars we're talking about.
And I'm not trying to 'blast' anyone or whatever you call it. This person has since opted out, as my reply was not timely enough.
So basically what this means is unless I think you may have messaged me and I know your area code and I do a search then I'm not going to see your text, unless you do it during one of the days when we're not texting you, then it kind of pops back up at the top, I catch some of those. But, it's still a really complicated platform, it's not meant to for individual responses. And yes, every opt out hurts. When I review those to try to figure out why I listen to 'Shake It Off' by Florence in the Machine, which is a killer song, btw.
I'm going to attempt to dive into how our texts work so that hopefully we can avoid this type of frustration in the future, and I'm happy to answer the question as well.
So the short and sweet way of thinking about our text messages, when you text your friends and acquaintances it's like two people exchanging pleasantries via SMS messages over candlelight dinner from the opposite ends of a restaurant. It's in real time and there's a level of intimacy there. When I text you I'm basically speaking out of a loud speaker (and I always get butterflies texting, I'm pretty shy by nature) and there's a crowd of hundreds that shout back at you. You try to catch the individual responses, but it can be futile (and during these periods I'm generally live as well, updating our site in real time with lots of people awaiting my every move).
And now the more technical explanation, our texts are unique. I know a lot of you probably think I whip out my iPhone and group text hundreds of you at a time, but it's not that simple. When you subscribe to a keyword your number is saved to a database associated with that particular keyword. So when we send out a text alert for that particular category, you get a little buzz (or that little ding).
When we send out our 'hey we're almost live' text alerts to you, our texting platform looks to see if you have ever texted us anything other than a keyword, most of you have at some point. If you have, I immediately get a notification back that our individual conversation has continued, which buries true text questions every single time we send out an alert. When you text us back it does not go to our office phone, it goes to a database that gets hit with literally hundreds of texts back for every single alert we send out.
So that said, when I send you a text and I get about 150 responses in return, most are automatic, and it buries real responses. These types of texting platforms are not set up to maintain individual conversations, they're utilized as a way to send mass text alerts.
If I dig and dig around in the database I can eventually find your burning text questions, but they do get buried each and every time we send out a new alert. There's no work around for this, it's how commercial texting works.
Now, on the flip side of that, if you opt out, I get a huge notification from our text provider letting me know that you have decided to break up with us, and sometimes they can even provide a little insight as to why you might have decided to part ways with Cedar Creek. Opt outs happen every time we send out text alerts too, it's all part of it, but I wonder, "Is it me? Did I say something wrong?" Human nature I guess.
So, let me stop rambling and get back on the rails here, the 'why are your succulents so expensive' person signed up for text alerts, texted us that question, we didn't see it, then we sent them another notification about three days later, to which they responded 'you still haven't answered me!!!' and of course we didn't see that either and they promptly unsubscribed.
And without explaining all of this somewhere it looks like we're just text snobs, "we'll text you, don't text us." It's not that way at all. If you have a question that you would like a response to please email firstname.lastname@example.org but please try to appreciate I do work about 75 hours a week and I don't always respond as quickly as I should. This little endeavor of mine is two full time jobs for me as it continues to grow, but I always circle back to my email when I have time.
And if you've clicked this blog post because you also have that burning question of 'why are your succulents so expensive'? I'm happy to oblige.
It's because I source each individual succulent we sell by hand, I hardly ever buy our plants by the flats, even when flats are available because there's a huge quality differential between those plants and the plants I pick by hand, we are generally buying the best of the best from these crops. We have tried the buying in bulk model, it doesn't work for us. I only want to sell top of the line plants. I am a collector too and it's really important to me that we're showing you exactly what we order.
When you purchase plants the way we source our plants you're paying market price (in other words what the cultivating farm thinks that particular specimen is worth). The going rate for a lesser quality plant of the same cultivar may be less than a premium plant of the same species. The farms will generally set aside premium plants and those plants cost more than the plants they sell in bulk lots or flats.
And we guarantee our plants for 30 days and we absolutely take losses occasionally. We want you to be happy with your purchase, we never want you to buy something and then get stuck with something you didn't like (or worst case scenario dies on you). Plant mail should always be a fun thing. But this level of customer satisfaction costs us money and is a factor we also consider.
And we are attempting to do this the right way, our number one goal is to source healthy plants. We're still learning, some parts of the year importing is easier than others in terms of growth cycles and temps, but you can only learn this through trial and error. We only import using EMS, which is very expensive. Your plants are only in a box for 3-4 days, max, unless Customs chooses to do an inspection. The way we import costs us $3 per plant on every single plant, just in shipping from the farm to our warehouse. Then if you only purchase one plant when you account for the free shipping to you (we typically use Priority Mail, which runs about $8 for most customers) we're already $11 in, just in shipping charges alone, without the base price of the plant even factored in.
So, let's do a little case study, if you buy something like a Lovely Rose for $18 and nothing else we only gross $7 before you factor in plant cost, credit card processing fees, time, and packaging material (not to mention staff labor to box the plant). There are many orders that we lose money on, but all in all we feel that it comes out in the wash. We love what we do.
And another thing we didn't touch on are facilities. We're not running this out of our house, we have commercial space that we pay rent and electricity on. We have fulfillment equipment, a small staff, and our commercial holding racks are expensive enough to make your stomach turn.
It's very true that most small businesses do not make money in their first year. It's really easy to turn a tidy profit and sell plants for less if you're only selling 10-15 a week. It's a totally different ballgame when you're trying to run a business with a living, imported product at scale with a small staff. There's just no comparison between to the two business models.
So, yes, our prices are slightly higher than some shops on some items, but I would emphatically argue that we do things slightly different than most other shops. We don't always get it right, but when we stumble we sincerely try to make it right. We're growing and we're learning as we do. And our number one goal is not to make money at this stage, it's to bring in enough revenue to start construction of greenhouses so we can start growing these rares in the US. The next stage of our vision is to have complete control over quality.
So I don't think I could have fit that into 140 characters, but I hope that gives some of you insight as how we calculate cost (and how our text messages work!).