You Can Find Comfort in Plants With The Plant Society

Without small business, we’re nothing. TheLatch— and GoDaddy have teamed up to rally behind local businesses and entrepreneurs during this unprecedented time of change.

We’re speaking to small businesses and entrepreneurs across the country to better understand how they’re adapting to stay open, how they’re keeping their community safe, and how we can support them now during this time, and beyond. We’re focused on keeping Australia open for business, even if doors are closed. #OpenWeStand

With Australia in isolation and spending significant amounts of time at home, many of us are looking inwards, quite literally within our homes, to determine just what it is that makes us happy.

With social events off the table, a large number of Australians have been spending their time embarking upon home improvement projects. It’s likely why Bunnings has turned into the hottest new weekend spot and why your neighbours can’t seem to put down the drill for longer than three minutes. There’s just not a lot else to do.

But home improvement isn’t all about loud noises and drastic before-and-afters. Even the smallest changes can bring joy, like re-organising a shelf, fixing that perpetually leaking tap or buying a new indoor plant.

The Plant Society is in the business of the latter. With five locations around Australia and a successful online operating business, the founders of The Plant Society established their business on a mission to green the city.

Since August 2016, founders Jason Chongue and Nathan Smith have worked to bring the joys of plants to others with plant styling, plant workshops, plant pop-ups, and, of course, through their stores both physical and online.

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the team is having to adjust. They’re still helping people find comfort and happiness in greenery, but on a different scale. And it’s been an adjustment.

We caught up with founder and creative director Jason Chongue to find out more about how the business is pivoting around the complications of the current climate.

Katie Skelly: Hi Jason! Guess how many plants I have? 44! But I digress… Tell me about The Plant Society and what gets you out of bed in the morning.

Jason Chongue: The Plant Society was born from a passion for design and plants, but also to create a plant community.

With studios and stores in Melbourne and Sydney, we promote positive and open conversations around gardening. Through our outposts, we hope to inspire you to nurture greenery in your home and help motivate a greener city.

What gets me out of bed in the morning is being able to delve into gardening and witnessing the positive effects of our community embracing all things green.

KS: I think my house is a green city at this point. Tell me, how has your business been affected by COVID-19? 

JC: Like any business, we have had to evolve and adjust the target for this year.

Our team needed to shrink and we needed to minimise our overheads in order to give us the best chance to come out of this pandemic in one piece.

It has not been an easy process for the community and family we created, but with less buying and foot traffic we’ve had to make decisions that balance health and public safety, but also make sure we can financially withstand the challenge ahead.

KS: What does it mean for you now to operate your business around the current restrictions?

JC: In a strange way, consolidating our business back to the basics has taken us back to when we started four years ago. It’s been about supporting the community surrounding our stores, as well as online.

With the limitations, we’ve had to hold our chin up and look forward without letting the negativity drag us down. We’ve had to think of simple and safe ways to motivate those in isolation, to not be complacent but also to embrace urban gardening.

KS: Have you put any immediate plans in plans to pivot your business to cater to all that’s going on?

JC: Our Online Outpost has gone through an experimental process to see how we can evolve our offering to our loyal followers, but also the rest of Australia.

It’s not a phenomenal plan but our thoughts are to keep it simple and conservative during this time.

KS: It’s a great plan. And I’m happy to know you’re still able to give the gift of greenery to people online. Tell me, how can people support your business in the short term?

JC: In the short term, we can’t stress enough to not become complacent. You can still support businesses by purchasing online, calling, taking advantage of our home delivery service or popping into our stores and purchasing as efficiently in person as possible.

KS: With Mother’s Day coming up, we can’t think of a better gift. Have you considered any steps for the future, for when things return to a ‘new normal’, to make up for the time and business lost?

JC: The world has gone through a state of cleansing, and as we rise from this, I think we will become more in tune with what is important in life.

Maybe ‘normal’ wasn’t right and for us, but our business will continue to evolve and support community. For us, it’s not about making up for lost time or finances, but rather making sure our community can have a safe space to talk about all aspects of life in our stores.

We started our first store with it modelled around a Milk Bar, where a child could walk in alone, with no fear, and talk about anything. It is the model we continue to work with and through this pandemic, our attention will continue to put emphasis this aspect.

“The world has gone through a state of cleansing, and as we rise from this, I think we will become more in tune with what is important in life.”

KS: That’s a really valuable and beautiful takeaway. Lastly, what have you learned as a business in this time?

JC: Our lessons are to always keep The Plant Society true to who we are. To always judge our hearts over what we might make financially. It’s a tricky balance we have always worked with, but there is a happy medium once you find it.

Show your support for The Plant Society by adding a special touch of green to your home today, or by shopping the range of pots, plant accessories and homewares.

Check out The Plant Society online and on Instagram

Read more stories from TheLatch— and follow us on Facebook.