Its flat-pack, self-watering plant pot attracted so much interest that a modest £600 fundraiser raked £30,000 in a matter of days.
Hebridean sojourns by its co-founder helped the company its sights set on further international expansion after more than doubling its turnover to a significant amount in just two years. Here are their answers to our questions.
Andrew Flynn, co-founder, POTR.
What is your business called?
The brand is called POTR – inspired by the act of pottering with your plants in the garden or at home. Our main product is also a plant pot!
Where is it based?
POTR is based in Glasgow, this is where we design and develop our products. Our manufacturing supply chain is based in several locations around the UK.
What does it produce/do?
POTR’s purpose is to connect people with nature by enabling sustainable, hassle-free botanical care in the home. We design and manufacture a range of flat-pack, self-watering plant pots and vases made from post-consumer waste plastic, designed to make botanical care simple. Our product range is designed from the ground up with a holistic approach to sustainable design as the core requirement.
People are often interested to learn that this is the primary reason our products flat pack – the weight and volume saved compared with shipping a traditional fragile planter equates to a carbon footprint reduction of roughly 100 times with this change alone. We’ve combined this with our minimal material usage (approx 90% less than a traditional pot) and use of recycled materials, to create one of, if not the, most sustainable products of its type on the market.
To whom does it sell?
POTR sells directly to customers in the UK, USA, and EU through our website, as well as through approximately 50 retail outlets (primarily plant and life store stores). In January 2023, POTR brought on our largest customer to date, Bloom & Wild – Europe’s largest florist. We invented the flat-pack, letterbox vase which is designed to accompany Bloom & Wild’s core innovation, the letterbox flower bouquet. Since launch, POTR has supplied tens of thousands of Letterbox Vases to B&W and their customers which has enabled POTR to scale as a business.
In addition to this, we are also looking at international expansion, which we’ll be announcing news of very soon.
What is its turnover?
POTR has been trading since August 2021 with a forecast turnover of £350,000 for this financial year. Our turnover in the previous financial year was £150,000.
How many employees?
POTR currently has three employees – two part-time and one full-time, me; Eilidh Cunningham, our head of brand, and Martin Keane – co-founder and engineer. The team is positioned to grow from January 2024 and we’re looking to make a series of key strategic hires.
Why did you take the plunge?
Having worked as a product designer for the last 10 years, I was inspired to challenge myself to design or reinvent a product from the ground up with sustainability as a core requirement. The self-set challenge came about during Covid while sitting at home staring at my houseplants. After some initial design and development, I took the concept and prototype to the online crowdfunding platform Kickstarter to test the market.
The goal was to raise £600 to cover manufacturing costs to produce a small production run, 20 days later the campaign finished having raised almost £30,000. We realised at this point we were potentially on to a good idea and spent the next couple of years growing the brand to where it is now. I didn’t make the leap to full-time straight away though. I continued working a full-time design role in Barcelona for two years before making the leap to go full-time.
What were you doing before?
My career to date has spanned working in Munich designing future aircraft for Airbus, more than six years working as lead designer at Dyson on the Supersonic, Airwrap, and Coralle (amongst other products); and laterally working within the EV sector for Wallbox based in Barcelona as Head of Product Design. I’ve been lucky to gain a wide range of experiences and design challenges across very different sectors – I never thought I’d end up doing plant pots.
What do you least enjoy?
Currently, it’s the pressure of managing supply chain issues against the backdrop of a cost of living crisis while trying to maintain products which are both sustainable and can be produced at a reasonable cost. We work with some amazing suppliers to help bring our products to life, but there are a lot of moving parts (seven different suppliers/contract manufacturers to be precise!) – even for something as simple as a plant pot.
What are your ambitions for the firm?
Our purpose is to enhance people’s lives by connecting them with nature in new and enriching ways. We have started with products which allow people to more easily interact and care for ornamental plants and flowers in the home, but our ambition stretches far beyond this.
Our future product pipeline focuses on high impact ways people can grow at home – in particular new ways of growing highly nutritious plant-based food. That’s all we can say for now regarding product development but this goal fits with our ambition of tackling pressing issues such as access to nutrition, reducing food waste and enabling behavioural changes which encourage sustainable lifestyles.
What single thing would most help?
Finding the right people and growing a team driven by a common purpose. Much of our time is currently being spent devising our people strategy to help us unlock the next stage of our growth.
What is the most valuable lesson you have learned?
Ultimately, starting and running a business is about connecting with people. Whether that is supplier relationships, customers, possible investors or your team – I think it is key that a business puts people first and adopts a user-centric approach to problem solving and engagement. POTR would not be where it is now without the advice, feedback and mentoring from a diverse range of individuals and communities.
What was your best moment?
Winning Scottish Edge Round 19 and subsequently going on to secure a six-figure supply agreement with Bloom & Wild has been a real highlight and step change moment for the business.
What was your worst moment?
The cost-of-living crisis at the beginning of this year saw us lose two of our best suppliers who were forced into liquidation due to rising costs. Overheads associated with running large factories (heating, electricity etc) meant maintaining these spaces became untenable for our partners.
This resulted in one of our suppliers going into liquidation mid production run, three weeks before we were due to deliver a large order to a customer. Fortunately, years of experience working with supply chains has taught me to always dual source production and fortunately we were able to call upon our backup to produce the goods in time. It was a highly stressful experience however for all parties involved!
How do you relax?
Getting outdoors is key. My passions include surfing and snowboarding (when I can) and I now run often too. I find I relax most when I’m forced to switch off doing one of these activities, or when spending time on one of the many Scottish Hebridean islands with friends and family.