Perhaps someone would say that this isn’t a big amount of money, but considering that Slovenia is a relatively small market (only 2 million citizens), this is a huge yearly amount in such a small niche. Going from -7.500€ to 80.000 yearly income in 5 years is really an interesting and fun journey at the same time.
Let us discuss a little bit more in depth about our five-year journey, so that you could get the whole picture of our ups and downs and finally of our success. We are Saša and Boštjan, and we come from a small European country called Slovenia. It is a beautiful country with an abundance of mountains, where you can escape from the fast pace of the present, from working days and nine to five jobs. Here, you can not only enjoy gorgeous lakes all over the country but also the clear Adriatic sea, with peaceful spots for meditation, yoga or just relaxing and switching off your mind. We believe that everyone can find something special just for themselves, to raise their awareness and vibration.
In 2013, when I was pregnant with our daughter Inja, I needed rest all the time. In order to spend my time more wisely, I decided to search for something that will spark joy in our minds, and that could become a business into which we would put all our passion and drive. I kept browsing the internet, knowing that something out there will find me. And that is exactly what happened. I came across a lovely couple, Maya and Jerry, originally from Slovenia, but who back then lived in New Zealand and who started a small yet sustainable business in microgreens. When I first saw what they were doing I was blown away. I could not imagine how these small, tiny and lovely plants could enable anyone to create a business utilizing them. But I fell in love.
As I had previously already conceived several ideas from my all-day browsing, I was a bit anxious in presenting this one to my lovely partner Boštjan. Yet he always said, “When you find something that will fit us, we will go for it”. His reaction when he heard about microgreens was “This is it! This could work for us!”. You just know when you are making the right choice. You get butterflies in your tummy, goosebumps all over and you are blown away. We felt the same. We did not have any experience with microgreens, as I was a Director’s assistant in a pharmaceutical company and Boštjan was very good at his job in a printing company (18 years of experience), but our focus was on learning about microgreens, and on how to create a business from them.
This was one of our first ideas, to repair and rebuild old furniture.
I was feeling alive once again. Our passion and vibe were so tuned, that I researched through every page that I could find on the topic, watched every video that I came across, and even bought a printed course on how to build a business with microgreens. Every day, we were more convinced that this is it. I also researched the Slovenian market to see if a demand existed and how many growers were already present. Yet all we found was one person selling microgreens to restaurants, though he did this only as a part-time job. But we saw the potential for a full time business. We did not have the tools or equipment for growing, but I decided to go to the nearest shop selling seeds and I bought 2 sachets of radishes. As soon as we started to sow, we realized that we didn’t have enough seeds. I went back to researching. This time I focused on the seeds and tools that we needed, and on the conditions required by young plants for their optimum growth. We had to improvise. The first crop was grown in our so-called tunnel, which we used for storing our junk. Boštjan created the perfect environment with fans and lights. Every morning, the first thing we did was to check if there was any progress in growth. But because of our lack of experience we had left the lights on all day long. Looking at our efforts, you could easily see that we were growing something unsuitable. 😉
However after one week we had a bunch of delicious young plants, called microgreens, grown by our own hands. We had pea, radish and sunflower (during my research, I found which plants were considered best for beginners, we gave them a try and our efforts paid off). That same day we decided that this was really it. This was something we wanted to do. And so our journey began.
Our first growings in tunnel.
Super happy, when they turned well already in first batch.
First time soaking, with a lack of experiences (I bought wrong sunflower seeds, and leave them sprouted too long).
Future daughter’s room full of microgreens.
Our first rack with lights.
We had microgreens all over the room, before we started growing in warehouse.
Our country’s climate is not ideal for outdoor growing if you want to establish a year-round business. So we remodeled our future daughter’s room into a different kind of nursery with our first rack and lights. When I remember those times, each morning, when we got up and went to look how they are growing, with big expectations, we were so excited! We knew right away, that this will be our full time business. While we tested different varieties of microgreens, we also searched for the perfect place where we could grow them. We knew we needed something bigger than just one room.The Universe never sleeps and our effort was rewarded in a nearby empty building that was used to house a foundry a few years back. As soon as we stepped inside we felt as if we were already growing microgreens there. So the next logical step was to rent this house, let’s call it warehouse, even if it sounds a little funny. We opened the LLC and here in Slovenia it is requested to deposit 7500 euro for the opening and then we used this money for rebuilding our warehouse.
This is a look of the warehouse that we rented from the beginning.
