I'm Opening A Plant Store 🪴

A month ago, I spilled the beans: I'm opening a plant store!

And let me tell you, it still feels surreal typing this out.

Like most journeys, this has been an idea I’ve been walking towards for months, maybe even subconsciously for years.

Just the other day, I stumbled upon a crumpled post-it note from July 2022 where I jotted down this wild idea of creating a cosy little plant haven!

So, without further ado, let's dive into my first monthly update!

Today I wanna talk about:

  • Why a plant store?!
  • Finding suppliers & getting rejected
  • Building a website & loving Shopify
  • Current financials & how much I need to earn
  • Bonus: Finding out that plants don’t get shipped with bottoms

Feel free to skip to what you’re most interested in!

Why a plant store?!

Back in 2019, I visited Dee from Moustache Milk & Cookie Bar. The only thing you need to know about Dee is that she’s the best human being.

After a super wholesome chat, as I was leaving the store and she was like, “ohh, wait a second!”

And proceeded to fill a bag full of cookies for me.


I think that warm fuzzy feeling never left me.

Since I spend most of my time online, I've always wanted to do something physical, and being able to share that with other people intrigued me!

Also I've been remote working since 2019. Which I mostly love, but sometimes it does get a little lonely.

So creating a wholesome, cosy, and safe space where my sometimes anxious self can connect with people over a shared passion really excited me.

The final piece of the puzzle was figuring out how to do this while maintaining my full-time job.

That's when the idea of a Sunday-only plant shop came to me.

I wanted to create that Sunday vibe and offer people a moment of plant therapy.

And with that Happy Roots was born!

Finding Suppliers & Getting Rejected

It quickly dawned on my that my little plant propagation station wouldn’t be enough to fill up a plant shop and that I need to find some awesome long term partners.

So to figure out if this was even remotely financially viable, I needed to start by seeing how much a plant even costs from a nursery.

However, it quickly ended up becoming a chicken and egg situation.

I wanted to understand if this was viable before committing too much, but companies wouldn’t stock me without a physical store or an online presence 🐣

Also, not many nurseries were good at ranking high on Google so it took a lot of serious investigation work to create a bit list of viable options.

I eventually built a pretty Shopify website (more on that later) to improve my chances, but even still, I was ghosted quite a lot!

Below is the list of nurseries that had a good reputation online, and seemed to produce high quality stock.

After all was said and done, only two out of the whole list stayed in touch.

Luckily, over the last couple of months, getting to know Rainbow Park has been incredible, and it became clear why they’re a crowd favourite, stocking most companies out there like Bunnings and more.

The other supplier I’m still hunting down is Gellerts!

Give me those monsteras and zz plants please!

Rainbow Park is where my big first order came from & from Urban Roots I ordered a few rarer plants like the Thai Constellation Monstera.

Building The Website

Having an excuse to use all of Shopify’s latest features might have been a bigger motivation than I care to admit.

For those that know me, looking at pretty website designs along with Shopify & Notion release notes are my love language.

I love building (no code) websites so playing around with Shopify themes and bringing this little gem together was so much fun.

Also Shopify just announced their Winter ‘23 product updates so I’m incredibly excited to try them all out!

You can check out the Happy Roots website here.

And if you've never built a website before, you'll be surprised at how easy Shopify has made it!

Financials & Survival

Okay, so how do we keep this little store afloat?

I want to first mention that I'm really privileged to have a well paying full time job so this doesn't need to support my life.

I also don't have kids so this really just needs to break even in order for me to consider it a success.

Let’s start with figuring out how much can I even sell a plant for.

I started by doing a little stalk over at Bunnings, Kings, and all the other lovely shops out there that have the most competitive prices.

The quality of a plant is broken down into:

  • Size
  • Thickness

Okay, thickness is not quite the right word, but sometimes people plant one plant in each pot, leading to a thin sad looking plant.

Other times people plant multiple plants per pot so you’re getting much more value!

Below is an example on how we compete on size.

On the left is one from Kings. Sometimes they discount cheaper but this one was $50.

The one on the right is what I'm looking to sell for $35 and still make a ~30% profit margin!

Getting plants that are 30% bigger, healthier, and being able to sell them for less and pass the savings onto customers sounds like a pretty good combination!

But what about costs?

The main cost that I need to offset is rent.

Luckily, we managed to get an incredible discount on our commercial lease during COVID and the landlord has been happy extending that into 2023.

So we only really need to sell 30 plants & pots to break even 🎉

Total spend so far is:

  • $2,000 on 90 plants (including 5 Thai Constellation Monsteras which are $100 each)
  • $1,800 on 100 Elho pots and 30 stoneware pots

And with the margins, I'm looking to earn back around $5,000 (minus all the free stock I give away 😬) which is just under two months of rent!

Bonus - Where Are The Bottoms?!

Receiving the plants was awesome, but one thing I realised is that they don’t come with the bases.

This led me on a wild goose chase, clearing out two Bunnings and a Mitre 10 of all of their stock, only to find that the saucers they sell have a little bump in the middle meaning if you put a pot on it, it tilts :(

Luckily through Elho, I managed to get some proper ones.

The things you learn!

That's it for this story time.

Next time I'll cover the realisation of needing to keep 90 plants alive, how I avoided burning all my plants alive, and the anxiety around opening a physical store.

PSST: From New Zealand to New York, I’m creating a cosy Field Guide of my journey as I move across the globe in 90 days and attempt to land my dream job!
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Steven Male

Written by Steven Male

Hey I'm Steven, and I'm the Marketing Director at Sunobi. ✌︎

I have 10 years experience in growth marketing and currently helping the digital world become more accessible through my passion project, Hello Access! We've worked with teams at Stripe, Meta, and more.


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