Hey, it’s Shane Maloy, Founder of Gabriella Plants.
Plants have been part of my story since the very beginning. I grew up with our beloved family greenhouses in my childhood backyard and worked in and for the family business since I could walk. In 2017, I took over the family business from my Dad and in late 2018, I was introduced to the world of online plants, something that I was unaware of, considering we relied on a fax machine for wholesale orders, and I began selling some of the uncommon plants our family greenhouses had been growing for years online. That idea quickly blossomed into the next 2 years of a whirlwind.
With Gabriella Plants now entering it’s 3rd year growing plants & serving customers online through our website and there is so much good in store.
But first, let’s take a moment to appreciate how much we’ve grown in the past year.
We grew from 26k plants grown shipped in our first year, to 96k plants shipped this year.
We grew over 180 species this year totaling over 400 individual products.
We did over 250 different inventory releases. We answered over 40k customer emails.
Our team grew from 11 last December to 27 now including independent team members.
And GP isn’t me, it’s those 27 people who make GP what it is. And I truly couldn’t be more proud of them.
With the opening of our 2nd location this month, we have now effectively 20x more space for offices & the shipping process than the 400 sq ft we initially started in.
We also couldn’t do it without our customers, who believe in me and our team some days, frankly more than we believe in ourselves.
What’s cool? We are STILL growing. In fact, we will begin to move our Customer Experience, Customer Care & Shipping Teams to our first offsite location; GP Aloma.
Since the start of GP, I’ve been big on casting a vision for the future and to embrace the value of innovation and change. I’ve also loved our yearly themes.
In our first year, we focused on introducing ourselves to the plant community and communicating that we were unique and ship plants that we grow, from our greenhouse to your house. And we still do!
As we started this year, 2020, it was apparent that we were Always Growing More.
And boy that’s true.
In 2021, we will be focusing on learning and our theme is…
Every Plant Has A Story
There are so many untold stories in our plant community, from the stories of more growers, to the way plants impact our lives, we’re excited to be introducing our PODCAST, Every Plant Has A Story. Our pilot and intentions behind this venture is online now, and we will begin to release weekly episodes for our first season starting in January.
In addition to telling those stories, Each plant we grow in our greenhouses in 2021 will have an individual story, with it’s full history since it’s planting and that data will not only let us be better growers, but it will also in the future, will let us share each plant’s story with our customers and deepen their love/passion for plants.
But the best way to recap is simply,
We’re Always Growing More
Happy Birthday Gabriella Plants
(aka, the long version)
As I sit on my back porch at my house, just .2 miles away from the greenhouses I truly call home, on the morning that our website begins it’s 3rd year selling plants directly to customers online… I can’t come up with anything more than amazement, exhaustion & excitement. (and for those who read this to the end, this note is to say its now almost sundown…)
For those of you who haven’t read a “chapter of one of Shane’s books” before, welcome. Buckle up. I’ve always valued radical transparency in everything that I do and that GP does, and I love the moments I get to share my perspective.
For better context, if you don’t know me, I’m Shane. I’m 26 years old and I live in Oviedo, Florida… about 25 minutes from Downtown Orlando, which isn’t Disney. I’ve been happily married to my middle school sweetheart for more than 3 years now and we have a “carpet grey” poodle named Teddy. The rest of this post is my story.
I'm now a 3rd generation grower in my family. My grandpa first left his job in sales to purchase the property we still use for Gabriella Plants today and begin building a new life, home & eventually building a nearby business, a garden center… where my Dad grew up working in the shop and he also fell in love with plants. I remember a few moments of “The Backyard” (grandpa’s shop) but it was early childhood. In 1992, with the help of my grandpa, my Dad began to build commercial greenhouses after graduating from the University of Florida for Horticulture and started a separate wholesale indoor foliage business on the property. When I was almost 2 years old, my Dad purchased the Gabriella property (located on Gabriella lane) from my grandparents and they purchased a piece of land and built a house right around the corner. Some of my most fond memories of childhood in general were around plants at either property or in the garden picking vegetables.
I grew up working in and for the wholesale business from as early as I can remember. I can remember 4 of our 6 building phases of the greenhouses themselves, and my siblings and I’s names/handprints are still hidden in the concrete that we walk on every day if you look carefully in the right spots. I was always interested in plants, although, I have always been more of a techy. Which will certainly come into play towards the end of this entire thesis.
