Plants are pretty common gifts for celebrating special occasions or expressing certain sentiments, but a Spokane company has taken the idea a step further by developing plants that display a printed message as they sprout.
The company, Miracle Products LLC, started selling what it calls the Amazing Message Plant in May of last year. Since then, it has received national media attention, expanded its product offerings, and is working to secure wholesale contracts with major national retailers.
Phrases such as I Love You and Get Well Soon are particularly popular messages, but customers can order almost any phrase or logo they desire, as long as it fits within the character-length requirement, says Tony Berendes, company president.
Miracle Products uses a laser to engrave messages on the white hull of the pod of an Asian vine, Berendes says. The pod, which is commonly called a sword bean, is shaped like a lima bean and about the same size as an almond. The laser penetrates through the hull into the cotyledon, which is the leaf of the embryo inside the seed. Berendes declines to disclose further details about the process, saying that such information is proprietary.
Miracle Products sends the engraved pod to customers in either a 3 1/2 inch aluminum container or a terra cotta pot, either of which is filled with a tan-colored vermiculite potting medium. Labels on the containers and pots provide directions for taking care of the plant.
Its pretty low maintenance, but you have to have somewhat of a green thumb, Berendes says.
The soil must be watered to begin the germination process, which lasts for seven to 10 days. After the germination period, the plant pops up and its leaves unfurl, revealing the message engraved on the cotyledon, which then falls off in about three or four weeks, Berendes says. The seed has a 99 percent germination rate, and if given sufficient light and watered occasionally, the vine typically grows to about four to five feet long if transplanted to a larger pot, though it no longer bears the printed message, he says. A white or pink blossom also sometimes appears after three to four months.
We wanted to create something that was a unique gift, but the great thing about this is that its also a house plant, Berendes says. Its the next best thing since the Chia Pet.
Originally, the company only engraved seeds with an I Love You message. It sold roughly 60,000 of those plants during the Valentines Day season this year, and has been featured on ABCs Good Morning America, CNN, and NBC News, and in articles in various newspapers across the U.S., during this year and last year, Berendes says. In September, it launched a Web site through which customers can customize their messages and choose between the terra cotta pot or the pop-top aluminum can.
The company sells the plant on its Web site for $9.95, plus a $4.95 shipping and handling fee, he says. Customers must order a minimum of 500 plants to be eligible for Miracle Products $6 corporate price. Customers can order a message up to 20 characters in length, which can be printed on both sides of the pod. Most orders can be shipped within 24 hours, he says. The company buys the pods from a supplier in Asia and assembles the packages at its facility at 3200 E. Trent.
The plant currently is sold directly to customers via the companys Web site, at www.message-plant.com, and at a few stores, such as Yokes Fresh Market. Next year, Miracle Products hopes to sell display cases to a larger number of retailers, he says. The cases would contain 32 pre-packaged cans or pots with various messages, and the case and 32 plants will cost $208 wholesale. Each box that contains a can or pot will be marked with a sticker that discloses the message on the pre-printed seed, so that customers know what theyre buying and can remove the sticker when they give the plant to someone. The messages would include phrases such as Happy Birthday, Marry Me, and Thank You, or could be customized for a retailer, he says.
None of those display cases have been sold yet, but Miracle Products is in discussions with several major national chains, which Berendes declines to name. He says the company is marketing the plants to greeting card retailers such as Hallmark Cards Inc., hospital gift shops, and home and garden outlets such as Lowes Cos. and Home Depot Inc. as part of its strategy to target both the greeting card and floral industries. Right now most of its business comes from Internet sales, although advertising on the Net with such a unique product can be difficult because most consumers wouldnt think to search there for a plant that sprouts a secret message, he says.
People dont typically type in amazing message plant on Google when looking for gift ideas, Berendes says.
He declines to disclose the companys revenues or volume for this year, but says Miracle Products is on track to produce well over 100,000 plants next year, and if it signs a wholesale contract with a major retailer, that number could jump to 1 million. Demand is highest around Valentines Day, Mothers Day, and the spring and summer, but the Christmas season also has been busy, he says.
Miracle Products also makes Little Tees air fresheners, which include printed messages and logos on what look like miniature T-shirts and are priced at $2.95 apiece. It also plans to sell a line of holiday card and musical CD combination sets for under $5 next year. The company has four full-time employees and could hire more if demand increases, which it thinks will happen.
Miracle Products occupies about 6,000 square feet of space in a 25,000-square-foot facility, which a separate company called TAB Distribution Inc. leases. Berendes also is president of that 16-employee company, which got its start in Lake Forest, Calif., and put down roots here in May of last year after being recruited by the Spokane Area Economic Development Council. TAB Distribution offers logistics and fulfillment services, distribution, and direct-to-consumer shipments for customers such as Costco.com and Big Lots, and has annual revenues of about $12 million, he says. It handles the distribution for Miracle Products merchandise.
Berendes says he decided to form Miracle Products because he wanted to sell low price-point novelty gifts. A business partner in Asia came to him with the idea of engraving messages onto the seeds of plants, and Berendes took that concept and developed it into the product the company now sells. After Miracle Products started selling its plants, a few other competitors in the U.S. and Canada started making similar products, but Berendes says he believes the company now is the only concern selling that type of product in the U.S.
Miracle Products ships its plants to customers across the U.S. It has received inquiries from people in the United Kingdom, France, Turkey, Australia, and particularly Canada, but cant ship its plants to other countries without certain agricultural permits, he says. Miracle Products is working with several international partners who are trying to secure those permits.
Contact Emily Brandler at (509) 344-1265 or via e-mail at email@example.com.
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