We all somehow can agree that if you want something, you have to give something, whether this is your money or your time, but often both come together. Growing microgreens is a business after all, however you don’t need much starting capital, compared to other businesses. Basically, everything depends if you already have space for growing microgreens (warehouse, garage, basement or something else where you can grow these little babies) and some basic equipment. In our case, we spend quite some money for growing space, but our idea from the beginning was that we needed enough big space, because eventually we will expand our business and we will need enough growing space. This place was ideal for us, even if it’s quite big (250m2) but perhaps you can easily start with a smaller place. So the investment cost would be much lower. You have to know that this building was in a really bad condition when we started preparing the space. We needed to replace almost everything in there, from new lower ceiling (it was too high back then), to new concrete on the floor, we even needed to build one new wall. Boštjan put all his effort into rebuilding, and it took him (because in general he worked alone there, with his hands), almost one year, so that we could finally start growing there. But because we didn’t want to spend too much money before we even started, he worked alone. When I remember those times, it was really hard. He worked there each afternoon, after his regular job, and I took care of our few months old daughter, Inja. Before she was one year old, we started to grow there because we needed to start making some money, otherwise we wouldn’t survive. As if it wasn’t hard enough already, I got a serious illness. All in one. But our focus was determined very well, so it kept me ‘alive’ and with high expectations in upcoming months.
The warehouse was really in a bad shape.
Boštjan needed to rebuild the whole wall.
While Boštjan worked in warehouse, I took care of daughter and we were coming to the warehouse, otherwise we woudn’t see Boštjan all day long.
Here the ceiling was already built.
From that to this….we were ready to grow indoor 🙂
I started selling on Saturdays at the local farmers market. Firstly, on a smaller one, closer to our home town. There I got more familiar with the work on the market and how everything works. Then one day, someone told me why not to go to the market in the capital city, Ljubljana. It hit me right away, and the next day I called there and asked, what else do I need, to get started selling there. After getting some approval from their site, I moved to this bigger market, but only on Saturdays, because, this is the best selling day, still today. We offered living plants and cutted in boxes, but we realised that people would rather buy living microgreens. That’s why we didn’t cut it anymore. A farmers market is a perfect spot, for you, to become recognisable in your area, but from our point of view and experiences, it was not that profitable. Our first selling day at the small farmer’s market we made 40 euros. With price of 2,90 euros for one small tray 18,7cm*13,7 (7*5,1 Inch), we sold quite some. You have to understand that 5 years ago people didn’t know what microgreens are (and a majority of the people still don’t) that’s why we were really happy. People were stopping by, because we were new, and microgreens were something new to them. It was so funny, because each one asked the same question. What are those? And then I started telling them, and gave them a little to try, and they were blown away with the taste of the radish. I always prepare radish for samples, because the taste is really like a mature one and people can not understand how this is possible. And then you have your own speech of what microgreens are, benefits of microgreens and where you can use them…
Our first smaller farmers market.
Selling microgreens on largest farmers market in the capital city of Slovenia, Ljubljana.
It was such a pleasure working on farmers market, with happy, satisfied customers.
We have been selling at the farmers market in total for two and a half years. Our best day was two hundred euros on one Saturday. When you subtract all costs (one salesman, place and material), we didn’t earn so much, but we became recognisable in our area, or better to say, in our country, and this was a real value from the farmer’s market. Still today, some customers, who bought back then from us, call me now, and tell me that we know each other from the farmer’s market. And this is something that always touches my heart, because I really had good times, selling there. You get to know so many new people, and if you like to mingle, and talk with them, this is definitely a place to go.
Let me tell you how we got our first restaurant, where we sold our microgreens. One Saturday at the farmer’s market, I got there early in the morning. Around 6 o’clock, I was already there. Back then, they had some idiotic system, that allowed farmers with an organic certificate, to buy a year-round permit and they had secured a stand for the whole year in advance. But for someone that didn’t have this permit (like we didn’t have), we needed to wait until 8 o’clock, and see if there are any free stands. And if there was any, you needed to be there first. That’s why getting there at 6 o’clock was always better for you. But whenever there was some event going on, at this place, all the stands were moved and then many times you didn’t get any stand. And you could go home without even trying to sell anything. It was quite frustrating sometimes, yes. And the same happened, when we met our first chef. He came to us, because he saw what happened. And he asked, where will we put those microgreens? And we said, well nowhere, because we can’t sell today, so we will eat some at home, and we’ll share it between family and friends. Then he said, if you can, please, bring it to our restaurant, and we will take some of them. And so our story with restaurants began.
We were presented in several magazines (and we also filmed one commercial 🙂 ).
I am telling you, microgreens are very stylish food, so be prepared, perhaps you will be next :).
This was our second appearance at a Vegan festival – very successful.
I brought microgreens and my friend Mateja made recipes with them. Win – win combination.
