Nov. 22, 2021

Growing The Sill: How Houseplants Joined the DTC Revolution

Growing The Sill: How Houseplants Joined the DTC Revolution

Plantfluencers, this is your time to shine.


Eliza Blank, founder and CEO of The Sill, the first direct-to-consumer houseplant brand, launched her company with a Kickstarter in 2012, and grew it into a thriving VC funded business. She chats with Scott and Nora about her journey as an entrepreneur, how to survive a co-founder break-up and why plants make people happy.

 

Transcript

Nora Ali: One of the biggest adjustments that comes with moving to a big city, especially a city like New York, where concrete is king, is the lack of nature and greenery, because many apartment buildings don't include private backyards, gardens or terraces. Eliza Blank launched her company, The Sill, in 2012 after experiencing this exact problem herself. The Sill is an indoor plant delivery company that aims to help city dwellers bring a little green into their homes, and they're fueled by the mantra, plants make people happy. Their site allows customers to select plants based on a host of factors, including how much light they have in their apartment, their available space and their ability to keep things alive. Eliza's journey launching The Sill was a grassroots one using a Kickstarter fund and her personal savings. She also held off on paying herself a salary until five years after founding the company. She joins us today to tell us all about the growth of The Sill. From Morning Brew, this is Business Casual, the podcast that gives you a front row seat to candid conversations with some of the biggest names in business, asking them the questions you wish you could ask. I'm your host, Nora Ali.

Scott Rogowsky: And I'm your other host Scott Rogowsky. Nora and I are here for your ears, bringing you stories of how business shapes our lives today and into the future. Now let's get down to business.

Nora Ali: Scott, you've been a quiz daddy, now you're a biz daddy, are you also a plant daddy, my friend?

Scott Rogowsky: Oh, Nora. What a cute way to phrase that. Am I a plant daddy? I'm a hamster daddy, that's well known and well discussed, famously a hamster daddy.

Nora Ali: Yes. Famous hamster.

Scott Rogowsky: But when it comes to plants, I did buy one little guy. I do have some empty potters that I've been waiting to hang up, I just haven't gotten around to find the plants to put in them. I did have one. It's sitting outside. Not doing well.

Nora Ali: Oh no.

Scott Rogowsky: And I don't know what it is, but every time I water the water just instantly drains from the bottom. Like it looks like the plant is pissing. I pour it in and the water comes right out. So I don't know if it's a soil issue, or if the plant, if it's just not. 

Nora Ali: Are you're overwatering it, maybe? 

Scott Rogowsky: That's my biggest issue, over, under, I'm not good at regulating, at moderating treatment like that, even with my hamster, it's like, I put the food in there and I can't tell if he's getting fat or diabetic. I give him little blueberries and carrot, and meanwhile he's starving apparently, because he's climbing up the cage whenever I open the bag of food, and I'm like, dude, there's so much food in there. I don't know what I'm doing. No, I'm just not a good parent at all, I guess.

Nora Ali: Yeah. Me neither, but I'm trying to become a plant parent because all my friends are obsessed with plants. And my friend gifted me a pothos, which we talked about with our guest Eliza, but I asked this friend, her name's Kara, why she loves plants so much. I asked her this morning and she said, she likes the learning process, the gratification of taking care of nature, the distribution of knowledge so you can teach other people what you learn. And she also said the amount of conversations she's had with people when one of their beloved plants is dying, it's heartbreaking and it feels like you have failed. So people are really treating their plants like their children. And I want to be that person, I want to become a plant parent really badly.

Scott Rogowsky: I need a co-parent, I need someone to raise these plants with me. Also, at what point do you tell a plant that it's been adopted? When do you have that conversation? We're not biological parents here.

Nora Ali: Oh no.

Scott Rogowsky: Yeah.

