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Welltended: Demystifying the plant care experience

Modified: July 18, 2017
Welltended plants

Houseplants are a simple yet beautiful way to brighten up a small apartment, or bring much-needed green space to an otherwise dingy office. They remind us of nature while indoors, and have been shown to provide mental health benefits. As aesthetically pleasing as they may be, they can be equally fickle and mystifying to a first-time owner, requiring a delicate balance of water intake and natural sunlight to survive. It can be overwhelming and frustrating to find and nurture a houseplant that works for your environment.

Enter Welltended, an online platform that allows customers to purchase houseplants based on their home, skill level, and style. Created by recent Kellogg graduate Carolyn Snider, this website helps mitigate the slew of complications that typically arise for first-time plant owners.

"Our goal is to make houseplants accessible to those who have had a bad plant experience in the past,” explains Carolyn. “People love the idea of having plants, but are intimidated by the inconvenience of sourcing supplies and uncertainty about how to keep them alive and healthy. We want to alleviate the stress of sourcing a houseplant for our customers."

Before obtaining her MBA from Kellogg, Carolyn received her undergraduate degree in environmental studies at UCLA and spent five years working on clean transportation. She too experienced struggles while searching for a houseplant for her Evanston apartment.

“If you go to a nursery, they give you some help picking out the plant while you’re in the store, but there is very limited customer assistance once you take the plant home,” she says. “To make it worse, many of the resources on the Internet give conflicting information. We want to be a trustworthy and accessible resource for our customers.” 

She came up with the idea in 2016 and incorporated the company in January 2017. At that point, she contacted the Plant Biology program at Northwestern to find someone to help with plant care. She was put in touch with Dan Bruzzese, who completed his Master’s in Plant Biology and Conservation Biology through Northwestern and the Chicago Botanic Garden this past winter.

The Welltended website includes a brief quiz that identifies one of the several rotating plants that matches with your home or office environment. From there, you choose from a variety of planters, ranging from modern to bohemian, depending on your design taste.

“We want to do better than the terra cotta planters that you see all over the place,” laughs Carolyn. 

After you have picked your plant and planter, Welltended takes care of the delivery and provides specific instructions on how to care for your plant. If it suits you, you can sign up for calendar care reminders for your plant. Carolyn and Dan are always available via email to answer any questions that may come up once the plant reaches your home. If there is something wrong with the plant in the first thirty days, they offer a full refund.

“There are usually signs if something is up with the plant,” explains Dan. “It always helps if we have a photo so that we can see what is going on. We want people to have a good outcome and be successful.” 

The most common problem? Overwatering. This can cause the roots to rot, ultimately leading to suffocation of the roots, and resulting in the death of the plant. 

“I think people often equate watering with loving the plant,” says Carolyn. “"We think we're taking care of it when we give it water, but the reality is a lot of plants would rather have less water than more."  

Carolyn is a part of Kellogg’s Zell Fellows Program. Funded by Sam Zell, this fellowship provides resources, mentorship, and coaching to MBA students interested in entrepreneurship so that they can launch successful ventures upon graduating from Kellogg. She also won first place in the consumer products category of the Northwestern VentureCat competition. This summer, she is working with the Pritzker Group Venture Fellows.  

While Welltended is currently only available in the Chicago area, they plan to expand once they have built a strong brand recognition in the area.

“We’ve seen that people love this product for their own home or for gifts,” says Carolyn. “It adds so much value to your home, so why wouldn’t you want something beautiful and green around?”

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