Millennial gardening startup bags $9m to target generation of 'plant moms'

·3 min read
Sproutl founders. Photo: Sproutl
Sproutl founders. Photo: Sproutl

Gardening is no longer the preserve of the over-50s. Gardener's World and Gardener's Question time should take heed, as a new start up is hoping to "open up gardening to a whole new generation".

UK-based Sproutl has received $9m (£6.5m) in seed funding from Index Ventures with participation from Ada Ventures. It is hoping the cash injection will help it offer inspiration and straightforward advice, making gardening accessible to everyone.

This should spur on the generation of so-called 'plant moms' — or young people living in cities that turned to gardening and indoor plants during lockdowns. 

Sproutl says the platform gives access some of the best gardening products and plants from the country’s leading independent garden centres, nurseries and shops in an online curated marketplace, with more to be added over the coming months.

The company manages logistics, packaging sourcing, and delivery as well as online marketing and customer services.

"When we talk about a younger consumer in gardening, that doesn’t necessarily mean super young,” says founder Anni Noel-Johnson. “The traditional gardening audience has skewed much older.”

“Our consumers have a certain expectation of a type of digital experience regardless of the company they’re shopping with.”

Gardening in the UK is in the midst of a renaissance. According to the Horticultural Trade Association, amid lockdowns, the number of gardeners rose by three million last year, with nearly half of these aged under 45.

Google searches related to gardening have doubled from May 2020 to May 2021.

GlobalData estimates that the green-fingered boom shows no sign of abating this year, with spending estimated to rise by 7%. 

Much of this rise in interest has come from the younger generation — stuck inside houses with limited outdoor space as COVID-19 lockdowns bit. 

Sproutl has brought in engineers and people who can develop the "digitally native" side of the brand. Noel-Johnson says it was looking to hire TikTok-literate millennials, recruiting from brands that are doing what it considers to be a good job of talking to that audience such as Soho House and Selfridges.

Sproutl is just one of a number of new companies hoping to capitalise on the booming interest in gardening. Earlier this year contemporary Neverland raised $4.7m in the US. Plant delivery platform Patch has also attempted to corner the UK market, having grown its offering of pot plants steadily since its launch in 2016. 

Horticultural launch partners include Rosebourne, Polhill and Millbrook garden centres. As well as specialist nurseries such as Middleton and indoor plant specialist Bellr. Peat-free pioneers, Fertile Fibre and living wall specialist, Horticus have also come on board.

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Its backers have previously funded the likes of Dropbox (DBX), Etsy (ETSY), Farfetch (FTCH), Patreon and Deliveroo (ROO.L). This is complemented by investment from Ada Ventures (backers of Bubble and Huboo) and C-Suite angel investors from leading global tech companies, including Farfetch (FTCH), Airbnb (ABNB), Made.com (MADE.L), and Slack (WORK).

“There are macro trends that have been working towards gardening working for this audience for the last three, four, five years," says Noel-Johnson. "People are looking to get back to nature, are increasingly focused on mental health. It’s a good form of exercise and is shareable on social media.

“Those macro trends aren’t really going anywhere. The challenge is how do we hold that audience's attention — and that's where I think we come in.”

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