EASYPOT: A plant partner for every occasion 🌿
Julia and Katya are long time friends, business partners, moms, and dedicated plant parents.
During the first wave of pandemic in 2020, they also became the founders of EASYPOT.
Alongside newborns and despite the outside world constantly changing, they realized that, as home is where we spend most of our time, it should be everyone's happy place.
“Making your own indoor plant garden is a brilliant hobby, both sustainable and aesthetically pleasing. Not many things are. Moreover – plants last. They are around regardless of the weather or drama of the outside world.” / Julia Belkina, co-founder of EasyPot and Findanode
EASYPOT is based in Riga, Latvia, delivering green love throughout all of the EU countries.
Hello Julia & Katya! Nice to have you here today. Can we please start with you explaining in your own words – what is EasyPot?
EasyPot is, first and foremost, an ONLINE plant store that also offers a lot of different services. Plant subscriptions, gift cards, bundles and of course, single plants. The main idea of EasyPot is to be a plant store for EVERYONE! Whether you're just looking for a unique gift to your mother-in-law or are truly dedicated in building your own botanical garden at home, we want to be sure EasyPot has what you're looking for.
How the idea of EasyPot was born? When was it, and were you & Katya the only two founders since the start?
Yes – Katya and I have always been and are the only two founders of EasyPot. The idea came to us during the first wave of Covid pandemic. At some point we got separated (just like everybody else) because of restrictions and sat at home for a couple of months. After two months of not seeing each other, we finally had a chance to meet for a coffee – I recall it was May 2020. And while drinking our lattes, we asked ourselves – what is it that people miss the most? E.g. being able to meet each other, buying all kinds of special food, travelling… And I remember, I said that I was upset I couldn't get plants anywhere – as I like plants and have a lot of them at home – and nobody ships them now. Ok, you can get a delivery, yes, but only from local stores, and they cost a fortune, and it's just a Covid solution, not a permanent one. To which Katya responded: probably it's because it's complicated to ship them! Let's google?
And around that time it was already our third latte, and we got so excited, because we had the same idea in mind: let's create an online store with plant delivery to your door!
“We know plants; we know how to talk to people, and we know customer service & international shipping – these probably are the pillars of what we are doing! It instantly was a match! Probably some sort of energy was flying around the room.” / Julia Belkina
So, to resume: yes, we are the only two founders. At some point, we were talking to investors, but we didn't want to sell out the business as such. Still – we are very happy and would highly appreciate it if somebody would come in and help us grow. But that is not the main idea; the main idea is actually called “boot strapping”. It is when we put our own money for starting up a business. And that's what we did – as we have our main business, communication agency Findanode, EasyPot is sort of our baby business. At the same time, it also serves as a great example to show our clients how to run an online store, in the age when everyone runs an online store!
Why is it a subscription-based service? What does it mean?
Subscription is a new business model for plants, especially in the Baltics – nobody has done this before. And our goal was to cater for what we call internally “average Maggie”. Basically, for someone who doesn't know plants; who doesn't really want to research or think much about it. But, at the same time, for the one who would like to have like 3,4,5,6…10 plants at home! As we see it, people start spending more time at home: working from home, etc., and at some point they realize – I live here. And I actually work here now, and I want to feel good – so I might as well have some plants around me, too. So for this “average Maggie”, who doesn't want to dive too deep into the plants' world, we offer a subscription.
It was a real hit at the very beginning – people didn't know about it; it was the best present for birthdays & weddings, and many other celebrations. Now it's been 2 years, and people mostly understand what a subscription is.
We are now entering the European market, and we believe the subscription base will sort of “relaunch itself”, as it is a really good opportunity for someone who is just starting his or her adventure in the plant world!
So the subscription works the following: we don't charge a customer every month; we charge on spot, for 3-6 plants, and they arrive to you in a 3-6 month period. So it is not something you have to cancel or think about too much; it's very user-friendly in that sense. As we have noticed – the favourite part for everyone is this monthly surprise concept. You have forgotten about it, and then the courier arrives and you have this plant, you haven't even thought about before!
