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I transform people’s homes with juicy potted plants

MONEY & CAREERS
By Mike Kihika | March 5th 2021
Barbara Makanga (PHOTO: Mike Kihaki)

When the Covid-19 pandemic hit the country in March last year, many people were forced to stay and work from home, thanks to countrywide lockdowns and curfews, which were enforced to minimise the spread of the virus. As days turned into weeks and months, Kenyans began engaging in various activities to pass time and kill boredom.

Top on the list of pastime activities was home improvement. Suddenly, everyone wanted to repaint their walls and re-upholster their wornout couches.

In the midst of this home improvement frenzy, one Barbara Makanga found her dream hustle, nested in a flowerpot. Barbra is the owner and proprietor of Urban Plants, an online plant shop which sells flowers, decorative house plants and hand made flower vases.

According to Barbara, the main aim of her business is to make it convenient for people to order ‘real’ plants online and have them delivered right at their doorsteps. Her specialty is in growing and selling of potted indoor and outdoor plants, supply of gardening and plant care accessories, and provision of landscaping and garden maintenance services.

Barbara started her business venture and registered it in December of 2018, with a seed capital of Sh1,000 only.

“I registered my business online on the e-citizen portal in my living room”, she told CityBiz adding that she was required to part with Sh150 for name search and reservation with an additional Sh850 for registration.

“After registration, I went to Safaricom and got my Lipa Na Mpesa till number - for free. I opened Instagram and Facebook accounts and downloaded WhatsApp for business. I was good to go”, she said. While the dream was easy to find, it is creativity that has kept her business running consistently.

“I used to see Succulents, a type of potted indoor plant online. Succulents were trending abroad and they looked really beautiful. So I used to think they are not available locally,” she told CityBiz.

But as fate would have it, she bumped into a hawker selling succulents.

“I was walking home from work and I met a gentleman with a plant nursery and there they were - Succulents! I was so excited! I immediately went back the following day during my lunch break and bought three succulents and took them home,” she says.

Barbara adds that her experience made her realise that there could be many people suffering in silence for seeing products online or on television thinking they are found on the moon.

“I started thinking - how many more people like me are seeing beautiful indoor houseplants online and have no idea where to even begin finding them? My love for especially indoor houseplants was ignited and I started researching and learning about everything plants.” Currently she has 22 houseplants of her own and runs her business from the comfort of her house.

Barbara says that different plants have different prices determined by species and size. Small plants cost between Sh300 and Sh500, while large plants cost between Sh1,000 and Sh2,500 each.

Besides succulents, she also sells cactus and foliage plants, each with its own special mix of soil. She also sources standard plastic flowerpots, terracotta pots, clay pots, ceramic pots, cement pots, rattan pots and fiber glass pots for the plants.

“We also provide our clients with plant care cards for each plant we deliver to them. This guides them on how to care for the plant,” she says.

Despite the success of her business, Barbara says she still faces several challenges ranging from 
high cost of plants and equipment, to diseases which affect the plants. Also, since most of her products are seasonal plants, sometimes a particular plant goes out of season and it becomes difficult to source, meaning that the prices may also be high. Pest and disease outbreaks also affect her plant supplies.

“Sometimes we can’t source for good quality, healthy, plants. You find that all the plants in the nurseries are affected and don’t meet our quality standards,” she says. This notwithstanding, Barbara is determined to scale her business higher, one flower pot at a time.

Covid 19 Time Series

 

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