This Side Hustle Spotlight Q&A features Danny Trejo, an insurance agent who started grow-at-home citrus business Via Citrus in 2020.

Where did you find the inspiration for your side hustle?

I started working on Via Citrus shortly after moving to New York City, inspired by the nostalgia for the citrus groves of Central Florida. I grew up on a large citrus nursery filled with the sights and scents of orange blooms — a vivid part of my childhood that I always cherished.

While I had always wanted to be part of the citrus nursery business, I wanted to contribute in a different way that not only brought value to the business but also meaning to myself. The distance from my roots, coupled with the longing for the familiar fragrance of orange blossoms, sparked the idea to share this piece of my home with others. It was then that I realized I could educate others on how to grow citrus trees — no matter where they were located — by opening an online store.

Related: How to Get the Most Money Out of Your Side Hustle During Tax Season, From an Expert Who Raised $75.2 Million to Make Filing Easier

Image Credit: Courtesy of Via Citrus

What were some of the first steps you took to get your side hustle off the ground? What were some challenges?

Starting out, I faced the daunting task of setting up an ecommerce platform. With no prior experience in websites, I had to start from scratch, learning the ins and outs of online retail, from design to development.

Simultaneously, I tackled the important step of defining our product line. Given the vast diversity of citrus varieties ranging from oranges, lemons, limes, tangerines and grapefruits, I had to make decisions about which to offer. This involved researching citrus growth habits and the unique selling points of each citrus type to curate a selection that would appeal to a broad audience.

Equally important was determining the size of the plants Via Citrus was going to offer. This decision was a delicate balance. On one hand, offering plants that were too small could lead to customer disappointment, as they might not immediately appreciate the beauty or potential of their purchase. On the other hand, larger plants, while more visually appealing and closer to bearing fruit, would incur prohibitive shipping costs, making them less accessible to a wider audience. This required careful consideration of the growth stages of citrus plants, shipping logistics and customer expectations to select sizes that offered the best value for our customers and the business.

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How long did it take you to see consistent monthly revenue? How much did the side hustle earn?

The first couple of months saw under $1,000 each thanks to family and friends who supported the launch of Via Citrus. However, it wasn’t long before we were averaging about $7,000 per month in revenue, with May (Mother’s Day) and December (Christmas) being our busiest.

What does average monthly revenue look like now?

We see $36,000 per month in sales. May and December continue to be our best sales months.

What do you enjoy most about this side hustle?

It keeps me in touch with my roots — pun intended — by working on this project with my dad. Growing up surrounded citrus, where my dad dedicated over 40 years of his life, has deeply influenced my appreciation for the cultivation and care of citrus. Now as the person behind Via Citrus, I am able to maintain and strengthen this bond despite being six hours away from the farm. Via Citrus serves as a vital link to my father and the work he continues to do. He’s not just the grower — he’s out there selecting and packaging each citrus plant we send out to our customers. This hands-on approach from him ensures that every plant we deliver carries a piece of our family’s dedication and love for citrus cultivation.

Image Credit: Courtesy of Via Citrus

As you consider the business’s future, what are you most excited about?

The booming plant industry and the significant steps we are taking to grow alongside it get me excited. As our world gets more digital, people are turning to gardening and indoor plants for both hobby and home decor to take a break from their screens. This trend presents a promising opportunity for Via Citrus, as our unique offering of citrus plants aligns with this growing interest.

What is particularly thrilling is our recent purchase of new land for the development of additional greenhouses. These new greenhouses will have the capacity to increase our variety of citrus offers, improve our cultivation process and ensure we can meet the growing demand from our customers.

Related: This Once Single Mom Had Negative $1,500 in Her Bank Account Before She Started a Lucrative Side Hustle — and Earned $100,000 Within 1 Year

What’s your advice for others hoping to start successful side hustles of their own?

Don’t worry about getting it all perfect, launch your idea and listen closely to your customers. For me, I wanted to get everything right the first time: the perfect-looking website, the perfect variety, size, packaging, images, etc. I was spending too much time perfecting. Perfection is somewhat of a double-edged sword. No one was seeing my website or buying my citrus plants. Therefore, my quest for perfection limited my ability to get any consumer feedback to make anything better. Eventually, after years of planning and perfecting, I launched the website. The few customers who did engage became invaluable sources of feedback. Their insights helped us refine our offers in ways I hadn’t anticipated.

It’s important to get your product out there, even if it’s a limited run of your product. Early feedback provides incredible insights and can steer your side hustle in a direction that better meets market needs and preferences.

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