Justin Mast started direct-to-consumer online plant shop Bloomscape in late March 2018. Mast comes from five generations of horticulturalists on his father’s side (his parents met at a business meeting between families). To say he has a passion for plants is an understatement.
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Being comforted by the greenery of his family’s plants during the winter months of Detroit, where Bloomscape is based, is something Mast remembers fondly.
“Living in Michigan, one could get sick of winter, but being surrounded by colorful green plants as far as the eye can see is the kind of thing you don’t forget,” he recalls.
So it’s no surprise that as an adult he wanted to share that comfort with others. He launched Bloomscape for that purpose: to help consumers more easily find, buy and care for plants.
Mast’s love for plants is now translating into impressive financial results for his business. While he wouldn’t disclose specifics, he did say Bloomscape has – in its short 16-month history – generated millions in sales and sold over 100,000 plants to 25,000 unique customers in 48 states (orders have come from as far as Russia). So far it’s seen 50 percent month-over-month growth.
Such early traction has led to a high-profile group of investors putting money into the company’s just-raised $7.5 million series A. Revolution Ventures led the round with participation from Endeavor, existing investors, and a bevy of consumer brand founders, including Allbirds co-founder Joey Zwillinger, Away co-founder Jen Rubio, Eventbrite co-founder Kevin Hartz, Harry’s co-founder Jeff Raider, Quora co-founder Charlie Cheever, and Warby Parker co-founders Neil Blumenthal and Dave Gilboa.
Indeed for some (including myself) plant shopping can be intimidating. Questions abound. From what kind of plant grows best with a certain amount of lighting to how much water does it should get. Bloomscape is designed to help confused consumers such as myself pick the best option for their space. It currently offers more than 90 types of plants from 10 inch aloes to five-foot palm trees.
Providing people with “a really good start goes a very long way,” Mast said.
“We found that people really want to get into plants but don’t always feel confident they can pick the right one or care for them well,” he told Crunchbase News. “So the first thing we do is make sure people are getting fresh plants from a greenhouse, with healthy roots and already repotted. They are essentially living room ready.”
As a personal plant enthusiast, Mast had the convenience of asking his mother, who has 40 years of experience with growing, for advice. With Bloomscape, he’s attempting to give his customers the same kind of personalized care. Starting with his mother, Joyce, as the official “Plant Mom,” Mast has since built a team of support staff to help answer customer questions.
“I realized quickly if we can help people select the right plants and give them the right kind of personalized instructions and support, they could be more confident and successful,” he said. “And that’s when people really cut loose and fill out their homes with plants.”
The home and garden category has been slow to come online given the complexity of warehousing and shipping living organisms. As such, the plant business has been historically dominated by regional garden centers and big-box retailers such as Home Depot or Lowe’s, noted Sieg.
“Consumer shopping preferences and growing millennial interest in house plants have created significant pent up demand for a reliable online retailer,” she wrote via email. “Bloomscape is reinventing the category’s consumer experience.”
Revolution also saw opportunity in the space, with Sieg noting that less than three percent of plant-related transactions occur online. Plus, urbanization and millennial preferences have led to a recent surge of interest in using plants as decoration, she added.
Currently, Bloomscape has 15 employees and is hiring rapidly, according to Mast, mostly in its home base of Detroit. It also plans to use the new capital to expand its greenhouse footprint and into “all areas of the home and garden.” The company also plans to grow its network of foliage partners and implement new technology initiatives, such as enhancing its site and “leveraging data” to help people in different home conditions and geographic regions with more “tailored care.” It’s also planning to introduce two-day shipping.
Personally, I recently finally got over being intimidated by plants and our home is now filled with them. They add beauty and warmth while also cleaning the air. While I’m no expert on buying or caring for plants, I can certainly see the need for what Bloomscape has to offer. Here’s to more green in everyone’s homes.
Inside Illustration: Li-Anne Dias
Photo credits: Bloomscape