Grand Rapids native Justin Mast founded Bloomscape, a Detroit-based, online plant delivery service.
By Eden Lichterman
Instead of running a lemonade stand as a kid, Justin Mast sold plants on a street corner outside his family’s greenhouse in Grand Rapids. By the time he graduated high school, he says hundreds of people came from all over Grand Rapids each spring to buy his plants. Since his father’s family owns greenhouses and his mother’s family started a florist business, Mast grew up surrounded by plant people.
With his knack for business and five generations of plant experience running through his veins, Mast founded Bloomscape, an online house plant delivery service based in Detroit that launched in March.
Initially interested in design and architecture, Mast, 35, pursued a Master of Architecture from the University of Michigan. He says coming to the east side of the state for college put Detroit on his radar for the first time.
“People are renovating spaces and starting businesses (in Detroit), and I just wanted to come and be a part of that,” Mast says.
After six years hopping around business ventures, Mast decided to return to his roots (literally) and start Bloomscape.
With a team of six people, Mast runs Bloomscape out of the coworking space WeWork downtown. He jokes that with around 50 plants in the office, the staff is outnumbered. “But we like it that way,” he says. Mast also leases part of his cousin’s greenhouse in Muskegon, where they fulfill the plant orders.
Bloomscape partners with growers in Florida, who cultivate the plants. Once they are 80 percent grown, the plants are transported by trucks to Mast’s greenhouse in Muskegon, where they are grown to maturity. Mast re-pots the plants using his own soil mix, securely places them in Bloomscape boxes, adds a plant-specific instruction card and ships them nationwide.
“Our core mission is to just make buying and owning plants a lot more enjoyable and ‘gezellig,’ ” Mast says. Somewhat untranslatable, “gezellig” is a Dutch word referring to feelings of warmth and coziness. Mast hopes to simplify the plant buying and caring processes, allowing more people to create a “gezellig” space with plants.
The website makes it easy for shoppers to find the right plants. Customers can filter plant options based on size, difficulty of care, amount of light needed, whether it’s pet friendly and whether it cleans the air. Prices range from $35 for a small plant to $195 for an extra-large plant.
The website also includes a “Plant Mom” page, which is run by Mast’s actual mom, Joyce Mast, who worked at the family’s Glass Corner Greenhouses in Grand Rapids. If customers have questions about their plants, they can reach the “Plant Mom” through social media, a chat service on the website or email, and she will solve their dilemmas.
“You can have access to manuals and information, but sometimes it’s just nice to text a picture to someone who knows what they’re talking about,” Mast says.
The site also includes a blog titled “Plant Life” that provides more care tips and design inspiration for people’s homes.
Texas resident and loyal Bloomscape customer, Rachel Emery, swears by Bloomscape’s customer service focus. “I’ve always felt like I had a black thumb with indoor house plants,” she says.
Seven plants later, Bloomscape’s detailed instructions and care for the green thumb success of its customers have made Emery’s plant dreams a reality. “I think they’re doing a really good job of making plants accessible to people like me whose lives don’t revolve around them, but who really would love to incorporate them as a part of what we do,” Emery says.
Emery adds she feels Bloomscape’s passion for helping customers sets the company apart from other plant services that leave the health of plants in the buyers’ hands the minute they step out the door.
She’s not the only one who sees promise in the brand. In June, Bloomscape was one of 15 companies chosen from around 500 applicants to pitch at Quicken Loans Detroit Demo Day, a business competition that distributes over $1 million to seven winners. Bloomscape won second place in the start category for new companies and received a $75,000 grant from Quicken Loans.
“We were honored to be there and to be presenting in the first place, so it was such a pleasant surprise to be selected as one of the winners,” Mast says.
A home base in Detroit is essential to Bloomscape’s story. “We were discouraged from trying to start a hip, beautiful brand here in Detroit by some folks,” Mast says. He was also told that it was impractical to start a plant brand. But he knew the city’s drive for renewal provided a great environment to create a plant business.
With only four months under its belt, Bloomscape has already garnered national support. Bloomscape plants are available for purchase on Huckberry and Zola. The brand was also featured in Vogue on its launch day.
Mast says he hopes to continue finding ways to simplify the plant-caring process. He plans to expand the range of products from living room plants to kitchen herbs, patio plants, flowers and garden plants. He also wants to offer accessories for the plants, like hangers and stands, making it easy to display them.
No matter what direction his business sprouts, Mast remains committed to helping his customers develop strong and lasting relationships with their plants.
“We’re really focusing on helping regular people become plant people and feel confident,” he says. “And we feel like the care tips, the blog, the card that you get when you buy a plant, ‘Plant Mom’ — it’s all about helping you be successful with your plant.”