It takes a lot of long days and sleepless nights to launch a business, and it’s no small feat when it finally takes off into a profitable enterprise. But after that initial hump, business owners must ask themselves a daunting question: ‘Now what?’ The future is exciting to ponder, but it doesn’t come without its own set of challenges. Eldergrow is preparing for its future by seeking out an additional nursery partner to fulfill its current customer demand for its culinary herb program.
Eldergrow was founded in 2015 by Orla Concannon and offers senior living residents a therapeutic connection to nature through two indoor gardening programs. The Therapeutic Horticulture Garden program includes on-site Eldergrow Educators that teach evidence-based, therapeutic horticulture classes. The D-I-Y Culinary Herb Garden program is self-managed by the community and brings farm-to-table into senior living with fresh herbs delivered every month along with an Herb of the Month program. They can easily learn about the various uses, tastes and benefits of these plants by engaging in the herb garden program, which is quickly rising in popularity. Each program comes with a mobile, indoor garden designed for fostering healthy plant growth.
“The nursery we currently work with has been wonderful. But Eldergrow really is growing, very quickly. We want to make sure that we're going to be able to meet all of our customers’ demands,” says Angela “Angie” Martin, who is the herb coach at Eldergrow. “And we'd also like to have a second source, in case an unforeseen circumstance would happen. Mother Nature has been a little crazy lately. We want to make sure that we're ready and prepared for any situation, because we want to get our plants to our customers on time.”
Kizzie Funkhouser, vice president of operations, agrees with Martin. They’d like to find a partner as soon as possible, but they need to make sure the partnership is a good fit — something that takes time. “Ideally, I think we'd like to find someone on the West Coast or in the Pacific Northwest, just to be in a different region as our current supplier,” says Funkhouser. “But we are absolutely open to any location.” Eldergrow’s offices are located in Seattle, Washington. Eldergrow’s current nursery supplier is located in the southeast United States.
“We're a business with heart. We are really concerned about the kind of supplier that we're working with,” says Funkhouser. All of their indoor gardens are built by programs that support disabled veterans and people living with disabilities.
Another concern has to do with finding a nursery supplier that can provide organic herbs year-around; along with its ability to ship nationally and in small quantities. Each individual community receives a "starter pack" pack when they first join the program, which contains 20-25 herbs, depending on which package they choose. After initial signup, the community receives five to six herbs per month which coordinate with Eldergrow’s “Herb of the Month” program. The program began a little over a year ago and is growing rapidly with new customers joining every month, Martin says.
“We collaborate with the nursery up to a year in advance for what herbs we're going to use each month of the year,” Martin says. “And then we send those out to our customers, along with recipes and activities for our customers featuring the ‘Herb of the Month.’” These herbs are selected based on their availability and hardiness to survive temperatures during the shipping process. Eldergrow’s primary herb staples are oregano, rosemary, sage and parsley.
Eldergrow also stresses the importance of accessibility. They want a responsive nursery supplier with a designated point person with whom they can really collaborate with.
“When requested, we'll ask the nursery to send us photos of what their plant stock is, just so we can make sure about the size that we're doing to be sending,” Funkhouser says. “Occasionally, we'll have herbs shipped to our office in Seattle.”
On the customer-facing end, Martin meets with clients on a monthly basis to provide gardening support and coaching. “I do get feedback from the customer on what their plants look like and I hear about all that,” she says. “We're in close contact with our customers so we know what's going on with everything.”
Currently, Eldergrow’s nursery outreach methods include heavy Google searching, emailing and cold calling, but the process is slow-going. However, the company is in good shape, and finding another nursery partner is all part of Eldergrow’s natural expansion. “I think for any business, it's always good to have a Plan B,” Martin says. “But I think more recently, as the product and our customer base are growing, it's just becoming more of a priority to secure a new relationship.”
Interested in working with Eldergrow? Contact Kizzie Funkhouser at firstname.lastname@example.org or 206-799-2783.
RELATED: Orla Concannon, founder and CEO of Eldergrow, provides mobile indoor gardens to senior communities to improve their well-being and mental health. Read our profile about Orla here.