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UFV alumni turn class project into reality

A pair of UFV alumni are putting their education into practice with a new business that they designed in one of their upper level business classes.

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A pair of UFV alumni are putting their education into practice with a new business that they designed in one of their upper level business classes.

Brendan Scott and Jack Rozendaal, both graduates of UFV’s school of business, are the originators behind Garden Starters, a business that ships plants to customers’ homes.

“The idea originally came from our sales director Jack and myself,” Scott said. “He’s always had the idea that you could potentially ship plants to consumers’ houses.”

Rozendaal and Scott developed the idea, along with two other students, as a group project for Business 425, a marketing strategy class at UFV.

“You had to run a marketing plan for a company kind of from the ground up,” Scott explained. “In our case we chose to do it on this new idea and the four of us put together a proposal. I think we ended up getting a B on it, which is kind of funny.”

Customers are able to choose from a variety of vegetables, herbs, and annual plants that are then grown for them and shipped directly to their homes. But Garden Starters also offers kits that have enough variety to start a garden — also, their products are GMO free and only shipped in recyclable materials.

“It’s essentially like we put these combination kits together so it makes it a little bit easier on the gardener,” Scott explained. “For us, our vision I would say is really just making it a lot simpler for people.”

Although the business is unique to the area, Scott noted that it’s not the first of its kind and similar operations, such as England’s Thomson & Morgan which sees roughly $50 million annual online sales, are thriving overseas.

“This concept is extremely popular in Europe, especially in England, so we’re thinking with online trends, everything is going cyber nowadays with sales, why not plants in North America as well?” Scott said.

Currently, Garden Starters ships from DeVry Greenhouses in Chilliwack primarily to B.C. and Alberta, but also has clients in Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

There are plans for expansion and to increase areas they ship to, but the business has already evolved significantly since Scott and Rozendall completed the initial project, then called “I Like Gardening,” and graduated from UFV.

“It’s crazy that a lot of it I would say changed, but a lot of it also stayed the same,” Scott said. “The core concept of shipping plants online from our greenhouse to consumers’ homes, that premise has stayed the same, but little tweaks in the branding and the marketing and how we’re going to deliver it changed. I’d say the core message of a personal touch to it, a little bit more informal with the brand, and having that extra step of education and everything really stayed true to what we were going for initially.”

Part of the goal behind Garden Starters was to make gardening more accessible to a younger demographic — they even offer an “Urban Gardener” kit, tailored for apartment living.

“We’d like to pull more young people into the industry because we see it as something that a lot of people aren’t doing so much anymore,” Scott explained. “We’re really looking just to find new young people, and people who are looking for new and exciting ways to enter the world of gardening, and make it happen.”

Part of this includes marketing, specifically on social media, and a strong online presence.

“I think the branding and the marketing, it comes across as user-friendly and that’s what we want to make our core message,” Scott said. “There’s so much information out there nowadays that sifting through it all and finding something that really works for them is challenging, so if we can deliver our message to them and communicate why we would be an effective service for them, then I think that’s what really resonates.”

Garden Starters is only in its second year, but its team consisting primarily of UFV alumni and even two current students has already seen over 250 customers and shipped over 6,500 plants.

“Last year was just a trial run I’d say, learning how the kinks work, hammering out all the details, and then this year we’re kind of going for it a little bit more,” Scott said.

“Overall, it really stemmed from UFV, from our business project there,” he continued. “It’s exciting. I think it’s a really awesome demonstration of how effective UFV’s program can be in quickly transitioning students into employment opportunities, but as well giving them the tools to express themselves creatively and come up with these types of awesome ideas.”

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