Small Worm Biz – Part II – Selling Worms

Today I’d like to get back to talking about operating a “Small Part-Time Worm Business” – specifically, I’d like to explore worm selling itself. In my next post I will write about selling worm castings.

Selling composting worms has been the primary means of revenue-generation for my own small, part-time (“real world”) worm composting business – and in a lot of ways I think it’s the best place to start for those who are keen to get the ball rolling. That being said…as much enjoyment as I’ve derived from this part of my business, and as important as the cash flow has been, it’s important to make it clear that it definitely hasn’t been “easy”!

As I touched on in the last (“Small Part-Time Worm Business”) post, you basically have two main options here. You can grow and sell your own worms, or you can purchase them from someone else at wholesale prices then resell them (of course, there are other options such as drop-shipping, affiliate marketing etc – but we’ll look at these in more detail when we talk about “online” worm businesses).

When I first started out, I tested out the first option – purchasing and reselling. Initially the plan was to do this only for as long as it took to build up a big enough of a population of my own worms to become self-sufficient. As I learned, however, growing enough worms (to fill all my orders) in my basement – or even on my suburban property in general, was a lot more challenging that I had originally anticipated. So, I ended up selling someone else’s worms for the first year and a half. While I won’t deny that this was a valuable learning experience for me, I also won’t hesitate to point out that it ended up being an incredibly frustrating experience. So frustrating in fact, that I nearly shut down the “real world” business entirely!

Some very important considerations when going this route:

1) Pricing – what wholesale “price-per-pound” can you get from a large-scale grower? When I first started out, I naively put most of my focus here (i.e. “Wow – I can get worms for $X per pound in bulk and sell them for $2X or more per pound to customers – I’m going to make a killing!”).

2) Time – this is a HUGE one. It is critical that you figure out how much time it will take to get worms ready for re-selling. Even if you consider your time on a “minimum wage” basis, you may end up shocked by how far in the hole you are by the time the worms are in the hands of your customers. Don’t forget about the time dedicated to customer support/assistance as well

3) Other Costs – There are a million and one little (and not so little) costs that can sneakily add up on you without you really thinking about it. Sure – you may be getting a fantastic price on the worms, but are you driving to pick them up? (gas and time cost) If not, are you paying for shipping? Are you using purchased supplies (breathable bags, boxes etc etc) in order to get them customer-ready? Make sure you keep track of all of this.

4) Reliability – If you decide to work with a wholesaler, it is VERY important that you end up with someone who is reliable, and who genuinely wants to see you do well – not someone who cuts corners and/or simply treats you like “just another customer”. Similarly, when you do find a good supplier, it’s very important that you treat them with the utmost respect, and make every effort to help them do well.
Ideally, you will find a way to create a genuine “win/win” situation that allows you both to profit. Perhaps they can do the harvesting for individual orders (vs simply providing you with all the worms in bulk) or even take care of order fulfillment entirely for you. Lots of different possibilities – but it should always start with a strong foundation of mutual respect.

Growing Your Own Worms

It goes without saying that there are significant advantages to growing your own worms, but…
As mentioned above, growing enough worms for all your orders – especially if you have limited space to work with – can be a lot more challenging than you might think! If you are going to have any hope of sustaining your operation over the long-haul, you will definitely need to have an organized, effective system in place.

Just so you know, when I say “system” I don’t mean “worm bed” – I am referring to the entire shebang:
– bins/beds
– feed
– scheduling (hatching, growing, harvesting)

You’ll likely need to do a lot of testing (in a careful, scientific manner), and to stay consistent once you have an approach that works.

Given my own lack of space, and the fact that I didn’t want to put too much time and effort into my “real world” business (since my online work is even more important to me), I decided to get creative with my own worm growing/selling approach by veering away from the typical “pound of worms” model. I know how quickly Red Worms can grow and reproduce, and how easily you can start up a worm bin using material/worms from another worm bin, so I decided to offer a couple different types of “worm culture” – “Compost Ecosystem” and “Red Worm Culture”. The only difference between these is that one (RWC) has higher concentrations of adult worms than the other. Both of these are priced considerably lower than the typical asking price for a pound of worms up here in Canada so it works out well for everyone involved.

Whatever approach you decide to take, it is VERY important that you make every effort to be consistent and to NOT cut corners! If you decide to sell by the pound, then make sure you are actually providing people with the weight of worms you claim to be! Even if you happen to have lower pricing than some, it doesn’t mean you can get lazy and provide the customers with fewer worms! I still remember vividly one of my very first encounters with a dishonest worm business person back when I was first getting into vermicomposting. They advertised an exceptionally low price per pound, which I guess should have tipped me off (haha). As it turned out, their version of a pound basically fit in the palm of my hand – I’d be surprised if it had been as much as 1/4 lb! To add insult to injury, this person was not very friendly at all, and wouldn’t even let me see what she was doing (where she grew the worms etc). I certainly wasn’t surprised to learn that she was no longer in business within a few years!

