Crystal’s plant stylist business growing in a pandemic

by Coretta Joe

Crystal Benidict has found her calling as a highly in-demand plant stylist. This means that her days consist of consultations (which have gone virtual due to the spike in COVID-19 cases), where she assesses her clients’ homes for light exposure, sizes up the decor, and makes recommendations to transform lifeless areas into vibrant living spaces.

She also has an assortment of other services such as repotting plants, providing pest treatments, fertilising, creating tailored mixes, rehabilitating plants, and more. But Benidict’s journey to nature has been anything but linear, as she has spent some time in various careers such as a dental internship, sailing, and being a celebrity photographer.

The entrepreneur, who owns Green Style Boutique Plant Shop and runs its popular spinoff Instagram page, Plant Parents Barbados, told Today’s BUSINESS that people’s desire to own indoor plants has intensified as a result of the global COVID-19 pandemic not only in Barbados but worldwide.

“It does give people something to do and something else to focus on apart from what is going on. But I have this theory . . . you know whenever you’re sick – men, women . . . you usually go home. I feel like during this time with this pandemic where it doesn’t just threaten us personally on an individual level — it’s a global threat to humanity, I find a lot of people are going back to earth; going home. You reach for nature,” explained the microbusiness owner.

Benidict revealed that even though growing demand has driven up plant prices, owning them tends to keep people grounded, especially now that everyone is spending more time at home.

Always a lover of plants and gardening, Benedict admitted that she was not always good at caring for them when she attempted her foray into developing her green thumb more than 15 years ago. Her journey to becoming a knowledgeable and sought-after plant entrepreneur included lots of trial and error.

“I would watch a lot of stuff on YouTube or read a lot of stuff in books, and that would be great, but many of these books and many of these videos are done by people who are either in the US, the UK, the Netherlands . . . who deal with different climates and there are just so many different variables, whereas here on the island, everything stays the same pretty much year-long.

“It’s just dry season and wet season, so you either wet less or you wet more. So, once I figured that out as a new plant parent, then I started to realise that a lot of these things and a lot of these problems that other people would come about, always stem from the roots or the soil,” Benidict told Today’s BUSINESS.

She then spent a few years taking an in-depth look at the science behind the soil, roots, leaves, and everything plant-related until she was confident in her abilities. According to Benidict, she found that made it much easier in terms of plant care, no matter the species.

Armed with this new-found information, Benidict began growing a lot of plants and relying on her photography skills by styling them in different pots and posting them on Instagram.

This drew many admirers from the novice to the well-established plant parent, whose appetites were now being whetted by the eye-catching aesthetics. This became the catalyst for her business.

“People would often comment and ask ‘how much is this plant?’ After that happened quite a few times, I decided that when I purchased a plant, I would purchase two, so that if someone asked, I would sell that one,” she said.

What started as a dry run to gauge suitability and profitability ended up working in Benidict’s favour and she is happy that it worked out.

“The business just took off. I started selling those plants, then I started offering a service, and then people would ask ‘could you take a look at this? Take a look at that,’ and they would send all these photos, and I just ended up at someone’s house one day taking a look at all of their plants and assisting them with that. I did that for a few years until I decided I’m gonna give this a shot as a business and see if it could work,” she explained.

The thriving entrepreneur is using the government-mandated national pause to roll out new products to enhance her services so that she can keep up with the demand of Barbadians eager to flex their green thumb.

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