Carolyn Snider ‘17 always felt drawn to entrepreneurship, especially during the first five years after college, which she spent at a small environmental consulting firm. With a modest staff, the firm was structured so that employees like Snider were encouraged to wear many hats in order to accomplish their objectives.
“I think it definitely fostered my interest in entrepreneurship since it let me be creative,” she says. “I developed a new business unit, including training and leading the team, and I even had an opportunity to recruit new customers. That was the first opportunity I had to create something in a business setting, and I realized how much I liked that.”
Though she commonly had business ideas percolating, it was actually Kellogg’s location that spawned the idea that would become her company.
“I was living in Evanston and I had just gone through the first winter,” Snider recalls. “I’m from California, so I was used to going outside more often and was very ready to have greenery in my space. I went to Home Depot and to several nurseries, but I had trouble finding good quality plants and I had trouble finding anyone who would help me determine the best plant for my space.”
Snider’s frustration with the plant-buying experience only increased as she sought out a container that would look attractive in her home. Everything she found at home-improvement stores was utilitarian and unattractive. Finally, after running around town for hours to acquire all the supplies needed for a seemingly simple apartment plant, she realized she had more questions about planting and caring for her greenery even once she got home.
“I’ve taken gardening classes and have a background in environmental studies, so I generally know what I’m doing when it comes to plants and their care,” Snider says. “But I still thought it would have been nice to have some more specific help along the way and also someone to answer questions since this was a climate I wasn’t used to.”
The lessons from this experience blossomed into Welltended, a one-stop online shop that matches plants with customers’ lifestyles and living spaces and then delivers the plant to their door in an attractive container along with simple care instructions. Customers can even sign up for watering reminders or receive tips via text.
Snider launched a pilot for Welltended in February of 2017 with the humble goal of selling just one plant. “I wanted the experience of selling a plant and to see what would happen during the pilot, so that I could iterate from there and decide what to do next.”
She prepared 20 plants and limited her marketing to a small blurb in Daybreak, a Kellogg newsletter created by Rachel Xanttopoulos ‘17. Within hours she sold out and realized she could be onto something. “Obviously you have to be careful when you’re testing an idea because Kellogg is such a supportive community, but it was clear that so many people wouldn’t have made purchases had the idea not offered some value to them.”
It’s exactly that support from the Kellogg community that truly gave Welltended legs over the following months. As a Zell Fellow, Snider says she received an abundance of mentorship and found the structure to carry Welltended forward.
“The Zell Fellows Program required me to think through how to communicate the vision for Welltended and to think about the size of the market,” she explains, adding, “There’s vulnerability in sharing your idea with people and knowing where you should start, so the program gave me the framework to move forward and also gave me confidence. I really credit the Zell Program for helping me get going.”
As Welltended continues to bloom, Snider says the challenge in this next phase will be staying focused on growing its customer base. “Staying focused on the day-to-day and constantly doing tasks that will expand the business is harder than it sounds because there are a million new things that I could do that are exciting,” she says.
Still, Snider continues to find thrills in Welltended’s natural growth. “I’ve found that I’m happiest when I have that creative control and when I can start from nothing and iterate from there.”