After losing both my grandparents in the same window of time that Gabriella Plants has been online, I was lucky enough to purchase the house that my grandparents built, you bet, just .2 miles or 5 driveways around the corner from Gabriella.
So that’s me and the summary of my story before our online idea was born.
When we first started out, it was just me, my best friend Sam (who still works at GP!) and Michelle and the three of us were running the wholesale business. At first, I shipped almost all of the orders myself which eventually became impossible. I won’t go into much detail on our growth over 2019 in this post, but you can read other posts like this online from those time periods to see my perspective shift over time.
By the end of 2019, we had 11 team members. And we knew the future was bright, and that we had a never ending list of ways we could make GP better and more efficient with what we have.
Keep in mind, we’re even now, still a very small business all things considered. We have roughly 1 acre of covered greenhouses, which means everything we grow is still just a fraction of a single 1% of greenhouses in the State of Florida. While we may still be small in space, we make up for with hard work and passion for what we do.
As a company, we had plans for 2020, but 2020 had plans for us too.
When we started 2020, I had high hopes for what the year would contain, but much like our first year, I knew the year would need a lot of growth & dedication to ensure it succeeded. My wife and I had plans to open a retail location and to expand in a number of other ways in 2020.
I’m a big of notes and plans, so I’ve always had a roadmap for what milestones we would accomplish in each of the calendar quarters, to help us plan and prepare for upcoming changes. Innovation/Change is a value that Gabriella Plants holds dear.
In late January 2020, we hired more people, growing our team from 13 or so to 17. Mainly, I focused on growing the Shipping Team & our Greenhouse Team. In the same way that in our first year, we were limited by our space and capacity to ship plants specifically, with more space at the start of 2020, we were set up quite well to expand our teams and increase our capacity.
We increased our capacity so much this year during our spring peak, we were shipping as many plants per day as we had been per week the year before. Likewise, our greenhouse finally had enough hands to actively keep our greenhouse so organized and clean, reducing our issues with pests and disease. Both are incredible accomplishments.
Each staff member we hired also brought a new story to our company. And right as we were hitting our peak, and we believed the approval of the retail shop would be any day now… COVID impacted all of our lives. Seemingly overnight, half of our plans for the remainder of 2020, especially in how we served our local retail customers… those dreams were broken in that moment that FL went into shutdown.
Florida is a very agriculture friendly state and thus we were deemed an essential business and given our staff’s comfortability, our way beyond 6ft standard workspace layouts, I told the staff that obviously each week was up to them individually, but that the more we safely hustled, the more smiles we could bring to gloomy homes and the better off our entire team would be. I also introduced at the start of 2020, our monthly bonuses, which awarded money we generated to everyone evenly based only on the # of hours worked, not someone’s seniority or position, because our company is who we are when we each do our part. Some of those parts may seem small, but they’re equally as important.
As the year progressed, given the cancellation of other projects, we invested some of our earnings on restoring the aging greenhouses that had seen better days after Hurricane Irma in 2017.
However, what I began to work on in the 2nd half of 2020, since the last time I wrote a post like this… this is where it all gets CRAZY for ME.
In our August round of hiring, we brought on several additional team members, one of which being one of my oldest friends, Robert. Robert and I have worked on tech/development projects since we were both in high school and he had been working another career that he was becoming disinterested in. I had been explaining to him for over a year all the ways I thought he’d be uniquely qualified to help Gabriella Plants grow into something truly extraordinary and unique. Being able to bring Robert onto our team has entirely changed my life, but not because he did it alone. He brought formal knowledge in developmental psych to help me navigate how to best communicate with the team.
We also hired Courtney B, who was an experienced Disney Horticulture leader but had been furloughed given COVID & its impact on the theme parks. She brought not only a ton of knowledge, but she brought experience and understanding of better structures & leadership techniques to share with our team and those pieces were things we would need to successfully have more than 1 location where we grow or ship plants.
Lastly, we brought Alexa on to the team, who has been our first true Flex Team Member, serving in all 3 departments, greenhouse, shipping & customer care. This was the first person that wasn’t a Maloy (my wife had previously taken over emails from me at the start of the year) that was able to help and serve customers in the event Miriam and I wanted to take time off.
