Anthony Diaz and Kevin Alcaraz never planned on opening a plant shop. But after two months of running a plant pop-up out of their garage, the business began to outgrow them. Customers were lining up down their residential block in Long Beach, California. Their apartment was so overrun with flora that the couple could barely clear a walkway from the front door to the kitchen.
“Everything else was covered in plants,” Anthony said. “Even my dog had this panicked look on her face.” Soon after, the pair toured a space in East Long Beach, and in October 2020, they opened Plantiitas’s first permanent home.
The queer- and Latinx-owned shop has quickly become a source of joy and inspiration for plant lovers in Long Beach, who were used to paying high prices for their new pandemic hobby. With a motto of “come as you are,” Anthony and Kevin hope to make plants—and their mental health benefits—accessible to everyone. Starting by selling plants on Facebook Marketplace to help pay their rent in the pandemic, they’ve built a welcoming space where customers gather to find new houseplants, learn about repotting and propagation, or discuss mental health with a supportive community.
Below, Anthony and Kevin share their top six takeaways from opening a brick and mortar and how they hope to pave a path for other entrepreneurs.
1. There’s never a “right” time
I don’t think folks are ever going to be ready to start up a business. There are better times, there are worse times, but there’s never a right time. Leading up to the day we opened, we were not ready. I remember asking folks in the community: a woodworker who did our tables, an artist who painted our mural and happens to live around the block from us. We asked these folks to kind of become our village and help us put the shop together. Within the span of a month, we got the tables done.
2. Big expenses are worth the wait
Try to be efficient. As much as you’d like to have the most expensive software or equipment to run your business, sometimes it makes more sense to be a little smaller scale and build your way there. For example, we were transporting all of our plants in our personal cars for such a long time. We wanted to purchase a truck, but we knew that we didn’t have the money for it yet. And so we did what we could in our personal cars and we saved money until we could purchase our own cargo van. It took a little longer, but it was well worth the wait.
3. Time and energy are hidden costs
What they don’t tell you about running your own business is that instead of clocking into your job for eight hours a day, you’re doing twice as much per day. Be ready to devote a lot of your time to opening your business. Learn as much as you can from others and by empowering yourself, reading, and watching videos to run your own business.
4. Turn your resources into startup capital
We were able to use the resources that were available to us to help us along the way. If you have a few, take advantage of them—whether it’s somebody who can help you and counsel you with setting up your business or you have access to loans or family and friends who can help you out. Whatever those resources are, that might be capital that you can use to get ahead and set up your business.
5. Persistence pays off
In the beginning, a lot of [plant suppliers] said: “You’re new, you don’t have a store. I have to sell to people who have been in business for years.” It was really, really hard. Kevin spent hours driving around going to different nurseries for wholesale. Now, folks have seen our persistence. Every time we go to our buyers, we purchase more and more because our store keeps growing, and that’s helped us form a relationship with our current providers. Those barriers made us work even harder to secure the providers that we have now. So that was kind of a blessing in disguise.
6. Share your knowledge
Our vision at first was just to open a shop to make prices accessible and share our enjoyment of plants. But now that we’ve gotten further into having a shop, we really see the power that Plantiitas has as a platform to bring awareness to more than just plants: mental health, racial justice, and social justice, which is a passion of ours as well. We’re lucky to be able to have that—to elevate new businesses like us, without putting up barriers. We know how expensive and how hard it is to start up a business. We’ve started to pave a path, and then we can welcome other folks on that path.
Photos of Plantiitas on Yelp
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