Botanicare feature in Phoenix Business Journal

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Chandler company wants its business to grow from grassroots

An East Valley company is launching a line of self-watering plant pots aimed at encouraging consumers to adopt green practices.

The Grobal pots are modern-looking globes in a range of colors, with a starting price of about $15. Each pot features a side spout into which owners can occasionally pour water, along with a small packet of proprietary liquid fertilizer, to help the plant thrive with little hassle.

“Especially in this economy, people are looking for smarter and efficient ways to do things. This is environmentally conscious, and you will not kill your plants,” said Kayla Sharp, executive vice president of Botanicare.

Grobal is the first mass-market consumer product from Botanicare, a Chandler company that focuses on green growing practices, including organics and hydroponics.

“Our vision is self-sustaining agriculture. It’s not sexy,” Sharp said. “So this is a way to get the attention of the rest of the world without boring them.”

Botanicare is the latest incarnation of the company that began as Sea of Green, a retail gardening store that opened in Tempe in 1992. It was founded by Sharp and Treg Bradley, both Arizona natives and Gilbert residents.

Bradley developed a special blend of organic soil called SureBlend, which led to the launch of American Agritech in 1996.

Since then, the pair have divested three Sea of Green retail stores and changed the company’s name to Botanicare, which continues to sell organic soil products to both the commercial and consumer markets, plus the new line of Grobal planters.

Grobals are sold with packets of Botanicare’s environmentally friendly fertilizer. This introduces consumers to the company’s other products, which include fungi, plant supplements and equipment for hydroponic gardening — growing plants without soil.

“Our current market is very techie, but our goal is to show people they don’t have to be experts to be green gardeners,” Sharp said. “Grobals are something that are pretty, that are inexpensive and are easy to use and understand.”

Introducing the retail planters was a long-term goal of the company. After developing the idea in 2007, Sharp and Bradley spent three years designing the product, finding a manufacturer and working to find a mass market for it.

In addition to small boutiques nationwide, retailers carrying Grobals include Target.com and Urban Outfitters.

While the company also is selling the pots through a dedicated website, Sharp said ultimately Botanicare doesn’t want to be a retailer; instead, it is looking to supply others with the Grobal line.

Sharp attributes the launch of the product and the growth of her business — estimated to reach $30 million in revenue this year — to her involvement with the Phoenix chapter of EO, a national membership-based group of entrepreneurs. She became a member in 2004, after meeting an EO member in an airport in Portland while waiting for a flight.

“We started talking about our businesses and what we do, and he gave me a contact for the Arizona Chapter,” Sharp said.

“This isn’t just for anyone. In order to be a member, you have to be a company founder or a principal and have $1 million gross,” said Greg Smith, a member of the Arizona EO’s board and the founder and CEO of G.W. Custom Homes in Carefree.

Smith said monthly peer-to-peer meetings provide feedback and direction from other proven entrepreneurs.

“These are candid and confidential conversations which we are bound by,” he said. “But I can say that Kayla is an extraordinary businessperson, and I have really seen her grow her business.”

EO AZ board member Eric Page, founder of Phoenix-based Amplify Health, agreed.

“She has strong experiences with process and a system of accountability, as well as developing a great corporate culture in her organization,” he said.

Sharp said that from 2009 to 2010, the company added 15 new employees for a total of 65 and moved into a new 33,000-square-foot warehouse in Chandler.

“We are trying to grow our business from the grassroots and are starting to see some success,” Sharp said. “We are trying to price and position the Grobal as a product that’s for everyone, and we want to get it into more retailers.”

Botanicare: www.americanagritech.com

Grobal: www.grobalworld.com

EO Arizona: www.eoaz.org

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