As urban dwellers increasingly look for ways to add more greenery to their spaces, a Chicago-based startup has created a platform to help them source plants from retailers right in their neighborhood.
GrowIt!, launched in 2015 by Mason Day and Seth Reed, has created a mobile app where users can browse the inventories of nurseries and garden shops in their area, and connect with others on their experiences growing and maintaining particular plants by sharing photos and rating them.
“[Horticulture] isn’t pushing forward like other industries have and a lot of that is due to a lack of adoption of technology,” Day said. “Our goal is to bridge the gap and help the horticulture industry reach more consumers.”
Both Day and Reed have backgrounds in the horticulture industry. Day basically grew up in it because his parents own a greenhouse in Michigan, and Reed studied horticulture in college at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
“We looked at each other and said ‘Hey, if we want to have a job in 30 years, we have to show people the value of plants,’” Day said.
The app has about 100 garden shops using its platform, and about 50 percent of GrowIt!’s users are under the age of 35. Anyone in the U.S. can make an account on the platform, though Day said that most of their users and clients are in the Chicagoland area.
The app is free to use for consumers, but businesses pay a monthly fee to operate and showcase their inventories on it. It currently costs $1 per month, but in August, the price will jump to $10.
“For the price of a Spotify membership, you can reach new consumers every day,” Day said.
GrowIt! was built in Chicago startup incubator 1871, but now the team of 10 works out of a Chicago WeWork location. The company is backed by Ball Horticultural, a plant development and distribution company based in Chicago, which is also the founders’ former employer.
Though the platform serves as a way for local nurseries and garden shops to reach new clients, the one thing businesses can’t do on the platform is actually sell their items. GrowIt! doesn’t offer an e-commerce component. It only provides a way for consumers to browse a company’s inventory. The idea is that once consumers find a nursery they want to buy an item from, they will locate it and head there in person.
GrowIt!’s hyperlocal approach could help it stand out in the horticulture market, but other tech companies, large ones like Amazon, and smaller startups, like Chicago-based Welltended, are selling and delivering plants directly to consumers’ homes.
Even though GrowIt! doesn’t provide e-commerce or delivery features now, Day said he would consider adding some in the future. In the meantime, he’s betting on the platform’s social media-like qualities to attract users.
“We want to create a community for people to get plant questions answered, have plants identified—be that go-to resource if you’re interested in plants,” Day said.