Nora Ali: That's terrible. Anyway, we got some great tidbits on how to take care of our plants and how to even choose plants. So why don't we toss to our conversation with Eliza Blank. Eliza, it's great to have you with us on this podcast. When I tell you every single one of my friends is obsessed with plants and raising plants and nurturing them as if they are their children, but that wasn't really the case, I think, when you started The Sill in New York City. So what was it about plant life that you felt you were missing in New York that led you to start The Sill.

Eliza Blank: Yeah, well, I think what's common amongst founders is we tend to start with solving our own problem, and that was very true for me. So I grew up in a very green, rural part actually of Western Massachusetts, surrounded by plants. My mother is an avid gardener. She is a house plant evangelist and I just grew up amongst this level of greenery. So I came to New York City for school, I went to NYU, and as I started my career in a city like New York, I found myself in small shitty apartments with not a lot of natural light and not a big budget to decorate. And so I found myself trying to incorporate plants into my spaces very much like my mother did, and very much to make it feel like home. And the experience was just terrible. It was really lacking. So, imagine me at 22 years old in the big city, but having to go to key foods to buy a house plant, it wasn't desirable at all. And it just so happened that I started my career in brand strategy. And so it was very quick that that light bulb went off for me, that here's an amazing product, so to speak, or a category that really had never been properly marketed, merchandised, educated in a way that was compelling to me as a consumer, and me as a consumer was a novice. I had grown up going to independent garden centers and taking care of plants in a home doing that in a six floor walk up where your windows face a brick wall, and your heater kicks on at full steam every winter. It just wasn't the same. So a long way of saying I started The Sill to solve my own problem, and it turned out it resonated with a lot of people.

Scott Rogowsky: And this must have been a bold, and maybe daunting, scary decision to go out on your own as a 26 year old, first time founder. You and I are actually the same age. We both graduated college the same year.

Eliza Blank: Okay.

Scott Rogowsky: Back in 2012, when you founded The Sill I was out in Union Square making stupid videos, man on the street videos for 200 bucks a pop for some company that's long been defunct. I guess you quit your job at some point and said, I'm going to devote my entire life to this startup here. Tell us about that moment when you were making that transition from employee to a founder?

Eliza Blank: Yeah. So, it's crazy to think. I actually started thinking about The Sill when I was 21 years old. And to put things in perspective, I am 36. So the initial idea, or the realization that there was opportunity came to me really when I first started working, and when I first moved into my very first department, because that's the confluence of events, but I knew I didn't know what I was doing, I had literally no career experience. And so I ended up having the opportunity to join a startup, and that startup was in the CPG space. And so I was first of 12 employees into a consumer branded startup. And that is where I learned how to make The Sill happen. In some respect, I sat on the idea for almost five years, but there was something that was calling me back to it. And what I came to realize was at that point in my career, I felt like I had understood how to operationalize an idea. And quite frankly, I was working my tail off. So if I'm going to work that hard, for people who are entrepreneurial, it better be for myself. If I'm going to make a big bet, it's going to be on me. And if I'm going to work this hard, it's going to be for something that I believe in. So quitting my job was actually super easy. I was like, oh, I'm ready to do this. Bye. I devoted as many say nights and weekend. I wrote a business plan, I created a pitch deck, I got really excited and I quit. I got to this point where I couldn't not do it, and that's all that I needed.

Nora Ali: And as is often the case, you did everything yourself to start at least you were potting plants yourself, you were even hand delivering plants at first. How do you approach that proof of concept where, yes, Eliza is doing every single task alone, but what is that point where you decide this is actually working, there's demand, now I'm going to go hire other people to help me grow this thing?

Eliza Blank: Looking back, I think part of what I attribute my success to was being truly young, naive and just full of energy, because I think about those early days, I'm like, how did I even do them? The late nights, the manual labor involved, driving a cargo van full of plants that wasn't even my cargo van, a rented cargo van, and then physically deliver these plants to our customers. The very first iteration of The Sill was a website that you could shop on if you lived near me, that's not even e-commerce, I don't even know what you call that.