When Robert first joined, I told him that in 2021, I wanted to work more specifically on building ways for the team to communicate to each other, because often a lot of the questions any manager would get was a question that could be answered quicker in Slack or via walkie talkies. All of these changes were things that I was casting a vision for a FUTURE year to look like, because I do want to have a family one day, and I want to be able to know that the organization can be okay without me. This was all in the context of it being accomplishable far into 2021.
At the end of September, Miriam and I took our normal 6 days off for our anniversary. However, before I left, Robert set some expectations with me of who to talk to or expert calls from, and I wrote out instructions on projects and in situations, who to contact. Unlike leaving with Miriam for trips in the previous history of GP, where I had to intentionally announce that we’d be skipping an Inventory Update or I would have to find the time at 7pm Eastern on Wednesday to sit down and make sure it happened…. Miriam and I essentially just got to get away.
Nearly everything… just worked and functioned without my heavy involvement, only intentional conversations and questions from specific team leaders in each department once a day.
This leadership structure implementation happened so much quicker than I could have ever achieved on my own, and it was not only because we had more experience on our team to help with teaching & leading that, but it also took a willingness from our team to understand that systems like this are needed to grow a company and the team embraced the clarity that leadership provides.
When I returned from our trip, I was welcomed by a team that was actively working on communicating better & felt supported and relieved that I had finally taken time off. It was a refreshing and surreal feeling. And it truly freed me up to focus on what the next years of our growing company would look like, as we add more people to our teams and add more locations to grow and ship plants.
As Robert and I tackled some of the more pressing things in his first few weeks, we quickly after began in the background working on developing ideas for technology we could give to growers like ourselves or others to help them better run the operation we run every day. Robert connected us with his team of 3 developers that he had been previously already working with on his last project, and they began to work on our own internal use web/mobile application to track plants and their status in the growing/fulfillment process with the goal of eventually using it to track and control everything about our greenhouses. In addition to the inventory and operations side, we also worked with Curtis, our IT guy, to find solutions to better manage the grower’s job in a greenhouse like curtains and watering and also better ways to measure the overnight temperatures and regulate heaters remotely.
Another vision, as I begin to wrap up this particular post today… An aspiration born of a lot of ideas of Robert and I was the concept of taking that same data from our system that we built to track the stories of the plants in our greenhouse internally, and eventually find ways to tell Every Plant’s Story. That is already happening behind the scenes and i can't wait to share more about that in 2021.
Another thing we’re excited for in 2021 is the addition of Brett Weiss as our Head of Growing at Gabriella Plants. I believe wholeheartedly that I’ve been blessed with this business and the opportunity to lead it, but that I’m still 26, so I want to bring people on to the team that bring the pieces of the future growth that I don’t have myself
In addition to us using technology to track the stories of the plants we grow, we are also launching a podcast & other content under our 2021 theme: Every Plant Has A Story
One of my favorite parts of my “job” has been doing our Live Q&As or interacting and answering questions in our Facebook Group. It’s the way that I can share what has worked for us and our family growing the tropical plants we have now for generations.
There are so many stories we will share from Gabriella Plants, but there are also more important stories that are lived by people in our plant community every day and I can’t wait to interview some of the people behind the plants we love most.
The 2021 theme and vision of Every Plant Has A Story is not just about a customer experience, or about teaching and learning together… it’s based on the core belief that if people were able to know and continue to track the stories of the plants in their lives, it would only serve to deepen their love/passion for plants.
Gabriella Plants is so much bigger than me now, with 27 people in total now.
We’ve also shipped over 96k plants this year alone and there is so much more growing ahead.
Next week, we will suspend shipping until the New Year, but we will also be moving into our 2nd location, a location specifically for shipping at a commercial address and expanded offices as the team of people who work to enrich our customer’s experience grows. I have no doubts that a lot of our plans for 2020 may happen in 2021, and I am always planning for expanding how many plants we can grow and ship each year.
I cannot properly ever, in my life, put to words the incredible honor it is to lead our growing company and to get to do and share what I love with the next generation of growers like myself.
We are forever grateful for our customer’s support and I mean it when I say you guys believed in us some days more than we believed in ourselves. We appreciate your understanding, your grace, your orders and your shared excitement for what is in store for the year ahead.
Thank you simply isn’t enough.
Let’s keep growing together and I can’t wait to share more stories in 2021.
Your humble and friendly grower,
Founder & President of Gabriella Plants