Meanwhile we started looking for more customers. First we started to grow around 10 different basic varieties, which should be easy to grow at the beginning. Soon we realise that finding restaurants is the easy part but finding the right person to present yourself is more challenging. When we finally found the right person (the best way is to get in contact directly with the chief chef), we had to explain to them what are microgreens because in Slovenia, at that time, few chefs knew what they were. Usually they ordered ‘cress mix’ from abroad, but they were really expensive. And still are.
And then this feeling came over us, when we needed to deliver the first big order. I can’t even describe all the thrill, going on, when you are loading your car for the first delivery. Back then we had an old Ford Galaxy family van for everything and it was really funny when we put 2 trays of microgreens in the trunk and drove to only one customer. At that point we didn’t stop, we know, that when other chefs will see all the benefits of microgreens it’s going to be soon more and more orders.
First delivery in our family car, Ford Galaxy.
From the start it was tough, because the company didn’t bring so much money from the beginning, but we needed to buy all the supplies in advance, but we knew that we couldn’t stop there. We knew that when regular orders will come from the restaurants and when we will deliver microgreens to several restaurants more, we will have some perpetual income. That’s why Boštjan was still employed in the printing company and helped after his job, but I was already full time employed in our company.
With a lot of effort, time, and willingness to try more, we soon had more and more customers. That’s why we had to buy a few more racks. You know, when you are good at what you are doing, and you 100% love what you do, then success is just around the corner. Chefs are changing their restaurants, sometimes even a few times per year, and if they are satisfied with you, they will order from their other restaurant from you. And with the word of mouth, your client list can be extending very quickly. This was our first year, though, but a must to take the next step in our success.
Second rack with lights and all next ones, were the same as this one.
Approximately one year later the Ford Galaxy was too small that’s why we bought a bigger van, a Renault Traffic. Like all other businesses, soon competition showed up and when this happened, you have two options. First you start looking at what the competition has and then you compare yourself and try to find what are your benefits, why you are better and then adjust your price or size of microgreens. The second option, in our opinion the right one, is that you have to build good fundamentals, do the right calculation on a price and then you HAVE TO DO your best on quality of your products, delivery has to be on time and your attitude must be on a high level. In the end, customers buy you and your attitude even if your price is a little higher compared to others.
Second, bigger van.
In our case we took a step further and started growing edible flowers and picking wild plants, which later on was a huge success. This is why we are different like other growers in our business. The best thing with edible flowers is that you just prepare a field, plant seeds, water when needed and when season comes pick the flowers, pack them and chefs really love them. They are a superior final touch on the plate.
For wild plants it is even easier. You just need to find them in nature and pick them. First year we had a really good season for flowers and we planted a lot of them. It was beautiful all these colors and bees flying around just perfect with little issue we didn’t have so many customers and we thought what a waste;(. Then we got the brilliant idea for drying all the flowers we didn’t sell and store them for the winter. The response was really good. That’s why we now have dry flowers in our offer 365 days in a year.
When we started we thought that this microgreens era is slowly dying but now we know it’s just a beginning, like veganism. In Slovenia each year there is a Vegan festival and microgreens are just perfect for something like this and we said why not. First year we didn’t know what we could expect and what amount of microgreens we should bring to the festival.
When we came there, we were prepared, with a lot of grown trays with wheatgrass and some microgreens. But because the place was in such a bad location (from a sellers point of view), there weren’t a lot of customers. And what was even worse, at the end of the day there was also a storm, so we basically packed everything and went home. With almost all the grown plants. But in the second year, they picked up a much better place for the festival. On the main farmer’s market in the capital city. This was something really extraordinary for all sellers. I can remember how crazy it was. We were juicing wheatgrass in front of people, so that they got a “fresh as possible” ‘shot’. In between we needed to explain what microgreens are and what are the benefits of wheatgrass juice. We were doing this all day long, till 8 o’clock in the evening, when we were super happy for what we did, and finally went home.
Vegan festival, our first year.
This year I was also having some workshops for juicing and growing microgreens, plus they invited me to the kindergarten, where my daughter was, to show those young children, how we can grow microgreens and have our own grown food in just one week. This was a really nice experience. But from the start everything didn’t go so smoothly.
You have to be patient and put a lot of work into growing time, so that you gain as much knowledge as possible. And secondly, you need to find regular customers. I remember, when I had some bad days with restaurants and chefs, I said to Boštjan, perhaps delivering to customers at home is a much better idea. But soon I realized that restaurants are the way to go. With them you get weekly orders. So you can somehow calculate in advance how much you need to sow.
Promotions at health stores.
Promotions at different events.
This is, besides managing the growing time, something that you need to learn through your own experiences. Sometimes you sow too much, sometimes too less. But with more and more growing days and experiences, you get the flow.