Nora Ali: Here's my little radius.

Eliza Blank: Yeah. It was like a store without a store.

Scott Rogowsky: Tinder for plants.

Eliza Blank: Yeah. But not sophisticated at all. So it was a Shopify website, I had six products, and if you bought something, I would be like, oh, I'm going to get in a truck and go to the nursery and buy that and then pot that. And then I'm going to show up at your door and knock on it, and hand you your product.

Scott Rogowsky: And probably lose money in the process.

Eliza Blank: Oh, all the money. I made no money. I made no money, none. But again, it goes back to this, it resonated with people almost immediately. And I could see that. I don't even know that I had the language of product market fit to articulate it that early, but I did set some, in retrospect, totally arbitrary goals for myself that said, if I can get to this many sales, if I can get to this many customers, if I can get to this much revenue by the end of the year, I'm going to keep going. And I just always kept hitting those milestones. It wasn't fast, it wasn't an overnight success, but it did happen. And I think the testimonials I was getting were the most motivating. I realized that plants actually had the power to change people's lives. Plants make people happy is cute and pithy, but it's also a very real thing that happens. Plants do make people happy, and there's science behind it. So for all those reasons, I just kept going.

Scott Rogowsky: Can you describe that very first customer? Do you remember the first time you delivered a plant to someone who was not your friend or family member?

Eliza Blank: Well, on the first day that the website launched someone who I didn't know bought something. And I honestly, if that didn't happen, I might not be here today. It was so amazing to me that someone happened to stumble across the site. I think we were probably in a DailyCandy or something for the launch, but some stranger to me purchased a plant. And that was incredible. And I actually believe maybe in our five year anniversary, that anniversary we reached out and said, thank you, and possibly sent him another plant. But yeah, it was a really amazing proof point that really had, there was no proof in it. It was just an emotional proof point.

Scott Rogowsky: Plants are tricky though. I bought my first plants in 2019. I actually went to The Sill's retail shop there in Chinatown, because I was living in Chinatown practically.

Eliza Blank: Yes.

Scott Rogowsky: I got some smaller plants there, I got this big one in Brooklyn. And I remember, yeah, putting it in an Uber, this giant, birds of paradise type of thing. It is not easy. There's dirt flying all over the place.

Eliza Blank: Oh yeah.

Scott Rogowsky: Unique challenges to shipping plants.

Nora Ali: Yeah, for sure.

Eliza Blank: A hundred percent there's unique challenges to shipping plants. And I would say one of the greater challenges is just the fact that our customers have very high expectations, they want The Sill to behave no differently than Amazon, that is an additional challenge of, how do you pack these things carefully and mindfully and thoughtfully and put them through the mail, and do all these things, but then do it in a way that meets today's customer expectations. It's all hard.

Nora Ali:

And today's customer expect include things like free shipping and very fast shipping. And when I bought my gifted plant from The Sill, I paid $12 shipping for a $40 plant, which I justified because I was imagining how difficult it is to ship a plant to my friend, but for consumers who do expect free shipping on basically everything now, is there maybe a different mindset for frequent plant purchasers where they do understand it is worth it for me to be paying the shipping cost versus maybe paying a higher price point on the product itself?

Eliza Blank: Yeah. The reality is, is you're paying for shipping one way or another. And I mean that almost philosophically, but whether it's baked into the cost of the product, whether you're seeing the shipping cost with The Sill where we say, look, you're paying for shipping because a lot of time, work and energy goes into that. And I think what we defer to is transparency with our customer in letting them know there is a very real reason why certain plants are going to cost to ship, and also they're going to take time to ship, because the last thing we want is for a plant, a live product, to sit in a box over the weekend. So, there are certain days where we literally won't ship depending on where we're shipping to, which then means that we can't match an Amazon today, and we would rather you have a good experience the first time around unboxing then plant than really push the limits of what the plant can handle in a box by trying to get it to you faster.

