We had the good fortune of connecting with Nick Long and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Nick, can you walk us through the thought-process of starting your business?
Start as small as possible and patiently build the fundamental skills to run my business – In the beginning, I had a bold vision for an agriculture empire. Not only did I want to build the largest indoor vegetable farm in my hometown of Monrovia, I wanted to start a lavender farm (my favorite herb) and potato farm (my favorite vegetable), just to name a few. But something I learned early in my entrepreneurial journey was that investors want to invest in something physical that already exists. Investors don’t want to invest in a good idea on paper that’s never been materialized. So when I decided to take my favorite hobby from just a hobby to a professional career, I started as small as possible. I grew one tray of microgreens in a small grow tent in the corner of my parents garage. I then convinced my parents to let me turn my bedroom into a farm. Two grow racks with the capacity of 32 microgreens trays were added to the middle of my bedroom. As you can imagine, that did not last very long so I then convinced my parents to clear out the garage so I could turn that into the farm. I added four grow racks, joined four farmers markets and started to add restaurant clients. My business was growing. After six to eight months in the garage, I moved in to our current location: A 1600 square foot warehouse with 12 microgreen grow racks and three hydroponic lettuce grow racks that will soon be finished. I’m almost two years in, and I went from a small corner in the garage to a warehouse. Starting small and patience are what got me here and are what I recommend to other people that want to take a leap into entrepreneurship.
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
Metrogreens Vertical Micro Farm is the San Gabriel Valleys first fully licensed indoor vegetable farm. We’re located in our hometown of Monrovia, right here in Los Angeles county. We grow microgreens, edible flowers and will very soon have the ability to grow various types of hydroponic lettuce. We grow everything in an environmentally controlled warehouse under energy efficient LED lights. Our microgreens are grown in organic soil and are never sprayed with pesticides and harmful chemicals. Our lettuce and edible flowers are grown hydroponically and of course, are never sprayed with pesticides and harmful chemical either. We grow vertically towards the ceiling, so we are able to be very efficient with the space that we use. Finally, we always harvest the same day, so our greens are the freshest you can find. We started from scratch out of the garage and we’re patiently perfecting our craft. We are not a multi million dollar backed indoor farm. I live and breath my job so I’m very passionate about what I do. I put my heart and soul into my greens and I make sure that is passed over to my customers. I’m feeding my local community while having the time of my life and being myself. We believe indoor grown vegetables are not only a great source of nutrients for the body, but the soul as well. Our job is to feed your soul.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I would be very impressed if someone could visit all 6 locations in one day, so this isn’t much of a day itinerary. Some of my favorite spots are all around Los Angeles and Orange County, so maybe this would be great to split into 2 – 3 days. This is where I’d take my friends and family from out of town. Shin Sen Gumi Hakata Ramen (Rosemead) – I eat a lot of ramen. The bowl that always hits the spot and never fails: Shin Sen Gumi in Rosemead. The rich pork broth is simple yet flavorful. The wheat noodles are thin and firm (You can order hard, normal or soft noodles. I prefer my noodles on the firmer side. Green Cheek Beer Co. (Costa Mesa) – Original brewery in Orange, but I prefer the new Costa Mesa location. Feels like you’re at the beach, dog friendly, and they serve a few rebranded brews from the original brewery they took over at this location. (Barley Forge) Fire Wings (Rowland Heights) – My second favorite food group: Wings. My current favorite spot: Fire Wings. The wings are perfectly fried every time, but it’s the flavors that keep me going back. You can’t go wrong with classics like their buffalo and garlic parmesan, but don’t over look their Thai Chili and Saigon Alley. (If you’re feeling adventurous, try the Peanut Butter wings.) 1,000 Steps Beach (Laguna Beach) – A very secluded beach that you will drive right by if you don’t know what to look for. The entrance is off the sidewalk on PCH in Laguna Beach. Walk down the innocent looking stairs (It’s a lot of stairs but definitely not 1,000 steps) and you will be welcomed to a medium sized secluded beach. It’s never been too busy when I’ve gone, but getting to the beach early is always a good idea. The water is slightly calm but has it’s moments when you can catch a good wave via boogie board or body board. Just a simple, quiet and relaxing beach. Crystal Lake – San Gabriel Mountains (Azusa) – A short drive to the snow. Not a lot of snow but more than enough to sled, throw a few snowballs and of course take the IG snow photo. Santa Anita Ridge – (Chantry Flats via San Olene Rd). – Not a trail taken often by many hikers at Chantry Flats. Instead of taking the popular trail to Sturtevant Falls, walk north above the parking lot past the alpacas and you’ll find the San Olene Rd. Once you reach the helipad, the road turns into a dirt trail that zig-zags through the trees and shoots you out onto the face of the San Gabriel Mountains. At the end of the trail there is a police radio station, gated bee hives and a large concrete water tank that is very safe and easy to climb onto. Hands down one of the best views of Los Angeles County. (Note) The entire Chantry Flats area was burned to the ground via the Bobcat fire. Unfortunately they are not allowing anyone to the grounds for the time being but once reopened, definitely worth a visit. Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
My parents because none of this would be possible if they didn’t let me turn my bedroom into a farm and then the garage into the farm. I wouldn’t have been able to get started. They were my first investors and my number one supporters. My girlfriend because she’s persevered through my entrepreneur lifestyle of a 24/7 work schedule, all while running her own business. I look up to her and she inspires me every day. Every farmers market manager that allowed us into their market and continue to believe in us to this day. Finally, all of our loyal customers. The relationships I’ve built at the farmers markets and restaurants are priceless. I consider all of my customers my friends. This is what makes my job so fun and I highly appreciate everyone.