Barb McGrath 0:01
Our guest today likes to get her hands dirty. In fact, it teased her one time that she likes to play in the dirt. But she wants her products to take center stage in your living room. Kate Wah is the owner of fat plant farm here in Regina. And she’s going to tell us her story about how she decided one day to wake up and spend her days playing in the dirt. It kind of sounds like the dream job for my kids. But retail is tough. And so we’re going to hear from Kate how she’s been able to cope over the last number of months with COVID. But how she’s also been able to build a thriving business. And I’m hoping she’s going to talk a little bit about the success she’s had on Instagram. Because if you haven’t been to her Instagram channel, you need to go, her Instagram channel will leave you running to the plant store to stock up. So, Kate, welcome. Thank you for being here.
Kait Waugh 1:01
Thanks for having me, Barb.
Barb McGrath 1:02
It’s a pleasure to have you here today. And tell us a little bit about yourself and how you decided that. Yeah, you wanted to have a plant store. How did that all come to be?
Kait Waugh 1:13
Okay, I have to say it’s been quite a slow journey. Just Just being the person that I am not a big risk taker. So hey, we’re like coming to I guess, create this plan shock was a little bit of Yeah, an uncomfortable journey for me. I went to school in Saskatoon and graduated from the College of Agriculture with a plant science degree.
Unknown Speaker 1:42
So I know that
Kait Waugh 1:44
Yeah, I didn’t have any intentions of starting my own business. I was going to graduate and just, you know, have a career within that field. And I did that for a few years, of course. And that was just kind of my idea of success, that pressure of graduating from university, and then being able to, I guess, have a career in that field was my goal. Okay, of course, got married, and we’re kind of we were living in Saskatoon, my husband and I had a baby at that time, was working within my field. And right before my maternity leave was up, my husband got a job back in Regina. So we moved to China. And I discovered you know that the stay at home mom life wasn’t for me. I was really itching to get back into the work field. Yeah, man that was a little bit more challenging. Finding a job in Regina that kind of fit in my career are kind of in my field. So I actually got a part time job working at a flower shop. I just wanted to do anything related to plants, of course. And after a while, like lots of my university, part time jobs were working outside in the parks. So when an opportunity came to work with the city of Regina, outside in our horticultural field, I snapped that up and began kind of this seasonal job of course,
Unknown Speaker 3:09
Kait Waugh 3:11
All the while I started kind of in Saskatoon, I started collecting succulents went to the farmers market, and I just became hooked. And that was kind of my my happy place. So moving to Regina, of course, had my house plants. We bought a house with a lot of Windows. I knew I had that in mind that I was going to be you know, just growing my plant collection. Absolutely. Yeah. And so I began Yeah, that seasonal job with the city of Regina, I would get laid off in the fall. And then what really brought me joy was just focusing on my houseplants. Okay, you had mentioned my Instagram plants account. I had started that separate from my personal because I started posting a lot about my plants. And you know, some of my friends and family might not give a crap about what plants sprouted a new leaf so I thought I would just do a separate account and that was called fat platform. Oh, my actual boss with the city of Regina. I was just trying to come up with some ideas for a name of this account. And I love succulents. And in fact plant is a nickname for those nice chubby, succulent leaves pots. Yeah, yeah. And then I started growing a lot of my little own succulent babies in there and kind of with my ag degree, we just attached the word farm on to fat plant farm. Hey, that began my little online plant diary, I suppose.
Unknown Speaker 4:35
Kait Waugh 4:36
Which you know, kept me happy. That leaves a lot of joy and nurturing plants. So during that winter being laid off. Yeah, I really just found a community online. On Instagram. I noticed that people started making their own concrete pots and I had dabbled back in that in Saskatoon just through a book that I picked up. So we had a heated garage. I was like, I might as well start, you know, too. You’re out in the grass over the wintertime and see if I could make my own pots just to how is my ever growing succulent collection? Exactly. So. So I always say it’s kind of that stereotypical story where, you know, friends and family see that and so you should start selling it. And, and then that’s kind of how it evolved into a little Facebook page. I remember clearly launching that sitting on my couch. And then just expecting you know, once you build your Facebook page, you just post something and someone will buy it.
Barb McGrath 5:34
And is that what happened?