Scott Rogowsky: Well, we're going to ship this conversation forward after a quick break, but when we come back we'll discuss Eliza's grassroots, launching of The Sill even further, the trends of plantfluencers and so much more. Stay with us.

[AD BREAK]

Scott Rogowsky: So Eliza, Nora and I are both impressed with all the founders we talked to and the entrepreneurs, especially when they're of our generation, our age, it also makes us think, what the hell are we doing with our lives? We could have been doing this in 2012. I don't know about you, but.

Nora Ali: I did not have the foresight that plants would be so cool.

Scott Rogowsky: Yes. Well, let's start there. This trend that we've seen recently of millennials being obsessed with house plants and the rise of plant influencers, plantfluencers, is this a trend that you saw in 2012 that you capitalized on, or do you think companies like yours helped kickstart this trend in the first place?

Eliza Blank: I'd like to think that we had a pretty significant part in that. I think it's twofold. The Sill wasn't, well, one, we didn't invent the house plant. The house plant has been around for, literally ornamental plants have belonged worldwide in every single culture since the beginning of time. Did we make it cool? Maybe. And that was the insight, was that, why aren't plants cool? Or why aren't plants sexy? Why do we think of our grandma's house, that's what you think about when you think about house plants, but how amazing are plants, they're inherently good. They clean the air that we breathe, they create a creative environment, they inspire us. They make us happy, scientifically proven. They're beautiful. They have rich history. There's so much content.

 So for all those reasons, I was really excited to create The Sill and really a consumer brand dedicated to plants. But there weren't a lot of people really doing it before, but there was a real confluence of events that took place around the time that The Sill was founded that also helped propel this forward. So, I would attribute a lot of our success to the fact that The Sill got started around the same time that Instagram existed, or Pinterest existed. A lot of these visual mediums that democratized design, and interior design for that matter, really helped us, I think, position ourselves to influence the millennials.

Nora Ali: Yeah. And to that point, my friends are trying to turn me into a plant person. This is timely because I just moved to a new apartment and I got gifted my first plant.

Eliza Blank: Amazing.

Nora Ali:... a couple weeks ago. And I've been nurturing it, I've been taking care of it. My friend gifted me a pothos, which I understand is good for beginners, because you don't have to really water it, or look after it that much.

Eliza Blank: It's very forgiving.

Nora Ali: It is very forgiving, but I did have this very brown dead leaf after a few days and I felt very sad about it and felt discouraged, but then I understand that you can just tear that off and the rest of the plant will survive. But for people like me who are a little bit discouraged, or think we can't take care of plants, it's too much work. How do you go after that customer who maybe hasn't been a plant parent before, but now wants to be because all their friends are?

Scott Rogowsky: Plastic, Nora, plastic.

Nora Ali: I used to have plastic plants and people would get, they would make fun of me, but I know you sell soil plants as well. Right, Eliza?

Eliza Blank: We do. We do, because there's power in creating an environment that is full of nature, and even the symbol of nature, you can look at a picture of a plant that will have a positive impact. So that is the part that does intimidate people, that people feel a little anxiety around. Our approach has always been to educate. Why would you know how to take care of a plant? You don't know and that's okay. It's not like there's something wrong with someone who doesn't know how, and they don't really teach us this, you learn about photosynthesis, who knows, but that's not really a practice we have in our everyday day. But what I love about the millennial generation and Gen Z and this younger customer that we really position ourselves for is everyone is really geeked out on learning about things. We are very much the like Bill Nye generation.

Nora Ali: Yes.

