By Christie Pollack
A business dream becomes a reality
By Christie Pollack
DECEMBER 2016 – It became very clear in May 2012 that I was meant to start a greenhouse with my husband Tanner. Even though I had graduated from Olds College with a diploma in production horticulture seven years earlier, building a greenhouse was not a dream I ever thought would happen. In fact, I had convinced myself after graduating that owning a greenhouse was going to be impossible.
Ending up in High Prairie, Alberta (located in northern Alberta) was never my plan, but it was the best thing that ever happened because it created the biggest opportunity of my life (so far). In the early spring of 2012, it was like all the pieces clicked together. There wasn’t a greenhouse within an hour of town and we happened to live only two kilometres from High Prairie. No one had started or operated a seasonal greenhouse for years and I had a background in horticulture. I had heard repeatedly from locals about how nice it would be to have a greenhouse near town.
And here we lived just off the main highway and had access to good roads. Click! It all made sense!
At that moment, Tanner and I began our research into building and opening our very own greenhouse.
We knew it would take a lot of homework, study and planning. We developed a game plan.
- The very first thing we did was to determine if we could get a loan to build one. Honestly, we were still financially recovering from college and university loans and buying our first vehicles. We were just getting by. But we had recently read an article published by Farm Credit Canada (FCC) outlining a new loan opportunity for young farmers under 40 (I turned 28 during the summer of 2012). We phoned the nearest FCC office and made an appointment – it couldn’t hurt to find out more information.
- The second thing we did was to join our provincial greenhouse association, Alberta Greenhouse Growers Association (AGGA). What an important move. We knew that if we were pursuing the idea of building and owning a greenhouse, we needed to gather a lot of resources, meet people within the industry, and attend training events through the association. AGGA members were very encouraging and helpful.
- The third step we took was finding out if the land we wanted to build the greenhouse on was properly zoned. Again, we phoned our Municipal District, made an appointment with the development officer, and gathered information on all the paperwork we needed to file for our project to be approved.
- The fourth step was sending in a water sample for testing at a lab. Was the water we intended to use to water the plants usable? We were in luck – the water test came back with great results!
- The fifth step was hiring professional help. This is so important for anyone hoping to start a new business. We didn’t really know what we were doing and knew we could use business and personal coaching. So, we hired a business coach using a grant from the Alberta government and hired a personal coach for working on creating tools for managing our new life.
Finally by the end of 2012, after more then six months of research, tours, interviews with contractors, and planning (gathering quotes and estimates), we went into FCC with our completed business plan, cash flow projections, and financial statements.
This was the beginning of a new and interesting life. We could feel it. We will look at the launch of our business in the January edition. Stay tuned!
Christie and Tanner Pollack are owners of Christie’s Gardens and Greenhouses, located near High Prairie, Alberta, one of the province’s newest garden centres. Christie was named one of this year’s Top 10 Under 40 award winners by Greenhouse Canada.