Kait Waugh 5:35
Not really. it takes a little bit more work. But it’s so interesting to look back and think about my expectations or how I thought things worked. And what you just essentially learn along the way, having no business background, not any really sales or customer service background, either. But the number one thing I knew how to do was just share my love for plants. So that link came really easy.
Barb McGrath 6:02
So when did you create that Facebook page? How many years ago now?
Kait Waugh 6:05
In February, it’ll be five years.
Barb McGrath 6:08
Wow. Yes. So cool. Okay, so I have said this to you before, like, I do not have a green thumb. My husband has a green thumb, he can grow anything. And so we’re terrible when it comes to the indoor plants. Right? He looks after the outside because it’s green, and he can grow stuff. And he like plans everything outside. But because I’m usually responsible for inside, I’m like, I’m just gonna kill it. So why would I buy it? Now, having said that, I bought a whole bunch of succulents from you last year at Christmas, and then we had some leftovers, I still have three succulents alive. Whoo. You know, and I think they’re very difficult to kill. And my kids are actually the ones who kind of look after them and water them. But like, that’s a proud moment for me the fact that I’ve kept three plants alive, and we’ve kept official live for a year. So like we’re doing getting our house lately.
Kait Waugh 7:00
They’re they’re both types of pets that don’t really say what they need. Right? You’re right, kind of quiet. Yeah. Well, that’s awesome.
Barb McGrath 7:09
Exactly. So when someone comes to you, and they have literally as much knowledge as I have, where do you start? What what brings a customer in? And they’re like, Okay, I’m going to see Kate at that plant farm. And I got to get things better. Like, where do you start?
Kait Waugh 7:29
I think the first thing to ask people is where they plan on putting their plant a lot of people just, you know, they might see a pretty plant at the grocery store. You know, it’s it’s kind of a store that you frequent on a weekly basis, if not more, and you’ll just see that pretty plans and you’re like, I’ll try it, I’ll give it a I’ll give it a shot. But without doing a little bit of research or knowing if you have the right environment for that plant, or even the right lifestyle, as some host plants require a little bit more attention, you might be just setting yourself up for failure. And not that that’s not a part of your plant journey in the first place. But if we can help you kind of set you off on the right foot in the first place. set you up with the right plant for the right spot, you’re gonna learn a few less plant failures along the way.
Barb McGrath 8:17
Yeah, yes, exactly. Well, and it’s challenging, because, you know, house temperatures tend to fluctuate. And of course, you know, it’s cooler, nighttime, or you know, of course, winter. And so, yeah, it’s those. It does, it seems like it should be the simplest thing. But the number of plants I went through now, in fairness, I was probably buying, you know, Walmart and grocery store plans, because it was mom said I should win, you know, I had my first house and whatnot. So, so when you think about the quality of product that you have, what’s different, like I see a lot of TLC going into your product, totally different than what someone would pick up, you know, at the grocery store at the chain store.
Kait Waugh 9:05
I guess the difference is that we are strictly selling houseplants This is what we love. So we of course are going to inspect that product look after it. Because obviously we want healthy, beautiful looking product to sell to our customers. Whereas other places that just might be a little side product, so something that might catch your attention. But if you’re not careful, you might just pick up diseased or, or pest laden plants and then come into our shop. We’re just helping you Yeah, pair you up with the right plant, but the plant that’s going to have the best success because there’s just so much joy in nurturing plants. And if you’ve just continuously picked up plants and after a while, you know you’ve killed you know, your 10th plant. It gets a little bit discouraging, right? Yes. And I have lots of customers who come in and they’re like, I just feel like I should know how How to take care of a plant. I’m, I’m this age already, and I’m like, it’s it’s like any skill, just because you know, you turn 25 3035 or even, you know, 40 you’re, it’s not a skill that just naturally comes with age, it does take a little bit of research and the best thing is experience. And I always say to people, if someone has a house full of plants, they have also killed a houseful of plants, you know, like, there’s just, there’s just so much to learn in those kind of unfortunate plant failures. But from there, you can just take that knowledge and apply it forward.