In third year I was pregnant with our second child, our son Žak, and because of that I stopped going to farmers market. It was just too much of everything. I was occupied with other work, especially with finding new customers (well, this is something that you need constantly do/research) and growing and delivering chefs. I must tell you, that without the help of my mother and father I couldn’t have managed everything. Because when you are also selling edible flowers and wild plants, both of these take a lot of preparation work. And when you are alone for everything, you just run out of time. And my mother and father did help me a lot (and are still nowadays). Whether it is with preparation or with babysitting.
What a joy, presenting microgreens to the world.
Happy me, in growing area.
Even though I was pregnant, we opened another delivery area, the third one. But what we figured out was that we will have delivery days only from Tuesday till Thursday, otherwise we have to deliver all week. This year we also went to a vegan festival. This time, we had help from our friend. Three of us were juicing and explaining to customers what we are growing. So it went very well once again. But it takes so much effort. All those events take so much preparation time, and then you had to be there all day along, so at the end you are exhausted.
2018 was very important for us. A lot of things happened. From May, we employed Boštjan for full time (lucky him 🙂 ). So he escaped from his 9-5 job. This was our first goal on our way. The second goal was to have someone employed for operational work. In the summer Žak was born, I had to stop working for 1 month, and Boštjan did all the work. It was quite challenging and tough at the same time. That’s why we ‘pulled in’ our sister-in-law and she was doing all the growing and sowing part.
My dear friends (Miha & Nina (below)) helped me a lot with photographing and recording microgreens.
It’s always nice to look our beauties.
Having good photos is esential.
Preparation for photoshooting.
And I have to tell you, that this is something that I really wanted, because from there on, we, as a family and as a company, grew so much. Because I had more time to do actual business, and had no concerns, on growing and preparing part, because we trust her fully and together we are much more efficient. Boštjan’s part is delivering, sometimes also sowing and watering, and all other technical staff like modification of the racks, electricity jobs, repairs and some small painting. I take care of the customers, orders, paper work, searching for new customers and final preparing of microgreens for delivery.
At that time, we asked ourselves, what do we want to achieve with our business. What are our goals, where do we want to be in 5, 10 years? This was a milestone for our business. We put on paper some of our goals for 2019, like a financial goal, what changes do we want to implement, what else do we want,…
‘Crazy’ mom with her work (Inja pictured me, that’s why a little bit bad picture).
This year was our year. It was time to lift the business to the next level. We prepared the whole business plan (which I encourage you to do also), we prepared a really nice looking catalog of our products, which was a hit among our chefs. We raised prices a little bit, and added new varieties to our assortment.
Now we are already growing more than 50 varieties and still searching for new ones. We started testing again and find new ways of growing techniques, which we implemented and results really can be seen. Now we don’t have so much waste. When the end of the year came, we calculate how much did we make, and guess what. Even if you don’t believe me, I have to tell you, that our financial goal for 2019 was to reach 80.000€, and the number that popped up at the end of the year, was exactly that one. I know, this sounds magical, but we were jumping up and down and smiling, because we knew that everything is possible, as soon as you believe in this and you are 100% sure that you will succeed. We really would like to encourage you, to have written goals and to raise your mindset, because a lot depends whether you are thinking of success or of a lack of something.
Our happy family.
Me and my world of microgreens :).
Let me tell you the good news. More and more restaurants are opening on a daily basis. More and more people are trying to eat more fresh, local food, or even to grow their own. And microgreens are really super fast growing plants that you can benefit so much from them and they really met those needs.
And so we are in 2020. Only February, but already so much happened at our farm. For the first time in our lives, we bought a completely new van. The old one was already too small. Now it is even a bigger pleasure to make deliveries. We also started delivering to a new area, so now we have 4 areas for delivering (so exciting 🙂 ).
Our new van.
And the most important thing, that happened, firstly in our heads in 2019, but now, in 2020 it is a reality. We started with our brand React Green. Our vision is to help others with our knowledge, so that we spread microgreens worldwide. We want a more sustainable, green lifestyle for everyone. And we hope that with our experiences and expertise, you all can benefit somehow. A lot of will come in this year, so prepare yourself, subscribe to our newsletter, we will definitely inform you, what are we preparing.
Hope our story motivated you even more, to start growing microgreens or even start a business with them. If we can help you, just let us know, otherwise, join our free facebook group, Microgreens by Reactgreen Tribe (https://www.facebook.com/groups/microgreensbyreactgreentribe/), where we will discuss on microgreen topics 🙂
To help you even more, with growing microgreens and starting business with microgreens, we have gathered online course Microgreens MasterClass, where you will find all our knowledge.
Wishing you success in all aspects and Green regards,
Saša & Boštjan
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