By: Mia Watkins
REV Creative Content Coordinator
Mia here. If you’re anything like me, you’ve picked up or rediscovered your green thumb during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic. I’ve been slowly and steadily giving my living room jungalow vibes a la Pinterest, thanks to local plant shops such as House Plant Collective.
You might have spotted its old school bus parked outside your favorite Birmingham brewery. If so, I HIGHLY encourage you to step inside for a dreamy atmosphere filled with affordable plants and other goodies.
I asked owner Jessica Watts a few questions while doing some weekend shopping. Here’s what she had to say about opening during the lockdown and why people are so excited about plants these days.
Q. You started working on your bus during the pandemic? Is that right?
A. So, we bought it last September, and we started the buildout and actually worked with Steven Stewart (sp?) with Gatos and Beans. We were ready to roll in March with events and obviously the pandemic caused a shift for us.
We pivoted, we went online and started doing local pick-up and delivery. Then, we started with our bus events in July.
Q. How did the online experience go and how have in-person experiences been?
A. We were astonished by how much people in quarantine were wanting some plants for their house, so we did see an immediate response with that, but even more so when we brought the bus out. I think that’s kind of the experiential factor, the shopping experience that our customers are getting when they step into a greenhouse on wheels.
In-person, we’ve seen an immediate response from the Birmingham community. We’ve also started to venture to other cities. We’ve been to Huntsville and Jacksonville. We see more of a boom when we’re able to kind of pop into different cities —especially towns that can’t support a full plant store. It’s been something we’ve been able to tap into and give them the opportunity to build a plant collection outside of the standard plants they can get at Home Depot or Lowe’s.
Q. Other than House Plant Collective being on wheels, what do you think the “it” factor is for customers?
A. I feel like because we are able to bring the plants to the customers —where people live, work and play—that pulls in another factor that typical brick and mortars can’t tap into.
Q. One thing I wanted to discuss was the house plan boom. I personally bought three plants during quarantine, but I’m about to buy more. Why do you think people are so keen to become plant parents during this time?
A: I think it has a lot to do with the fact that people want the opportunity to nurture something when everything else seems to be kind of falling apart. It really helps to see something grow and thrive while everyone’s been stuck in their home. This gives people an opportunity to invest in something.
Q. Where would you suggest that people start when it comes to house plants?
A: You’d be surprised at how often I get that question. I usually recommend low light, low care plants like pothos. ZZ-plants are also another low light plant that’s resilient. Snake plants can also be shareable and they can grow to be quite big.
Q. How has your involvement with REV helped you on your entrepreneurial journey?
A: It’s been huge. I do not have a business background, so I knew I needed that training to make sure that this was a viable and sustainable option. Working with REV helped me get my bearings straight and helped me figure out my break-even point and what my profit losses and gains. It helped me get my numbers crunching and moving before I got started.
Q. You’re also looking for warehouse space. Is there anything else coming up for House Plant Collective?
A; We’re going to continue popping up in new cities and building out our events schedule. The retail/warehouse space is going to be a big thing. Hopefully, we’ll get that rolling in the next few months.
Be sure to follow House Plant Collective on Facebook and Instagram to find out their pop-up schedule!
If you’ve been following REV for a while, you probably remember The Big Pitch Competitions we used to hold back in the day. The Big Pitch presented by PNC was essentially our own little version of Shark Tank. And a lot of your favorite local businesses that participated in this competition now have active retail storefronts that you can go check out. Let’s start with some of our finalists that are based in the City of Birmingham and see what they’ve been up to!
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