Barb McGrath 10:38
Exactly. Well. And it’s funny because, as a, I’ll say, a home owner, you do you kind of have that belief that Well, okay, we have a house now. So now we need the plan to now we need this. Right? And yeah, as I say, our plants didn’t make our last movie. I think some survived. And some we just said, you know, not even trying to our plants didn’t make the move with us. And then when you move into a new house, you’re like, Yeah, we got to get the plants, oh, then other things come up, like, you know, kids, well, then you got to get the plant. Right. And so life keeps happening. But one of the things that I think about when I think about your business is yes, you sell plants and pots. But what you also sell, of course, is beauty. Because when you have green in your home, there’s numerous studies that talk about how it helps people relax, it reduces anxiety, right? And so it’s really about the quality of living to which you know, I don’t think people consciously say, I’m going to beautify my living room, or they might. But you know, it’s like, I need plants. We just all have that. That natural yearning for outdoor and especially in our province, where outdoor is a six month thing and indoors as a six month.
Kait Waugh 11:58
Oh, it’s like we always say bring the outdoors in. There’s a reason why like that first day of spring, you’re just itching to get outside. I always say you’re not flocking to a parking lot. You’re flocking to a park, because trees grass all that feels so good. And you’re so just like connected to nature that Yeah, when you do spend, you know, half a year indoors and everything outside is just no longer green. I think we just crave that connection with nature and by bringing houseplants into your home is one way to help us overwinter ourselves so we can get back outside.
Barb McGrath 12:32
Yeah. So how many houseplants Do you think you have now?
Kait Waugh 12:36
Um, I don’t know.
Barb McGrath 12:42
You a date.
Kait Waugh 12:44
There’s, there’s only I’m in the spare room. So we’re redoing our office. So I am just like upstairs in a bedroom. But we’ve got three plants in here and I can see one out my window or one out the doorway here. But I don’t know I would it depends how you count. Is it? How many plants in a pot? Or? I would say you know in the hundreds?
Barb McGrath 13:07
Yeah. So most, not most many women when you ask them how many shoes they have, you kind of get that kind of answer. Yeah. But for you. It’s bland.
Unknown Speaker 13:18
Yes. Right. Totally. Yeah. For
Barb McGrath 13:20
Me. It’s tech. If there’s like a new tech thing I can buy. I’m like, it’s like shoes. I don’t need shoes, because we’re in the middle of COVID. So I have tech instead.
Kait Waugh 13:28
Yeah. Yeah. Whatever
Barb McGrath 13:30
Brings you joy, right? Exactly. Yes. So you started your fat plant farm diary on Instagram. And it has exploded for you. I have no idea how many followers and stuff you have. But talk about that journey. Because you said something interesting to me last week when we were talking. And you talked about inspiration, which a lot of content that we see in social media isn’t necessarily inspiring. So talk about your Instagram and how you use it and how it how it inspires you and your followers. Yeah, so
Kait Waugh 14:03
I again, I started that account as kind of my houseplant journal. My grandparents kept a photo album and I keep an Instagram account. So to have built a little bit of a community, just sharing my own houseplants, and then to have slowly evolved into a business, I did not want to go from, hey, here’s my new plant to Hey, buy this plant. So I wanted to keep it obviously, informative, entertaining, and again with like, oftentimes sales is a little bit uncomfortable or has that icky feeling behind it. So if I can educate people, spark an interest and then they want to reach out and inquire about bringing houseplants into their home, that’s essentially what we’re here for. So I try to you know, sprinkle a little bit of sales or something new comes in, but for the most part, I just want people to To become pumped for plants, and that’s what’s most natural for me is just to be able to share that. So, yes, we’ve transformed or kind of Yeah, moved into a little bit more of a business account. But I didn’t want to make it into a sales pitch every time. Besides,
Kait Waugh 15:16
I feel I finally, that’s not what people are going online. In the first place, like, that’s not why I’m going online is to be advertised to. So exactly, I knew I had it bad when I would be on my phone on a coffee break working with the city. And I would just be scrolling through and looking at succulents, you know, just looking at pictures of plants, plants, plants. So I just wanted to maintain that I guess, on our on our Instagram feed and keep that conversation going.
Barb McGrath 15:44
Exactly. Well. And you know, what’s interesting to me, because I agree 100% people don’t go online or to social, to be sold to they go to be educated and entertained. And I find almost any business who, who makes that their approach, I want to educate you, I want to entertain you, you naturally start to gravitate followers, when you’re helping people versus you know, here’s what’s in stock. And, you know, be sure to get here by five o’clock on Friday. Yeah, it might might work. But there has to be a solid foundation of education and entertainment in there as well. Right?
