When brainstorming business ideas to take your net worth to the next level, selling house plants may not come to mind. But one New York City-based entrepreneur has proven that even houseplants can become a multimillion-dollar business. Eliza Blank launched The Sill in 2012, selling potted indoor plants with the goal of becoming “a modern plant destination for the modern plant lover.”
Although Eliza’s business had a rocky start the first year, she persevered and recorded over $2 million in sales by 2016. Her approach to growing her business is similar to growing plants. Eliza explained: “Plants are survivors. They’ll figure it out.”
And figure it out, she did! What can you learn from her entrepreneurial journey?
Read on to explore how Eliza launched The Sill and took her business from concept to a houseplant empire worth millions.
Plus, find out how to grow your own million-dollar brand… absolutely FREE.
|Estimated valuation in the range of $50M to $150M
|Home & Garden
What is The Sill?
The Sill is a New York City-based ecommerce and brick-and-mortar business that specializes in selling houseplants and related products. Since its launch in 2012, the woman-owned startup has gained a cult-following as a direct-to-consumer brand that focuses on making houseplants accessible and easy to care for. The company's mission is to bridge the gap between people and plants, bringing greenery into people's lives and creating a sense of well-being through nature.
The Sill offers a wide range of indoor plants, including popular varieties like pothos, snake plants, succulents, and fiddle-leaf figs, among others. The company also sells plant care accessories, such as planters, pots, soil, and fertilizers. In addition to an e-commerce store, The Sill operates seven brick-and-mortar locations where customers can explore and purchase plants in person.
One of the key aspects of The Sill's business model is its emphasis on education and customer support. Detailed plant care instructions, online resources, and workshops help customers understand how to care for their plants. This approach aims to empower plant owners, particularly those who may be new to gardening, by providing them with the knowledge and confidence to nurture their indoor greenery.
The Sill also offers a monthly houseplant subscription box and ships to customers nationwide.
Who founded The Sill?
Eliza Blank founded The Sill in 2012 on a simple premise: “plants make us happier, healthier humans.”
What is The Sill's origin story?
When The Sill founder Eliza Blank moved from rural Massachusetts to New York City for college, she missed the lack of greenery in the city. However, she struggled to find houseplants to fill her NYC apartment. At that time, houseplants were not available online and the local gardening stores didn’t offer what she wanted. Upon her college graduation in 2007, Eliza had the concept for The Sill, but she had no idea how to launch it.
So she took a job in brand strategy at the beauty brand Living Proof, and learned the basics of starting a business. She learned what she should do and what she didn’t want to do, namely go the venture capital route too early and make expensive mistakes.
In 2012, Eliza quit her Living Proof job to pursue her business idea full-time. A co-worker from Living Proof joined her efforts, and they both put in their savings–a little less than $10,000 each–to get the company off the ground. They launched a Kickstarter campaign in April 2012 to raise $12,000, which they easily achieved.
A Lean Startup
With a budget of $32,000, Eliza knew she would need to keep her initial costs low. Her brother loaned her office space and the creative team from his agency to help her with The Sill’s visual identity and website design. She sourced products from her own pocket, buying locally when possible.
Soon after The Sill’s launch in June 2012, Eliza and her partner parted ways due to differences in business goals. Once they amicably dissolved the partnership, Eliza hired a marketing intern and started reaching out to her target audience through Instagram, newsletters, and The Sill’s blog. They also cold-emailed editors and gifted houseplants to build rapport. Eliza credits her media exposure with helping her get the word out about the business. She partnered with brands like DailyCandy and Refinery29. She also set up booths at local fashion and flea markets to increase exposure.
While revenue was low from 2012 to 2014, Eliza was excited about her business and wanted to see where she could take it. By 2015, Eliza opened her first brick-and-mortar location in Chinatown in Manhattan. As The Sill continued to grow, the company began shipping nationwide, and Eliza realized her business was established enough to seek venture capital funds to take it to the next level.
How was it funded?
Eliza and her partner used their personal savings and a 2012 Kickstarter campaign to fund the business launch. A few years later, Eliza took out an $80,000 small business loan from TruFund. In 2017, the startup turned to venture capital, raising $2.5 million in seed funding from a team led by Brand Foundry Ventures. Other venture capital funding for The Sill included $5 million in Series A funding led by Raine Ventures.
What is the company’s valuation?
As a privately-owned company, The Sill does not have a publicly reported valuation. According to marketing intelligence platform PipeCandy, the startup’s estimated valuation is in the range of $50 million to $150 million.
What entrepreneurs can learn from The Sill?
You can learn valuable lessons from The Sill’s journey from business concept to a multimillion-dollar brand. Here are 10 key takeaways:
1. Focus on Quality Products
2. Provide Excellent Customer Service
3. Create Engaging Social Media Presence
4. Offer Premium Subscriptions
5. Distribute High-Quality Content
6. Take Advantage of Popular Trends
7. Invest in Marketing Automation Tools
8. Host Workshops and Events
9. Leverage Your Brand Authority
10. Create a Passionate Community
What is The Sill?
The Sill is a New York City-based ecommerce and brick-and-mortar business that specializes in selling houseplants and related products.
Does The Sill have a retail presence?
What is The Sill's return policy?
The Sill offers a 30-day Customer Happiness Guarantee. For their subscription service and plants purchased online and in stores, the company guarantees the plants will arrive in healthy condition or it will replace them for free.
Does The Sill offer any special promotions?
The Sill offers free shipping and 10% off orders when customers subscribe to the email list.
Does The Sill offer subscription services?
The Sill continues to offer subscription options, including Easy Care, Pet Friendly, and Orchids. Subscribers will receive one new plant and planter each month. Subscriptions are available for three months or six months.
What other plant related products does The Sill offer?
In addition to individual plants and the plant subscription, The Sill sells several other related products, including planters, plant care items, home decor, and faux and real flowers and bouquets.
Eliza Blank had an in-depth understanding of her target market when growing The Sill. It was herself! As a plant-lover who couldn’t find the plants to meet her needs, she developed a business concept that she transformed into a houseplant empire. She understood what her market wanted and delivered (literally).
Although Eliza didn’t take a salary until five years into the startup’s operations, she now enjoys financial freedom thanks to a business with an estimated multimillion-dollar valuation. She put in the work, stayed focused, and knew the right time to go after venture capital to expand her business. Even better, Eliza loves what she does. It’s her passion. She’s living the dream of entrepreneurship.
Do you feel inspired by Eliza’s entrepreneurial journey with The Sill? You, too, can find that brilliant business idea that helps you level up your wealth and make the world a happier place. Maybe houseplants aren’t your thing, but you have another business idea in mind. Or perhaps you don’t even have an idea yet. Either way, Capitalism.com can help.
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