Horticure by Deborah Choi

1) Could you tell us a little bit about your business?

Horticure is a global marketplace for plants and plant care. We make it easier to buy and care for indoor plants, by matching users with local, friendly and vetted horticulturists, and providing the digital storefront to independent plant retailers.

Prior to horticure, I spent 5+ years advising tech companies on their international expansion, which included new market analysis, developing the right win-win brand and media partnerships, and structuring a marketing and content strategy that could scale. I honestly loved this work, and continue to support particularly women in my network with getting from 0 to 1. Reach out if you’d like to chat about those first steps, I am happy to help! (deborah@horticure.com)

2) What has been your biggest success since you’ve started Horticure?

First, going from 0 (the idea stage) to 1 (the MVP launch). I feel this is one of the hardest milestones to achieve – simply starting! Then from there, going from 0 to 3 customers, 3 to 50, and now 300+ since launching at the end of 2018. We’ve received other great accolades along the way, such as joining an IoT accelerator run by Bosch. But the most thrilling aspect of running a consumer business is positively affecting the lives of individuals.

3) What was your biggest challenge when you started Horticure? How have you dealt with this challenge?

Horticure’s on-demand plant care services operate as a two-sided marketplace. 

One the supply side are the horticulturists (referred to as Plant Specialists on the platform), and on the demand side are consumers and businesses seeking plant care advice and plant care maintenance support. We connect the two, but we also need to attract both.

I decided to start by addressing the supply side, and first built up the team of Plant Specialists in a city, before marketing the availability of horticure in that city. As a bootstrapped business, I knew I had to work against a very lean marketing budget and have leveraged the networks of specialists to build awareness and generate conversions in each city. horticure now operates in Berlin, Paris, London, Amsterdam, San Francisco and New York City.

4) What is your biggest challenge now? How are you dealing with that?

Getting to the next level, from both a brand awareness and technical aspect, requires more capital. Fundraising is not easy, and as a woman of color running a tech company, the statistics for success are even more dismal. I deal with this challenge by focusing on setting smart milestones, reaching them, and leveraging my network to identify the right potential investors in our vision.

5) Do you have any tips for successful work habits you have developed since starting your business?

As horticure has been “day one” global, I have a team of independent contractors in varying time zones, and communication flow is essential to maintain a good service quality for end customers. We leverage a lot of tools to keep everyone in sync: shared Google drives and files, a private Facebook community for the Plant Specialist team, Whatsapp, etc.

6) What advice do you have for aspiring women entrepreneurs or startup founders?

Research the space you’re interested in, understand its dynamics (i.e. key stakeholders, users and customers, market size and market growth, etc), and always build your vision with a focus on adding additional value, and solving clear problems. I strongly believe a foundation of problem solving for a business concept is essential for success.

7) What are you most looking forward to over the next 12 months?

Continuing to grow horticure with an open minded and listening ear to the evolving needs of our customers and stakeholders. If we do that right, horticure will likely look very different in 12-18 months, compared to what it looks like now.