Eliza Blank: So when you get down to it, it is basic science. It's a little common sense. And what's beautiful about it is it's like a great metaphor in so many ways for life. You learn about resiliency and use of energy and all these things. Taking care of a plant is no different than taking care of yourself. It's like I want to be in the right temperature. I need to be hydrated, and a few nutrients here and there, it really isn't rocket science. And what we try and do is present that in a way that is friendly and fun and not intimidating. And every plant's a little bit different and you want to get to know each plant and it's unique needs, but it's really fun to learn about it. And it's a fun thing to adopt and acclimate to. And then, like I said, it's a life lesson that you never expect to hit you, but that it always does. And I will say the condition of your plants is often a reflection of how you're feeling, because once you neglect your plants, you're totally neglecting yourself.

Nora Ali: Oh my gosh. All right. I'll make sure more of my leaves don't die, because that will reflect on how stressed I am about my life.

Scott Rogowsky: I'm going to stick with the basil, the basil plants from Trader Joe's or whatever. We're talking about nurturing a plant, let's return to the story of how you nurtured your growing business when you started out. And you were talking about how you're doing a lot of this work yourself, but it is true that you started The Sill with a co-founder. Is that correct?

Eliza Blank: Yeah, absolutely.

Scott Rogowsky: And this co-founder, I guess, left maybe within a year of the founding, you parted ways?

Eliza Blank: Yeah, so I think the short of it is that, when I started the business, I didn't know anything. I certainly didn't know about the complexity of co-founding relationships. And my co-founder was someone that I worked with before and a friend of mine. And it was my first real proof point, my validation was that I actually convinced someone to start this with me. And that was all I needed. I was like, great, let's do this together. Let's be co-founders. In retrospect, and now that I have an opportunity to coach and mentor other founders, that's not generally enough to make a co-founding relationship, general excitement around your thesis, but I credit her to giving me that validation and confidence to get started, and she certainly helped me get started, we did this together for six to eight months back in 2012 and that was huge. I don't think I could have started on my own in the same way. So, I can't ignore that at all. I really value that experience. And then quite frankly, the experience of having to go through then a co-founding breakup was really my, the first test of resilience and need of knowing how dedicated I was to carrying this forward, because it really knocked me off my feet. Here I'm coming off of the initial launch, first sale, super exciting, to come to then find that the co-founding partnership isn't going to work, to have to then untangle and unwind that and then carry forward was a huge lesson learned.

Nora Ali: And it's not just emotionally taxing to go through that, but also there's financial consequences as well.

Eliza Blank: Oh, for sure.

Nora Ali: Is there anything you would've done differently to vet that co-founder relationship, or what are some questions and considerations that any of our listeners who are entrepreneurs looking for a co-founder, what should they be asking and figuring out before making that formal co-founder relationship?

Eliza Blank: Yeah, there's been so much written about the topic. Honestly, I could point to a bunch of resources, and quite frankly, I didn't read any of it. So prepare yourself, do your homework. I hate using a marriage analogy, but it is a very critical relationship. And you are in the trenches with this person, and you are already trying to do something that's near impossible, so then you're trying to do that with someone else. And there's a lot of reasons to have a co-founder because it's a multiplier and an accelerator, if you get that relationship right. But you really have to consider, what is worst case scenario and know that you are both protected against that, but that you had those really tough and awkward conversations up front before shaking hands on the relationship to know, all right, this is what's going to happen if we disagree, or this is what's going to happen if we come to a point in the business that is unexpected, you can't sort through every scenario, but you can start to talk through what your process would look like to get through the unknown.I think where entrepreneurs go wrong is that we are so excited about the idea, it's like full steam ahead, but this is one of those go slow to go fast opportunities. To get this relationship right I think is absolutely critical to the success. And sometimes it means, no co-founding relationship in my case, I carried on as a solo founder. And for me, that was fine.

