Creative Revenue Ideas for Interiorscapers During COVID-19

One of the most challenging aspects of being an interiorscape service during this pandemic is the lack of access inside our client buildings.  My biggest challenge has been long-term care facilities where our most vulnerable citizens reside.  I have three retirement centers where I can see the lobby plants behind the glass doors, slowly deteriorating.  Even with a mask and a normal body temperature, we haven’t been able to step inside—albeit for good reason.

Though servicing some interior plants has been impossible, maintaining outdoor installments has not.  For example, there are seasonal containers along the front porches of each long-term care facility to enhance the front entrances and create a more inviting atmosphere for the residents. These exterior plants have been fine for us to service during these times.

Though some may believe exterior containers are better handled by landscapers, I haven’t found that to be the case in my area.  From my experience, local commercial landscape companies don’t often offer outdoor container services. Or if they do, I see many of them fall to the wayside.  If your staff can handle some outside work, filling the void in exterior container gardening can be lucrative, especially during this challenging time.  

Besides approaching any business that I see with failing containers, I’ve noticed some new opportunities emerge. One such opportunity is enhancing utilitarian outdoor spaces.  

Here in Florida, many restaurants have been able to expand their seating capacity by using sidewalk and customer parking spaces as patio areas. The sidewalk area of a strip plaza or a parking lot, is not an attractive place for a dining experience. 

This is the perfect chance for interiorscape designers to help create and define these utilitarian spaces into a more inviting atmosphere for locals to enjoy their favorite cuisine. Hanging baskets and long rectangular planters with tall hedges can hide ugly views, while softening hard surface areas.

If your service area is in a warm tropical climate like mine, I highly recommend using sub-irrigation, larger containers and a water absorbing medium mixed in with the soil. The most difficult part of outdoor containers is holding in the moisture. Plants can wilt or die between waterings, especially if your containers are by large pavement areas where the heat can get overwhelming.  One other important tip, is to return a day or two after you first plant new foliage, as this is when your plants are the most vulnerable. If you wait a week, you may come back to completely dead plants.  

One obstacle for restaurant owners could be cash flow.  In the past, I’ve bartered with popular local eateries to have my plants on display for consignment, or negotiated a display with my company name and marketing materials. By using old containers and leftover foliage you can help cut costs for both you and your client. What I haven’t done, is barter my services for menu items, but I’ve known other vendors to make such deals and take their family out to eat once a week.

Though restaurants are hurting, the pool industry is booming.  When the entire family is confined for weeks and going to public pools can be risky, no wonder homeowners are turning their backyards into a private oasis.

In order to create a tropical staycation, plants are a requirement. One unique thing I do is offer all my clients and their employees free yard designs.  For example, a healthcare manager at one of the senior facilities heard about my design offer and emailed me a picture of her newly installed pool.  After I created an image of what her new pool could look like with a mixture of new landscaping and potted plants, I earned a sale without having to go onto her property, and just an hour of my time. 

Another inexpensive option would be to partner with your local pool installers.  By providing some of your garden containers around a pool or outdoor patio showroom, you can offer their clients attractive discounts on your services. Some consumers love coupons and having a printed coupon given with the final pool paperwork can help remind homeowners about your service. 

No matter what idea you come up with during unusual economic situations, creative solutions to generate sales have always helped me get through. 

Sherry has been part of the interiorscape industry for over fifteen years, starting at an entry level job at North Florida's largest greenhouse and currently owning two horticulture companies. At UMaine, Sherry majored in English where she worked part-time writing scripts for a local college TV studio.

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