We visited the plant-filled Brooklyn homes of Horti co-founders Bryana Sortino and Puneet Sabharwal and talked to them about how they turned their love and passion for plants into a plant subscription business with hopes to build a community of urban gardeners.
Tell us more about yourselves, who you are, where you are from, what you do.
B: I’m Bryana, I am one half of Horti and I manage all operations and fulfillment for the business. I grew up in South Florida and made my way up to the northeast over 10 years ago. I have a background in merchandising & buying (URBN!) and operations within the tech world.
P: I am Puneet, I am the founder and CEO of Horti. I grew up in North India and moved to the US 9 years ago chasing love. I worked in Advertising for almost 10 years and transitioned to user-focused digital design. For the last year I have been focusing full-time on Horti, and occasionally advising a few startups with their product design needs.
How did the idea to start Horti come about?
It comes from our shared love of and obsession with plants. We initially met on Tinder and in one of our first conversations we were already discussing who has more plants and sharing tips on how to take care of them. Our friends often came to us for planting advice and we realized that there were many plant stores, but no services to teach people everything that’s involved in choosing a plant and taking care of it. We decided to run an experiment with a few friends where we curated a journey with hand-picked plants that are ideal for apartment conditions in Brooklyn and New York. They loved it, recommended it to their friends and that’s how Horti began.
You have a unique business model in that you offer plant subscription services. Tell us more.
We realized that stores that sell one-off plants have a transactional experience with their customers and don’t really care if their plants continue to adjust in their new homes. In fact, if the plant is beautiful but doesn’t survive it’s good for business because you have to go back and get more. At Horti, we want to inspire and encourage folks to bring more greenery into their homes, and the best way to do that is to give them the right plants, give them bite-sized information on how to take care of their plants, and stay in touch with them with simple exercises that make planting into a fun game instead of a chore. Our subscription business model is a reflection of our vision of being a long-term partner as they build up their skills in planting & their collection of plants.
What roles do each of you play in running the business and what are the biggest challenges you face?
We work together on choosing the plants. Bryana handles operations and keeps Horti moving — she’s the buyer, the packaging whiz, she hand paints all the pots and is responsible for order fulfillments. Puneet is responsible for design, communications and the website. He also makes sure that everyone hears about Horti and manages the relationship with growers and other partners. We are currently a team of two and the business is getting a lot of traction, so we are moving into our next challenge which is how to scale given the demand while maintaining the care that we put in to each and every subscription kit.
What do you love most about what you do?
B: Bringing life into people’s worlds and teaching them how easy it is to care for plants which are so beneficial.
P: Yeah, we are literally touching the heart of these plants, connecting with their roots as we repot them and sending them off to a new house. We are still hand-delivering a lot of kits in NY and Brooklyn ourselves, and I am not sure how sustainable that will be as we grow but that really is one of my favorite things to do. Meet our subscribers and see how they react to these kits.
Any new projects on the horizon for 2018?
Yes, a lot of things. One of the biggest undertakings for us is launching Instant Greenery. We are introducing a service where we’ll deliver plants on-demand for the people who want an instant infusion of plants in their lives. It’s ideal for offices, retail stores or anyone who wants a heavy dose of green! You’ll be able to fill your entire space with as many big and small plants as you desire with the push of a button.
What are your favorite places for horticulture inspiration in NYC?
B: Brooklyn Botanical Garden, neighborhood cafes & restaurants, our friends’ apartments.
P: Other people’s apartments for sure. It’s just amazing to see what kind of relationship they share with plants.
You both have an impressive amount of plants in your space! What are some of your favorites and how do you keep them thriving in your small spaces?
B: I have around 100 so it’s hard to choose favorites but I’m definitely more of a succulent mom. I love love love pencil cacti. I have a 10+ year old burro’s tail that I’m pretty protective over. I do also love staghorn ferns and satin pothos.
P: I am actually not good with succulents because I am an over-carer. I have 60+ plants and a healthy mix of varieties. I am definitely obsessed with the rabbit’s foot and staghorn ferns.
Photos: Heidi Lee