One of my hobbies is growing things. Joanie and I live on a small rural 3-acre parcel in an area of groves and ranches. We have been here for 30-years and since I have always been interested in rare and interesting plants, we have collected hundreds of varieties over the years.
One of my passions is growing rare and weird fruit. I love fruit and constantly am trying new varieties. I love the whole process of grafting budwood, nurturing and eventually enjoying the fruit once the tree has matured. Joanie loves flowers and we have also collected many types that we enjoy during the year. We always have fresh flowers in our house and bowls of fresh fruit to enjoy. I won’t even talk about the vegetables that we grow.
But for me, my fondest collection is the plumeria that I have acquired over the years. I have some 70 different varieties and each one is beautiful in its own right. Most of them come from Hawaii, but I have found some in the oddest places. We grow plumeria at our home in Mexico too, as it has the absolutely perfect climate for plumeria trees. If you are not familiar with plumeria, it is best known as the “lei” flower in Hawaii as the plumeria flowers make beautiful leis and have a sweet fragrance that is simply wonderful.
Just a few miles from our home in California is a plumeria hybridizer that has been established for years and started out as a casual collector in Thailand. Today, Jungle Jacks (www.JungleJacksPlumeria.com) sells unique plumeria that they have hybridized in Thailand and imported into California where they are sold to various retail outlets. But, the real beauty of Jungle Jacks is the unique varieties one can only buy from them. While Jungle Jacks does not sell to the public from his California facility, they do have an open house on one day of the year, which I was able to attend for the first time this year.
I had no idea what to expect, but was stunned when I entered the first greenhouse. And, it wasn’t the unbelievable selection of plumeria that shocked me; it was the number of people spending hundreds, thousands in some cases buying plumeria trees from Jungle Jacks. The line to check out was easily 50 people deep and each person had numerous trees that they were waiting to buy. Make no mistake, I doubt that Jungle Jacks had anything that sold for less than $40 on display and some of the trees were into the hundreds of dollars.
Intrigued, I started talking to folks that were in the hot houses shopping. The common bond between them all was the appreciation for fine plumeria and their history of collecting them. Some belonged to the various plumeria associations that exist in Southern California and others were simply aficionados of plumeria. There were also hard-core collectors that were snapping up the rarer varieties. Jungle Jacks was even having a silent auction for a new cultivar that would not be introduced until 2015. The highest bidder not only received the first cutting of the cultivar, but also got to name the variety anything that they would like, as its formal title. I suspect that the silent auction generated thousands of dollars and the lucky bidder probably named it after themselves.
I asked folks that if someone put a trip together to Thailand for the express purpose of looking at and collecting plumeria from there, if they would be interested in going. 100% of the people said “yes!” Since plumeria are grown in the tropical and sub-tropical zones around the world, who knows how many destinations there would be to form groups of plumeria collectors to visit and collect interesting cultivars?While I have no interest in arranging such forays, if someone wanted to specialize in plumeria travel for collectors I suspect that they could do very well in this niche.
So if you are looking for a niche to specialize in to organize itineraries that would be of interest to niche groups here are some tips:
You Have to Have a Passion for the Niche: Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you can package a niche group movement without having a passion for the niche itself. People felt comfortable talking to me at Jungle Jacks because I knew about plumeria and I was also keenly interested in the subtleties of the various cultivars being offered. If you do not share the passion with the niche members, they simply will not buy from you.
Get Involved with Your Niche’s Associations and Groups: I belong to the Rare Fruit Growers Association, the Independent Book Publishers Association, the Koi Club of San Diego and the Southern California Plumeria Society. Each one of these memberships opens opportunities for the evolution of niche group travel. When you identify potential niches that you have a passion for, join the local groups that have meetings and start attending. You will find out quickly if they are interested in travel and if you are compatible with them.
Pick Niches Where Members Are Affluent: While just about every imaginable niche may be a candidate for group travel, you may as well find a niche where the participants can afford more sophisticated experiences. It is a lot easier to make a ton of money putting niche travel groups together for international events than it is for a 3-day cruise.
Become Expert in Your Niche: Think about elevating your standards within your niche and become an expert on a topic within your niche. Create a website, a community, videos, write books and start speaking to various groups within your niche. Don’t talk about travel, show your expertise within your niche and use your expert status as an author when developing groups.
Recruit Pied Pipers: Once you have successfully moved a group or two, start recruiting other prominent individuals within your niche to organize and escort groups made up of people that follow them. You can dramatically increase your revenues and profits by leveraging your expertise across others who also possess this level of credibility within your niche. You will soon see your business grow and proper while having fun in the process.