Naples, Fla. — Bloem Living LLC is breathing new life into plastic flower pots, a product category President Ryan Mast says was ripe for innovative marketing.
"We found the industry to be tired. We found the industry to be a little worn out," Mast said at the Plastics News Executive Forum. "We asked ourselves how we can be different."
Mast started Bloem in 2012, with two silent partners. It was a classic basement startup, he told forum attendees. The company has grown from one employee to 193 in five years.
Bloem supplies retailers with 1,000 SKUs, with flower pots, watering cans, pink flamingos and other outdoor yard products.
"It's safe to say that through that growth, we've also experienced some growing pains," Mast said.
Today, Hudsonville, Mich.-based Bloem Living has a manufacturing and distribution facility in Apopka, Fla.
At first, Mast wanted to be a pilot. But a summer job cutting grass at a condominium development gave him plenty of time to think, and he thought up a cover for sprinkler heads, using a coffee can. He was 19.
Working with his girlfriend's father, they developed the product with the idea it would be made in China. They started two companies, one for the irrigation product and one for flower pots — ornate fiberglass ones from China.
The irrigation idea failed, but the flower pot business was good, and the company grew. But the business was changing. Bloem moved from high-cost fiberglass planters to low-cost injection molded ones with a higher retail turn rate.
"It became clear at that point that it needed to be produced in the United States," Mast said. U.S. sourcing made Bloem Living adaptable and reduced inventory costs.
Just five years old, Bloem Living has grown by acquisition. In 2013, the company bought the Duraco and Garden Scene brands and added vibrant new colors. Last year, Bloem bought American Design Pottery, from Fiskars Brands — a deal that boosted employment from 10 to 60 full-time and 100 part-time seasonal employees.
Mast said Bloem Living raised prices for the pots, so the company needed to make some innovations. A big one: Centralized, professional-looking displays at retailers. He said the company wanted to put flower pots up front in a store, in a visible area.
Mast said the company promotes planters as a key component to gardening.
"Flower pots are a canvass to creating something greater," he said.