Scott Rogowsky: I am guilty of jumping into a founding marriage too quickly and having it pretty much blow up the whole company and not having the chance to move forward. So yes, this is a very familiar story to me and maybe some of our listeners, but you're right. It's all about researching, there is material out there. Just read it, take the time, don't get caught up in the excitement, take a step back, have some remove. It is hard. Another thing that you did, which maybe it's more common in the CPG space than in the tech startups that we hear so much about, but you chose not to take on VC money at the very start and you bootstrapped this thing, taking out loans and doing a Kickstarter campaign and putting in personal savings. And so that process of many, many years of really grinding it out until you were established as a revenue generating company to finally take on that VC, explain that decision process for those several years leading up to finally, you know what? We're going to raise a round.

Eliza Blank: Yeah. I think in retrospect, I think two things were going on. I think on one hand I described this earlier, but I did come from a startup and we were well financed at that startup. And I saw the good and bad of that, because you have resources to test and learn, but I think I was also discouraged by the amount of money that you can waste. It is at your disposal to test and learn. And I think it can get away from you. So on one hand I chose to bootstrap because I didn't want to make certain mistakes that I'd seen previously, and not just with that particular experience, but I think there's more opportunity to not get product market fit right when you are financed. And I really wanted to get that piece right. And then I think the flip side, or the other side to it was, nobody was going to write me a check.

Eliza Blank: I was selling house plants and I was 26 and I knew nothing, and I had no pedigree. There was no one out there who was handing me a check. So I said, I didn't want to raise, but I couldn't have raised. And I had to bootstrap to almost a $2 million business before I had a seat at that table. So, I think if given the opportunity and if I could do it all over again, I actually probably would've tried to raise sooner because then I faced questions of, well, what is the size of your ambition? And if your ambition was bigger, wouldn't you have raised sooner? So, I think there's a lot of complexity that goes into that story, but I have now had the experience of five years bootstrapped and five years venture backed. And I do think that it's given me a tremendous amount of perspective and a lot of really good experiences, which are very helpful to both me and this business.

Nora Ali: And as you expand and have brick and mortar locations, which you do, which it's very capital intensive, obviously. How did your plans to be in physical stores and have physical locations play into your decisions around funding? Did it push you one way or another at the time?

Eliza Blank: That's an interesting question. I don't know if I've thought about it that way, but I think at the time initially, maybe the mistake was that most investors weren't interested in brick and mortar. And so it was always like, oh, by the way, we have these stores, but really it's all about scaling online. But today, one, I think tides have shifted, but I'm also just able to better recognize the opportunity that still has in store and get excited by that and really invest in it in a way that's not just with dollars and cents, but in my own confidence, in my own voice around, what I think this business is. This business has always been incredibly unconventional. It doesn't make sense to a lot of people right away. And I think I'm at the point where I don't have to change the story for the audience, it's just, this is what we are, and this is what works, and this is how we want to invest. And a big part of our business is our retail experience.

Nora Ali: Well, we can get more into this blend of e-commerce and physical retail and hear more about how the pandemic affected the sales business when we come back from another quick break.

[AD BREAK]

Scott Rogowsky: So we are discussing the story of The Sill with founder, Eliza Blank, and no discussion of retail businesses, e-commerce businesses is complete these days without discussing this recent, or potentially ongoing pandemic. Eliza, this must have been a crazy couple of years for you, particularly with this business. Can you condense the experience into a couple minutes here and tell us this ride you've been on since March 2020?

