Unique business idea: Mastering the art of timing to send plants in boxes
Plants in a Box is a cheerful online nursery combining a love of plants, a wealth of horticultural knowledge and good old-fashioned customer service to deliver over 400 varieties of premium baby plants to most states of Australia. And when it comes to meeting Australia’s strict sending guidelines, they have it covered.
Founded by a bunch of self-described ‘plant-nerds’, the unique idea came to life when co-founders Elle, Dave and Deb saw an opportunity in an under-served market. “We could see that the younger consumer was eager to learn about gardening, but they weren’t being shown how,” says Elle Prince, co-founder of Plants in a Box. “We wanted to make selecting plants for your home as simple as picking out your next outfit for Splendour.”
People always ask us 'how do you even do that?'
Their plan to deliver living plants via post presented challenges. Not only did they need to keep the plants alive and in healthy condition for their journey, but they needed to work within Australia’s strict biosecurity laws – which alter from state to state. “We trialled and tested by sending many boxes to ourselves, fingers crossed they’d arrive in mint condition each time,” says Elle. This was the hardest challenge the team faced, so it was extra rewarding when they finally perfected their packaging technique. “It was such a milestone moment for us. We managed to successfully deliver a product nobody believed we could sell online,” she says, adding with a chuckle “at one stage maybe we thought that too.”
Strict customs guidelines posed an additional challenge when it came to sending stock to Western Australia, the Northern Territory and Tasmania, but as a plant-lover, Elle understands why. “We think it’s great that Australia has very strict biosecurity laws. We are always keen to protect our industry and agricultural crops as well,” she says. Currently, the strict laws mean Plants in a Box are unable to send to these states unless they undertake the very expensive process of hiring an inspector to watch them spray the plants – making it an unaffordable option for smaller orders. But not for long. “We are super excited to be in the process of working towards self-certification, which means we’ll be able to provide our customers from WA, NT and TAS with a far more affordable option,” says Elle. “We know they’re looking forward to it as much as we are.”
The perfect packaging technique
So how do they manage to send and sell these high-quality plants across such large distances? According to Elle, the trick is getting both the packaging and timing perfect. “Sending a live plant means that speed of delivery is paramount, but it was also super important to us that we could reach a wide range of destinations,” she says. “This was one of the reasons why we chose Australia Post, as there’s pretty much nowhere they don’t go.” Australia Post also helps streamline the process by being able to provide accurate guidelines for state biosecurity departments requirements, and detailed rules for sending restrictions. “This ensures every plant material we send has gone through the appropriate channels to make sure everybody is protected,” Elle explains.
Working together to reach customers
As a small business selling perishable items, Plants in a Box relies heavily on Australia Post to resolve any postage delays or other hiccups that may occur. “All of our plants are sent with tracking numbers, which in our opinion is an absolute must,” says Elle. “We are also loving the Australia Post Business Support Portal, which makes it really easy to make enquires and track them.”
Australia Post’s regular schedule has helped them master the art of timing, ensuring their customers receive healthy and happy plants. “We have worked out a technique to package our plants, so they arrive looking their best. They are perfectly fine for a week in the box, and if they don’t arrive in good condition, we guarantee we’ll sort it for you,” says Elle.
According to Elle, the Business Support Portal has been a vital tool for making sure their customers are happy with their service from start to finish. “The added features mean we’re able to respond quickly to any enquiries, with a strong level of detail about their specific delivery,” she says. “Happy customers, happy days.”