Keeping a plant alive can be tricky, and for many of us, having even a basic knowledge of plants is a pipe dream. However, with the rise in popularity of botanical interiors and house plants, good advice is always welcome, no matter how much knowledge you possess. This is why we met with Freddie Blackett, the founder of Patch – the online plant company who are revolutionising the gardening industry and helping us all make an educated and well-informed investment in our plants.
We want everyone to be given the chance to feel the benefits of having plants in their lives, however inexperienced or time-poor you might be.
The Story of Patch
IDEALIST: How did Patch come about?
The story of Patch started when I moved in with my girlfriend back in 2014. Clemmie had this unloved, empty balcony that I was determined to transform into an urban oasis but I realised quite quickly that, firstly, I knew absolutely nothing about plants nor gardening and, secondly, I was going to have to drive to the suburbs to find a half-decent garden centre. Even when I got there I didn’t know which plants I liked or which ones would work for my space. Through conversations with friends, I realised I wasn’t the only one struggling with a first foray into the world of plants and that’s when I came up with the idea for Patch.
IDEALIST: How did you realise there was a need for Patch?
Over the last year we’ve consistently grown by a third every month, with a lot of our customers coming back many times and more and more positive chatter on Instagram. I suppose it’s a combination of all this that has encouraged me that there’s a whole bunch of people out there who want a new, accessible and reliable way to bring some life into their homes and offices.
An Evolving Process
IDEALIST: From your initial thoughts to actually setting up Patch as a business – how long was this process?
The idea came to me back in 2014 but I knew I couldn’t commit to starting this business unless I developed a passion for plants myself. So I spent a year or so growing (and killing!) some more plants and gradually I found that I was getting the hang of it and falling in love with it. It was then in April 2016 that I left my job and went full time.
IDEALIST: What makes Patch unique as a brand?
We make it easy for anyone to enjoy all the benefits that plants bring, especially to urban homes.
We do this in lots of different ways; from swapping out the Latin names of our plants for easy human names like Chaz and Howard, to providing detailed care instructions for every plant we sell. We want everyone to be given the chance to feel the benefits of having plants in their lives, however inexperienced or time-poor you might be.
IDEALIST: How did you market your brand in the initial stages?
We hand-delivered 10,000 flyers to new builds with balconies in East London over the Summer of 2016, then we started running ads on Google to people in London searching for plants. Now we focus on offering really inspirational and educational content on our Instagram, website and email newsletter – hoping to earn the attention of potential plant buyers by being genuinely helpful.
IDEALIST: What have been your biggest challenges so far?
We’ve been expanding quickly so of course there have been growing pains. The gardening market is a very old-fashioned one – getting to grips with that has been both our biggest challenge and probably our most important achievement.
IDEALIST: Regarding plants in the home, what are your current top 3 suggestions for those living in London who have little time?
- Do some research before you get started. For example, choosing the right home for a plant in your space i.e. a sunny vs. shady spot is half the battle of setting up the right environment for it to survive. We have great care instructions for each of the plants we sell on their product page and a beginner’s plant guide which can be downloaded for free here.
- Buy in quality plants. There’s a big difference between buying plants from a supermarket and buying from a good plant retailer. It costs a bit more but they’ll be far harder to kill.
- Finally, a big one that lots of people don’t know is that over-watering is often worse for plants than under-watering. We find novice plant-owners will reach for the watering can too soon when a plant’s looking a bit worse for wear. The best way to find out if a plant needs water is to stick your finger in the soil two inches down and feel how dry it is.
The gardening market is a very old-fashioned one – getting to grips with that has been both our biggest challenge and probably our most important achievement.
IDEALIST: For a start up like yourselves what are your top 3 advice tips?
Don’t bother doing something unless you can do it excellently.
Know that saying ‘yes’ to something has to mean saying ‘no’ to something else.
Enlist 5-6 people outside the business to be your own ‘personal board’, on whom you can rely great, honest advice when you need it.
IDEALIST: Where do you see Patch in 5 years’ time?
Having helped a million people to discover the joys of living with plants.
IDEALIST: Are there any exciting developments on the horizon?
I can’t go into the specifics but suffice to say that we’re working hard on making technology that help more people to discover and look after beautiful plants.
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All photos courtesy of Patch.