Kait Waugh 16:25
Yes. Well, and that’s the thing, you have to provide value because you can buy plants, you know, around every corner. So what is something that we are doing different? And hopefully by showing like how much we are just insanely passionate about plants for we’ll just kind of create that customer base
Barb McGrath 16:46
That way. Exactly. So when did you guys open a retail location. So the diary started five years ago, but when did the farm actually open?
Kait Waugh 16:55
So I yeah, for a couple of years, I just worked out of our garage. And that’s where we poured the concrete pots and did a lot of the handmade markets farmers market, the cathedral Arts Festival, that street fair was one that we attended every year, which was just a blast to be outside. And then eventually just working from home. And it just became like a little bit of a wall. It was hard to grow. Like I just really wasn’t enjoying working from home anymore. But I was also really, really nervous of where I would go. But I but I happened to have a friend and a fellow business owner who were looking to have someone sublease their space that they outgrew, ah, and that was the ultimate deck shop. And they have the space on the care which we’re currently in. And they said did you want to take over our like sublease from us for one year, and I thought, Hey, this is an opportunity to try it out. See where it goes. Again, I’m very low risk. And that is just that that was a way where I was like, okay, but doesn’t work. I’ve got one year. Yes. And then we’ll go from there. So at that point, I had to eventually, you know, tell the city, like just to quit my horticulture job because I tried both.
Barb McGrath 18:15
Oh, you did? Oh, my goodness, how did that go? Um, it just,
Kait Waugh 18:20
It was busy. And it just, it just wasn’t sustainable. I tried to take a really early shift and start work at 5am. So that I could be done at two or three in the afternoon to go home and pour concrete. So that when my husband and daughter came home, like, you know, you had a little bit of time in them, and then I would head out back to the garage. So having your work at home. I mean, it’s hard to to shut it off. So it just was it was just too obviously busy and just not sustainable in the long run. So if I could get my kind of work out of the house and even just expand a little bit running out of room and people wanted to come and shop and I just wasn’t ideal. So what was your question? Oh,
Barb McGrath 19:06
Isn’t that funny though, the whole work from home thing because it really works for some people. But then for others, like it just doesn’t work. And so being able to recognize when you start to hit that that wall or that proverbial ceiling, right, that’s a really important moment of recognition for an entrepreneur that you’ve outgrown, and where you are right now. And you were ready to you know, take that next step. I like how or I really appreciate how you’re so authentic about it. You’re risk adverse. And retail is risky. starting a business is risky, putting yourself out there for you know, all sorts of feedback. It comes with a lot of risk. And people often forget that I think they just think you know, oh, it’s a store and whatever. But there’s so much there’s so much more behind it. Now, does your husband help at all? Or does he have a green thumb? Or does he just steer clear?
Kait Waugh 20:07
No, he actually just, especially when we were doing our pop ups in markets, he would come and attend those a lot. And just being able to, I guess, hang out with me a lot and hear me chat, he was just able to regurgitate that info to two people. And he really had fun and enjoyed that aspect helped me tons at the store getting that set up as well. But now that I’ve got employees, and it’s out of the house, his his role has definitely taken a little bit of a backseat, but he definitely helped me tons encouraged me just to, to go for it. So yeah,
Barb McGrath 20:46
Yeah. And you know, I love that story. I I have been very fortunate as well, my husband has heard me do my spiel so many times, that every once in a while he says something. And I’m like, wow, like I’m getting through.
Kait Waugh 21:01
Barb McGrath 21:02
Yeah. Right. And so yeah, it’s nice to see, you know, when you’ve kind of got that cheerleader, because some days are hard. Right? So how when when you have those hard days, or you know, a tough week, or or a tough month COVID a perfect example. How do you get through it? What, what helps you? What’s your inspiration, then, as we were talking about with Instagram, what keeps you going
Kait Waugh 21:31
It’s getting a little bit easier to recognize that sometimes you just have those days. But when you’re in those days, you feel like it’s the end. So even just last Friday, I just I was just having a tough day, and Monday hit and I’m like, wow, I feel completely different than how I did Friday. But nothing major changed in my business. It’s all in my head I I’ve often said to like, I’m either my biggest cheerleader, cheerleader, or just my worst enemy. So it’s that mental game. And one of the biggest reasons why I needed to get out of my house is just that it was just really lonely. Not being able to, I don’t know, even just chat with anybody or Yeah, and again, if you just go down that dark path with your thoughts, it’s hard to get out. So I’ve had I’ve made a really good friend who’s also a fellow entrepreneur, so she’s somebody that I can call up when I’m just in those funks and night, you know, and just have someone to cheer me on. And the days that I feel like giving up. It’s just a matter of time when I just look at my planets, and I’m like, No, I just love you guys. It’s just that inspiration, right? And then to be able to get back out there and share just how I find so much joy in just nurturing houseplants. So it’s just a little bit of I mean, everyone says that that roller coaster ride. Mm hmm. And it’s just recognizing, you know, where you’re on it at certain points, you know?