If you DO go with some sort of “culture” approach, don’t assume this means you can just toss some worm bedding in a bag and sell it to your customers. It should ALWAYS be about providing as much value as you can, and making sure the customer understands exactly what you are providing. An easy way to keep yourself on target is to put yourself in their shoes – i.e. if YOU bought the same products you are selling, would you feel like your best interests were being taken seriously? Would you want to buy from that person again?

Naturally, people often focus on the worms themselves as their “product” – but it’s important to remember that customers aren’t really after worms (most of the time – unless they are buying worms for fishing or live food etc) – they are after an “experience”, and likely some form of results (healthy garden, being more earth-friendly etc etc). So doesn’t it make sense, then, to provide them with a POSITIVE one?! Providing your customers with friendly, ongoing assistance as needed can be a great way to increase the value of your offering.

I know, based on my own experience, how fun/exciting it can be to start up a business built around your passion (or at least a field that seems interesting/”cool”) – but I also (now) know how important it is to actually treat it like a BUSINESS, no matter how small it is. Regardless of how you decide to sell worms, always make sure you are taking care of yourself (by being ever-vigilant of your time, your “bottom-line” etc) AND taking care of your customers (by providing them with REAL value), and your chances of success long-term will increase substantially!

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Christy Christie in the News!

Next Post

Vermicomposting (and Related Fields)


    • Bentley
    • July 11, 2011

    Exactly, Ted!
    Treating people well is hugely important in its own right, but even from a purely business perspective, I’m amazed how many people focus on single transactions, forgetting about the potential value of a loyal, life-time customer!

    • jean kruse
    • July 22, 2011

    Bentley, I am going to be giving my first ever worm workshops [actually 2 in one day] on July 30 and would like to sell some worms to whoever might be interested. I want to package a heaping cup of worms with some bedding but don’t know what to put them in. Where did you find breathable bags or what else might work?

  1. I am new to building a worm farm. Who do I sell my worms to?

    • raken
    • July 8, 2014

    looking forward to receiving good info on how to start raising and selling worms. currently have around 1000 plus night crawlers and general worms.

    • Dee
    • October 16, 2014

    It is good information that is given here.
    what it doesn’t talk about is do worms freeze in the winter I live in me.
    this will be an outdoor products for me.
    any and all ideas are greatly appreciated cover all the bases the do’s and don’ts nobody’s doing that part of it.
    Also think about it this way when you’re considering your costs and all that type of thing.
    if one gets into it strictly for the cash flow in the beginning then it’s probably going to get discouraged and very quickly.
    do it for the love of what you do and who is going to benefit and worry not about that cash flow but about helping others achieve their goals and needs so they use you as a person where they come get there lack of a better word supplies.
    I mean think about raising a child you don’t look at the child when it’s born as what year she will become and successfully throughout the years it is a step-by-step process.
    And an allergy yes poor I don’t know Really just another way of looking at the same thing differently.
    it would just be fun to interact with people and see what their needs are and eventually it will grow but it needs to grow on its own.
    I believe that success will happen slowly on its own without realizing its gotten to where you would hope that would.
    If you watch your investments daily or hourly in the stock market you won’t last a year you’ll pull them out because they will fluctuate up and down Very stressful process watching your money grow in the stock market Enjoy what you do and reap the rewards of it.

    • Marti seeley
    • August 10, 2015

    My husband and I are arguing– I say you sell the soil – with the worms
    He says you just sell the top soil with worm stuff (castings ).
    Which of us is right??? Please?

    • Bentley
    • August 14, 2015

    Marti – that sounds like an interesting debate. I think as far as who is “right” goes – my answer would be “it depends”. Both of you seem to partially on target, while also partially misguided a wee bit.
    For starters – I wouldn’t ever use the word “soil” in association with composting worms since they don’t live in soil and don’t produce soil. Based on the information you shared, my hunch is that this is a worm selling vs castings selling debate. If so, BOTH of these are definitely options – but not necessarily with the same system.
    My approach for selling worms (up here in Canada) involves selling worms WITH habitat material – I think that’s as close to your product idea as you will find. Normally, worm suppliers separate worms from their habitat and basically just sell them by weight or count.
    As far as castings go – for the best results you should use some form of flow-through system or, bare minimum, at least some form of windrow bed that is protected from the elements. Something known as a “walking windrow” can actually work quite well for this. Finished castings are harvest from the bottom of the bed, and should never be mixed with actual soil (ie I don’t recommend keeping a castings production system directly on top of soil – you should at least have it up on a concrete pad if possible).

    Anyway – hopefully I’ve understood the question, and hope this clarifies a bit!

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