Startup Bloomscape Aims to Make Urban Houseplant Delivery Blossom

Being a Detroit apartment-dweller can be tough on a person who is used to being surrounded by more verdant landscapes. I consider myself a member of this tribe, and last summer, I was so restless that I grew some cherry tomatoes from seed in my living room.

This Frankenstein’s monster of a plant climbed over a series of found household items that were joined together in a makeshift trellis. It eventually grew tall enough to touch the ceiling, but with nary a bloom in sight. (“You need pollinators,” my organic farmer aunt advised, and I briefly considered trying to trap some insects to complete the job until my husband’s cooler head prevailed.) It was maddening, but such home experiments seemed necessary if I wanted to have a lot of plants around without numerous trips to the ‘burbs.

In Detroit, a 139-square-mile city, there are very few greenhouses. Sure, they sell small plants and seedlings at Eastern Market, but where does one go in the city if they want a large, healthy plant in a decorative planter designed for optimum health? Thanks to a plant delivery company called Bloomscape, opening its doors today, Detroiters won’t have to go anywhere at all to get their green thumb fix.

Bloomscape’s mission is simple: It wants to make the plant-procuring process as easy as possible by anchoring it online. Customers go to the company’s website to shop for plants, where they can filter their searches according to pet friendliness, amount of light available in the home, or degree of maintenance difficulty.

Because founder and CEO Justin Mast’s family has been in the horticulture business for five generations (more on that in a minute), he says he’s devised a method to keep plants at peak health during shipping without breaking the clay pots they come in. Plants arrive at the customer’s door, he says, “living room-ready” and come with a set of instructions for how best to maintain them. Prices range from $35 to $195 depending on the plant’s size.

“That’s one of the values we wanted to start with, because a lot of companies will sell you a plant not caring if its dies,” Mast explains. “We believe if people believe they can keep a plant alive, they’ll buy more plants. Ours arrive healthy and in the right pot, and we provide care instructions as well as troubleshooting tips.”

Before Mast started Bloomscape, he was the man behind Practice Space, a business incubator targeted to mid-career professionals, new graduates, and others interested in playing a part in Detroit’s revitalization without knowing where to begin. Practice Space closed in the summer of 2014, after about a year of operation.

“Practice Space was a lot of things—I was really interested in helping people design companies in a way that brought together a lot of different parts: architectural, branding, and business planning,” Mast says. “Bloomscape is not an architectural project, but we are taking a similar approach. A lot of people who were a big part of Practice Space are now important to Bloomscape.”

After Practice Space, when Mast was considering his next adventure, it’s no surprise that he would eventually land on the plant business. He grew up surrounded by plants in Grand Rapids, MI, since both parents worked in the horticultural industry.

Family plays a big role in Bloomscape. Joyce Mast, Justin’s mom, serves as the company’s plant program manager, and inventory is stored at his cousin’s greenhouse in Muskegon, MI. Other family members help with plant care and order fulfillment.

“I have flowers and plants on both sides of the family—tulips and cut flowers on my mom’s side, and greenhouses on my dad’s,” he says. “My parents actually met negotiating the price of poinsettias. There was always the assumption from everyone else that I’d eventually take over the family business, but they knew the way I was wired—I like to figure out things myself.”

So he put a millennial spin on the plant business, combining his generation’s love of on-demand delivery with its desire to have airy, light-filled living spaces that would look even better on social media with a couple of plants.

“Millennials are now the largest demographic group buying indoor plants,” Mast points out. “They took over from baby boomers in the last couple of years. We’re really starting to be intentional about the things we put in our bodies, and we’re starting to feel the same way about the things we put in our homes.”

Mast has raised some investment capital to get Bloomscape rolling, although he declines to specify the amount and investor names. However, he says the company has the backing of Bridget Russo, Shinola’s former chief marketing officer, and Alex Ebert, the lead singer of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros.

As for how Bloomscape attracted the support of a Golden Globe-winning rock star, Mast says they’re friends. He and Ebert, a New Orleans native, also have a mutual interest in allowing U.S. cities more room to be creative and “do things differently.” Mast started his business in Detroit because he loves it here.

“I’ve chosen to raise my family in Detroit because I’m inspired by the people and the work,” he adds. “I love how Detroit is a city with an international reputation and intrigue. It’s a great place to build a brand and team while tapping into the horticultural industry on the west side of the state. It’s been a solid nine months of work getting us to this place, and we’re beyond excited to share it with customers.”

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