Written by Starshipit
Urban Plant Growers is a Sydney-based online store that sells affordable and easy-to-use indoor smart gardens that enable people to grow herbs and fresh vegetables from the comfort of their homes.
Founders, Dilhan Wickremanayake and Peter Cole, launched Urban Plant Growers on Shopify in June 2018 after these two engineering students bonded over their mutual passion for growing greens.
This future-forward duo is on a self-funded mission to educate and empower people one grow-kit at a time.
Part of their education drive is to reframe the perception around the use of the word *hydroponics, which is often associated with growing marijuana. Too many people overlook the fact that this type of horticulture can be used to grow much-needed vegetables in urban environments.
Dilhan and Peter want to start a more edible revolution of fresh green lettuce and veggies, grown without mess or fuss in every urban home.
However, their real innovation is how they’ve made hydroponics* more affordable. They have managed to source cheaper components, making the price point 50% less than that of their competitors.
*Hydroponics - A type of horticulture (a subset of hydroculture) involving growing plants using mineral nutrient solutions in an aqueous solvent.
Dilhan and Peter met in their last year at Sydney’s University of Technology, so they “grew at their own pace and took on what they could when possible”. There have been many challenges for this team, but they have overcome them fairly quickly. For example, it has taken a few iterations of the fulfilment process to arrive at a place where they are now.
Over the 2 years since they launched they have evolved their fulfilment process 3 times.
Like most eCommerce start-ups, Dilhan and Peter first started out by keeping their stock in their own garages. This soon became unmanageable as people started to take a huge interest and orders started coming in a lot more frequently.
They decided to enlist the services of a 3PL fulfilment centre. What they experienced was that the staff weren’t as familiar with their product, so they weren’t able to manage to the different levels of complexity. They felt they never got the level of attention they needed and were just a small fish in a much bigger pond. So, after 9 months they said goodbye to the fulfilment centre.
Finally, to ensure full control of the fulfilment process and quality control of the product, they now have their own warehouse. However, what they soon realised was that Shopify’s fulfilment options were not suitable when fulfilling bulk orders.
As they have had a few international orders, another challenge has been finding a cost-effective solution for international shipping.
The team chose Starshipit over Shopify’s shipping solution to manage the fulfilment process (from checkout to delivery, including returns) as they found Starshipit had “more intelligence and flexibility”. It’s these intelligent and customisable product features that enable online retailers, of all sizes, to save time and money when shipping orders.
Dilhan elaborates on why they chose Starshipit as their multi-courier platform.
"It’s easy for the warehouse team to use and fits well with a Shopify-based store and syncs perfectly with all our other platforms, and is scalable for growth. It’s an effective platform with a lot of automation when you look at all the features."
— Dilhan Wickremanayake, Co-Founder of Urban Plant Growers
Here are some of the product features that have enabled the team to optimise the fulfilment process.
They have found Starshipit’s business rules easy to set up from a high level and easy to implement at a warehouse level.
For example, they use Starshipit’s rules engine to set up rules based on the cheapest delivery option available and have made it easier to compare shipping options with Starshipit’s live rates at checkout.
This courier-selecting automation enables online retailers to play to their couriers’ strengths as you can toggle between services.
The team have set business rules to use Australia Post’s eParcel Parcel Post or MyPost Business Beta Solution for items that are of a certain size or going to ‘rural’ areas.
New Zealand orders also have their own set of rules, using Australia Post’s International Standard pack and track service for Tasman orders.
Another time-saver has been using the Print Application, which you can simply download to your desktop, to print shipping labels for the same courier and print packing slips and labels together.
They have found that using the print app has allowed for a higher level of quality control when printing shipping labels and packing slips. Dilhan also tells us, “We are working on setting up our barcode scanner, which should make things much faster.” Read more about Starshipit’s scan and print feature.
Lastly, an important feature for the overall brand that Urban Plant Growers use is Starshipit’s branded tracking pages, which you can use to send at 5 key stages along the delivery journey.
As you can see, Urban Plant Growers use their branded tracking pages to build their community, which is a smart way to build customer loyalty and increase the value of your business.
You can also use the branded tracking page to implement a returns policy. The customer simply emails their reason for their return to an address on the notification. A reply email is sent with an attached shipping label they can print and use to return the parcel.
Within the 10 months of Urban Plant Growers launching the team have gone from, “selling a single smart garden that allows you to grow simple plants, to a range of unique products that we think will massively improve your ability to grow your own fresh food.”
“We started with 3 pallets, now we use 30 palettes.”
With the above in mind, the team predict a 300% year-on-year growth as the business starts to take on more wholesale business and start to build local communities around hyper-local food programmes.
What makes these two guys most amazing is that they are leading the vanguard in a new breed of business that is centred around shared value for people, communities and the planet.
“We are working on clearly defined donation targets so that our customers know that if we make "x" sales per year, that means a $1000 donation, or if we sell "y" items, then we will plant 200 trees.