Barb McGrath 22:58
Yes. And I think as a business, you were, I don’t want to say prepared for COVID because no one was prepared for COVID. But you already had an online presence, you are already promoting a lot on social. So you didn’t have to play that part of the ketchup. And I think I remember you telling me that you guys went to online, or like curbside delivery or something fairly quickly, didn’t you?
Kait Waugh 23:20
Yeah, so mid March, obviously. Yeah, we shut down. And I thought, yeah, oh, I was like, if people are hoarding toilet paper, I’m like, they’re not hoarding plants. So. And, like a lot of businesses, I’m sure, they had similar feelings where I’m like, Oh, this might have trouble. This might be it, like, no one’s gonna be looking after plants. But there was just an overwhelming like amount of support where people were reaching out. And obviously, our doors were closed, but people were still wanting to buy plants. And it was just me at that point, as my staff just voluntarily just wanted to stay home. So I understood that. So just trying to run the store by myself was insanely just busy. And trying to almost personal shop with customers on Instagram, and Facebook just wasn’t efficient. So I’m like, I need a online shop. Like yesterday, it was always something I wanted to do just to be able to show people what we had in stock. And if they felt like driving cars were a little bit of a destination location.
Kait Waugh 24:27
So there was nothing like COVID to light a fire under our budget and get that was. Exactly. Yeah, yeah. And now it’s just it’ll, it’s just the constant. It’s just, you know, it’s a part of our business.
Barb McGrath 24:41
So, exactly. So believe it or not, we are just about at a time. So could you share with everyone who’s listening, like where they find you online, what your channels are? Can you share that information with everyone?
Kait Waugh 24:54
Absolutely. Yeah, so you can I guess, check us out online at fatplantfarm.com. If you’re on Instagram and Facebook, you can also just search fat plant farm. And if you’re in Regina, come visit us at 1817 makara streets.
Barb McGrath 25:08
So you guys are back home. But
Kait Waugh 25:10
Yes, I’ve opened our doors in June. Yeah.
Barb McGrath 25:13
And that’s, you know, that’s got to feel a little bit like I’ll say coming home for you to be able to see your customers again and be back in your store. And it was a
Kait Waugh 25:22
Yeah, it was a it was a strange couple of months just to almost just fulfill orders but not interact with anybody. Exactly. Except for online. But yeah, it was. It was weird. So it’s so lovely to have everybody back in.
Barb McGrath 25:35
I bet. Excellent. All right. Well, we are out of time. So Kate, I have to thank you for joining me today. I love talking about your your store and and being in that space. And one of these days, I’m going to be like Kate, fix my house.
Kait Waugh 25:52
Happy to help.
Barb McGrath 25:55
You would like to be a guest on the show. You can email me at Barb at Google girl.ca or reach out on Facebook and Instagram at Above the Fold. ca. And just a reminder, you can even submit your questions in advance of the show just on our Facebook page. That way I can ask our guests some hard questions. So I’m your host, Barb McGrath, local business owner and Google girl. Remember, you were charged for your success. Don’t keep it a secret. Bye for now.
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Coming up today on the Secret Life of Entrepreneurs, our guest shares her story of turning a lifelong love into a thriving business. Fat Plant Farm started as an Instagram following built on passion and an authentic appreciation for the value of “green” in our lives.
Whether you need a splash of green in the living room window facing north, or an entire wall of green in the south-facing window, Fat Plant Farm can advise on the healthiest and hardiest indoor plants for your home.
Tune in as she tries to turn my black thumb green!
Connect with Kait @ Fat Plant Farm
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