Eliza Blank: Yeah, and what a ride, right? So certainly, as they say, it was not on my radar, a global pandemic, but I will say, I have an incredibly resilient team and I am an incredibly resilient person. And so, what I think I do well is problem solve, and make smart decisions with the information that's presented to me. We were closed for, I don't know, four months, maybe more. It was definitely a challenge to say the least, and it was a challenge from every single possible perspective. It was a challenge personally and emotionally, and with the business, and with finances, and every single person, every single policy needed to be touched. And we were going on the fly and I tend to lean on my experts and my advisors during periods of stress, but this was so unknown to everyone that nobody had advice. It wasn't like, oh, well at the last global pandemic, this is what we did. So we did our best. And really what we did the best was, I think, return to our values, because that's all we could do as a business was say, why are we here? What are our values? What are our guiding principles as a company? And let's make decisions accordingly. And I think that's what got us through that more challenging period. On the flip side, you have to imagine the interest in plants during shelter-in-place just skyrocketed, everyone needed a plant at home. So on one hand we're facing these closures and this complete unknown as it relates to humanity and retail and everything rolled up. And yet our online sales are taking off, and they're taking off in a way that we actually can't even handle, our infrastructure was very, very stressed. And so were all other points of the supply chain, including the carriers. So it didn't even matter at one point, whether or not we could pack up and box out and send out our plants, you just couldn't handle it. And that we had no control over. So we went through a lot of different challenges. Some of them all at once, some of them were residual, some of them are ongoing. Again, I'd like to believe that it's made us a smarter, more resilient organization that also realizes that nothing that came before is our current or future reality. So, that's an interesting place to exist.

Nora Ali: It's interesting just how the pandemic shifted ongoing trends and behaviors overall in the world of retail. And particularly within the D2C space, because obviously direct to consumer it's digitally native, that's the nature of D2C, but then we saw so many brick and mortar stores pop up across brands, they were really leaning into that, and then those had to shut down during the pandemic. And now there's also this sense of, I want to get back in store, I want to go back in person to view products. Do you think there's any permanent changes as far as the mix of online and brick and mortar that will last as a result of the pandemic, and permanent changes in consumer behavior?

Eliza Blank: Yeah. Oh, absolutely. Without a question. There's no way that we're not going to see some permanent shifts and behavior. I think as it relates to physical and digital, you've probably heard this expression already, but there's the phy-igital experience, which is just to say that, coming out of the pandemic, we got really comfortable with the digital experience for those of us who were using e-commerce in the way that we might do now, but now we're turning to the physical space. We have different expectations for it. And in a way we expect that our physical experience acts more like a digital experience and that they're more intertwined. And a lot of the physical experiences had to create a digital experience during the pandemic, but we're absolutely trying to pin it down, react to it, anticipate it and make sure that we are showing up in the way that our customers expect, knowing that our customer behavior probably shifted more dramatically these past 18 months than ever before. And it was already moving quite quickly.

Scott Rogowsky: There's a lot of discussion about supply chain issues these days, specifically, you alluded to it, this has affected your business as well. Where are you getting these plants from? I know the potters come from Southeast Asia, but are the plants domestic, or international, are they getting held up on these cargo ships outside of Los Angeles where I'm living here? I see these ships in the water here. They've never been out there before apparently, but they're all crowding the waters now. Do you have plants sitting there? They're going to die in these ships, Eliza? What's happening?

Eliza Blank: So the easiest way to put it is that plants are commercialized here in the country. So all the plants are effectively considered domestic, and they're mostly grown in the state of Florida, some in California, we have some plants growing in New Jersey and New York as well, depends what plants we're talking about. That being said, a lot of the, what we would call, like if we were making widgets do come from overseas. So whether it's clippings or cuttings or seeds or whatever the starter plant or starter material is, a lot of that does come from overseas. And so that has impacted the industry in terms of supply chain slow down and just general freight slow down and costs, mostly costs. I think one of the things that we are most challenged by as an organization, as a business, as a brand that wants to connect people with plants is that there's an inevitability that every point in the supply chain is now going to have a higher ticket associated with it. We are paying more, and therefore our prices are going up. And I worry about that the most, I would say, because on one hand we need to do it, one, to survive as a business and to uphold all of the principles of this business in terms of how we treat our employees and how we compensate them and the things that we want to build in this business, et cetera. On the other hand, we don't want our customers to get discouraged that we sell expensive plants, we always want to be at an accessible price point. And so that's one of the things that is the most challenging, I think, to get around. The other side to the supply chain is that the growers really had a tough time with COVID, most growers push their product through mass merchants and grocery stores. And if you think back to this period of our shutdown in 2020, that was the peak period for growers, because you're talking about Easter and Mother's day and all these big, and gardening kicking off in the spring. And so a lot of material got waste and a lot of businesses got really crushed during that period. And so we continue to also be in a place where there aren't enough plants for the demand.

