Married co-founders Ivan Martinez and Christan Summers discuss how the seed of an idea grew into a thriving business through a combination of heartfelt passion and powerful technology.
“We want customers to feel like they just walked into someone’s backyard — not just a retail store,” says Ivan Martinez, who co-founded the Brooklyn-based plant shop Tula with his wife Christan Summers. “We don’t want to sell people plants, we want to teach people about plants. When they’re comfortable, that’s when they make a purchase.”
Comfort and customer connection are critical components of Tula’s success. When the pandemic hit, Ivan and Christan knew they had to increase their touch points with customers in order to survive. Despite having a 7-month-old baby and no child care, they put together an e-commerce site, and Christan began posting instructional plant care videos. “I had shied away from the camera,” she says, “but at that point, I realized it was just me and Ivan in the store and we had to stay connected to our customers to stay in business.”
This new internet presence gives Christan and Ivan a home to share their creativity and unique vision of what a plant store can be, and also helps the two-person team stay on top of the daily grind of running a business. “Online and in-person, we use the internet for everything,” says Ivan. “The internet runs our POS system which runs through the very fast connection we have at the shop.” The couple uses the cloud to document all of their inventory and profit margins on each product they sell, which makes it easier for them to prioritize their time and resources. It also means that cybersecurity is a top priority. “It is important to our financial protection,” notes Ivan, “and also is important for our clients to know that their data is safe when they shop here.”
“Growing a business is a lot like growing plants,” says Christan. “Everything needs to be in harmony and balanced.” When technology is aligned with creativity and passion, success has the perfect environment to blossom.
Securing Your Success, a series that highlights small business success stories and the importance of connectivity within entrepreneurship, is sponsored by Comcast Business. Learn more at entrepreneur.com/comcastbusiness.