Starting Up a Medicinal Herb / Essential Oil Farming and Marketing
Answered by: Richard Alan Miller
Question from: Alton Hadzisa
Posted on: October 24, 2006

I am a pharmacist registered in Zimbabwe and the UK. I wish to start a business producing and marketing a limited range of medicinal herbs and essential oils in Zimbabwe. My target market is pharmacies and health shops in Southern Africa and UK. I plan to package and distribute the products myself.

From my experience in Zimbabwe and the UK, I am confident the market for these products is big and growing. Please advise what resources I can use to construct this kind of business plan, the expected start-up costs, the infrastructure etc. etc.

What I understand you want to do is become a regional wholesaler for herbs and essential oils. This is how I started in the herb trade, prior to becoming a farmer. The way I did it is that I had three delis, each selling herbs to the retail trade. By becoming a regional wholesaler, I sold to both myself and about 50 other regional herb stores.

As a pharmacist, the very best drug store is the old herbs and chemicals sales, where you could find everything you might need for building local formulas for whatever one might need around the farm and home. We still have a few of these in our State of Oregon, but it is a way of life that is slowly leaving us. Walgreen’s and Wall-Marts -- "apply directly to the forehead."

The best way is find a regional wholesaler who is retiring or going out of business. Not only do you need inventory, but you also need sources of supply. I have done this before so building a business plan would be no problem. You must realize that to do this, you must be very broad in what you carry, so the buyer spends most of his time with your catalog.

You can specialize, of course, thereby limited the total inventory and costs to set up. Things like books, cosmetics, and special grinds on specific herbs the kinds of options you might want to consider. This is strictly a matter of your specific markets and what they want and need. If you want to start an overview of what you want to do exactly, I can help finish it with some common sense.

The cost will be determined by the amount of time I need to put into it. I normally charge $50/hour, but can probably button it down in one day. Grants and other sources of revenue might also be considered.

Comment from: Tsitsi
Posted on: November 12, 2006

I am a pharmacist in Zimbabwe too and am currently occupied as a researcher in herbal medicine. The market he is trying to explore is flooded, mainly with unauthenticated products. We are actually trying to reinforce the regulations in that area, so he might want to reconsider his investment.

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