Scott Rogowsky: Having the VC funding now for the last few years, has that fueled a lot of these innovations in the product offerings like the subscriptions, or expanding into more retail locations? And are you planning to keep that growing and growing? What is the ultimate goal here with the brick and mortars, with the web business, and how has having this influx of cash and maybe some mentorship and strategic partnerships fueled this growth?

Eliza Blank: What I can say is, we are in this to help people connect with nature. And that is so fundamentally important to me because that was my experience, was I found myself in a small city apartment, completely disconnected from nature and really feeling the emotional impact of that. So, I always to return to our vision being grounded in this idea that plants make people happy and therefore getting big as a business is an important goal of ours, because what that means is we can impact more people and bring more people, plants and connect more people with nature, and hopefully the planet. So as it relates to the VC, the venture capital that I've received, yes, that helps us accelerate our product innovation, it helps us reach more people, it helps us build out our brick and mortar business, all in an effort to really connect people with plants.

Nora Ali: Well, I can attest this conversation has made me happier just thinking about plants. I'm about to go buy some plants now as a result of this. But thanks for joining us on the podcast.

Scott Rogowsky: Before we wrap, can you just offer some suggestions on some plants that Nora and I and our listeners should maybe be looking for here?

Eliza Blank: So Nora already hit it, the pothos is an amazing first time plant for a first time plant parent. But if you're struggling with low light, which most New Yorkers do, the ZZ plant, the snake plant, a pothos plant, those are all really great options. If you're a pet parent, you're going to want to go with a pet friendly option. So a peperomia or a bird's-nest Fern, those are great options.

Scott Rogowsky: I like the money tree, the money plants.

Eliza Blank: Oh, money tree's a great choice.

Scott Rogowsky: I love those. They grow so nice and big and they just keep spiraling out, and they actually, money does grow on trees, it turns out.

Eliza Blank: See, you're happy just thinking about plants.

Scott Rogowsky: I am.

Nora Ali: Yep.

Scott Rogowsky: Yeah. Thanks for making us happier, Eliza.

Nora Ali: Thanks, Eliza.

Eliza Blank: Thank you guys so much. So fun to talk to you and share my story.

Scott Rogowsky: And now BC listeners, we want to hear from you. We're doing an upcoming episode about the great resignation. And we want to know, have you quit your job recently? What led to your decision to leave? We want to hear it all. Send an email to businesscasual@morningbrew.com, or DM us on Twitter at Biz Casual pod. That's B-I-Z casual pod with your thoughts.

Nora Ali: You can also leave a voice memo on our website, businesscasual.fm, or give us a call and leave us a message. Our number is 862-295-1135. That's 862-295-1135. As Business Casual grows, we are excited to get to know our listeners old and new. Drop us a line and don't forget to leave your name and where you're calling or writing from, so we can include you in a feature episode.

Scott Rogowsky: Business Casual is potted by Catherine Milsoft and Bella Hutchins. Additional planting, sound design and mixing by Daniel Marcus. Alan Haburchak is director of audio at Morning Brew, Sarah Singer is our VP of multimedia, and Jessica Cohen is our chief content officer. Music in this episode from Daniel Marcus and The Mysterious Breakmaster Cylinder. If you like what you heard, please follow Business Casual on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you go for ear plants. And we’d love it if you would give us a great rating and a review.

Nora Ali: Thanks for listening to Business Casual, I'm Nora Ali.

Scott Rogowsky: And I'm Scott Rogowsky.

Nora Ali: Keep it business.

Scott Rogowsky: And keep it casual.