We also choose the most appropriate plants for your home: prior order placement comes a survey, where you have to write about your lighting, pets, watering habits or any other conditions at home. So the plant we deliver suits well.
What were the biggest obstacles & challenges along the way?
First challenge is time. As EasyPot is not our main business, we still have to make money for the team we're hiring at Findanode. So we have to manage time efficiently – by combining main work and EasyPot.
After that I would say – all the competitors. As the plants became popular during Covid, there was a lot of competition. I must say, though, that the biggest part of them have closed by now; we struggled with sharing a not so big market (the Baltics). Then also budgets, budget for marketing in particular. Yet, since our main business is in communication, we kind of relied on doing organic marketing the most, so we didn't invest a lot in paid ads in the beginning.
For now – our brand is already quite strong, and people from the Baltics know us. The marketing budget still has to be there, but probably not as big anymore as for other businesses.
And what about the biggest successes so far? Maybe some pleasant surprises?
I'd say that the biggest pleasant surprise that we did not predict and could not have predicted is that everyone wants to talk about EasyPot. The amount of podcasts, interviews, events, articles – we even got into Forbes – that EasyPot has drawn into. It was not a big business; still is not, yet, everyone is very curious. It's a cute business to discuss, I guess. And I have done these lectures in universities in Riga – and every time people are like: it's the most beautiful business!
What about Latvians & Latvia? Did they welcome EasyPot well, as the business comes from here?
Well, I think we did one thing (which we could have not, but we actually had to) that Latvians did not appreciate. We spoke English from the very beginning. We positioned ourselves as being “the Baltic e-shop”, so we wanted to cater for Estonians and Lithuanians too, from the very beginning. And I must say that, currently, 60% of our market is Latvians, 35% is Estonians and only 5% are Lithuanians, so far.
So yes – we spoke English, and I think Latvians did not appreciate it that much. Obviously – we have not done it to hurt them; the decision was made purely out of love for everyone on the market. Other than that, I think Latvians enjoy a good competition. New energy and everything else that we bring to the table! We're fun, we are curious about plants, we are not too rigid – we don't have standardized procedures or corporate approach. We are very much 'ad-hoc' like, “let's do something cool” approach. And I think they appreciate it.
What about target customers, where are they based? And what about competitors?
Initially, we positioned ourselves as working for the Baltic States. And we have a couple of competitors here: 1-2 online stores in Latvia, and few others in Estonia and Lithuania.
What differentiates us from the others – we invest a lot in brand development and brand awareness. And as for clients, initially they were in the Baltics, too; then we started introducing ourselves elsewhere. Finnish market, the Netherlands (where our warehouse is located now, too).
As for the future, with our new warehouse in the Netherlands, our clients can be anywhere in Europe. Concerning language adaptations, we are thinking that with time we will see which are the most popular markets, and adapt for those languages.
So all the plants are stored now in the Netherlands, not Riga, is that correct?
Yes. We chose the Netherlands, because for us this country provides the best quality and service for the plants. And they also have this European approach, as we call it. They understand the differences of markets, they are honest, they have good quality standards. So it works for us. We work with several growers – who specialize in the things they grow, and are experts in their field.
Lastly – what about your future plans? And is there anything else you would like to share?
Well, it's a bit of a difficult time now – financially and economically. And we would really like to see EasyPot finding its place. Moreover, we are also figuring out who our clients specifically are. Mostly they are women, 25-40 years old. And we know that it is tough for women in all ends: be it work related matters, family related matters, and we want to be there for them. Our hope is to find our place, and that is the biggest challenge for now and for the future!
What I would like to share is that Katya is about to participate in one women-led initiative in Spain, called “The Brake”.
And we will actually be bringing EasyPot to table for the discussions, to see if other 200 participants are interested in adding EasyPot (as a female-runned business) to the program, too. This would also help launch or “relaunch” EasyPot in many, many countries in Europe. So, in a way, with EasyPot – our beautiful and feminine business, as many describe it – we are aiming at empowering women to start businesses all over the world, too!