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Career 180: Eliza Blank’s green thumb brings joy to New Yorkers
After doing marketing for four years, Eliza Blank decided to go back to her roots. She graduated New York University in 2007 and was on a marketing team for Living Proof Hair Care products in Massachusetts from 2008 until February of 2012. When she moved to back New York shortly after, Blank, 28, missed the gardening she grew up doing with her mother in Western Massachusetts. So in June 2012, Blank launched The Sill, an indoor plant e-commerce site and design company. The Sill offers residential and commercial plant design, installation and maintenance, in addition to offering workshops and an online community for plant-loving city slickers. Blank lives in Fort Greene with her husband.
Why did you switch careers?
I always wanted to be an entrepreneur and start my own company and plants was always a really inspiring category to me. So ever since moving to New York to live in a concrete jungle, I think I was always interested in surrounding myself with plants and then also found it as an interesting business opportunity that I wanted to pursue.
How’d you get the idea for The Sill?
I grew up in Western Massachusetts, had a mother who gardened and kept tons of plants at home so when I first came to New York for school it was one of those missing elements from growing up that really resonated with me. And it was sort of that first transitional moment that I missed having plants around and then when I realized it was how difficult it was to find plants in New York is when I decided to pursue The Sill.
Does the Sill deliver plants in a pot?
They are hand-delivered. You get a potted plant, it almost looks like it’s gift wrapped so it’s in a cardboard base so its steady. It’s basically like a gift packaged potted plant to deliver to your door.
What if someone isn’t home to receive the package?
Surprisingly a lot of our customers have plants at their office and get them delivered to their offices because they’re there so much. We deliver Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and then we always make exceptions if someone needs to get it at home after hours and stuff like that
How is The Sill particularly helpful for New Yorkers?
I think one of the main benefits of shopping through The Sill is that we really value communication and clear communication about plants. So there’s tons of content on our site, frequently asked questions and basic care knowledge and along with every plant you get it comes with care instructions. And we also have an email address firstname.lastname@example.org, people can always email us and we get back to them in 24 hours. They can email us a photo of the plant. We cater to new Yorkers we only offer four to five plants at a time so we become knowledgeable with the plants and we specifically choose plants that can grow and thrive in New York. And we have a 30-day no questions asked exchange policy.
What is your favorite potted plant?
My absolute favorite is a philodendron which is a very common house plant but it trails and it grows quickly and it’s easy and it’s one of those plants that makes you smile because it does something. You can actually monitor the growth of a philodendron so I think that’s really satisfying for me personally.
Do you have a potted plant gardening secret to share with our readers?
I usually like to tell people to treat it like a collection and really get to know each and every one of our plants. Like you really get to treat it like a relationship. Some of our customers name their potted plant. Growing an indoor garden is so satisfying and important and it just comes from a place of commitment to your place and yourself. I think the secret is to commit to it and enjoy it.
What is a pro and con of your new job?
I think both is that I’m my own boss. It’s the best because I’m my own boss but I’m the one who is making every single decision and that’s always challenging. But I think the best thing is to be able to build organically and be able to determine the path of your business, I get to hire the best people and really be the voice and the vision for the company. And I think challenge-wise is just you’re always going to be the one who has to work the hardest and make the tough decisions. I think it’s one of those things where even the challenges are inspiring and good.
Looking back, do you wish you had gone into this originally?
The last company I worked for was a startup itself so even though it was in a completely different category I got to learn a lot about how to operate a business. So I think it did prepare me, I don’t regret it at all, but I think I found my home in what I do now.
Do you have any advice for readers who are considering a career 180?
What I usually say is, I did it when I knew there wasn’t anything else for me to do. It’s like a moment where you feel like you have to do it; it’s not even a consideration. So when people get to that moment they should absolutely take the leap.