Introducing Class 1: Wildernis
Words by Kristina Foster
Photos by Marie Wanders
In this week’s Class 1 interview, as part of a series introducing the teams taking part in Let it Grow Lab’s Incubation Programme, we revisit Wildernis, Amsterdam’s favourite go-to place for green.
Wildernis has become a must-see destination for plant lovers in Amsterdam. A rich store for all things green; plants hang from the ceiling like spiders and beautiful gardening tools and accessories dot the walls. It has become so popular that founders Mila van de Wall and Emma Hagedoorn are now on a mission to grow their burgeoning business. Their experience is somewhat unique in the Incubation Programme in that they are Class 1’s only shop. Mila talks to us about her experience as a retailer in the urban green market.
So we last caught up with you and Emma in June - what has Wildernis been up to over the summer?
We’ve been extremely busy as the store itself gets busier. We’re constantly looking for more products to put on the shelves and more people to work with. We recently installed our webshop to cater to our growing clientele and launched our Instagram account which has really exploded! We have about 25,000 followers now, so that’s really amazing.
Wow! And tell us about your experience applying to the Incubation Programme; a lot of the initiatives that applied were developing products for the green market – what motivated you to apply as a store?
The programme was calling for new, original initiatives that could make an impact in the green sector. Wildernis is a very new kind of green retail business, an alternative to large, impersonal gardening centres, so I feel like we were exactly what they were looking for. Of course there is a big difference between us and the rest of the startups in Class 1, because many of them are developing their own products and we would be the retailer that sells these products. But we’re also a similar startup in the sense that we want to develop our own, Wildernis brand products. So we follow the same approach when it comes to our business and our classes.
Why do you think it’s important to develop your own products as well as being a retailer for products already on the market?
When I pitched at the Selection Day, I said that we wanted to grow. Initially we thought that growth meant opening more stores, but many shops like us are already popping up all over the Netherlands. I see this as a good thing and a compliment; people see that we are doing well and want to try to do something similar. So we decided not to focus on opening more Wildernis shops right now, but on filling other gaps in the market by selling things that you can’t get anywhere else. For example, we want to sell accessories, products, outdoor furniture, pretty much everything to do with gardening and green, but we want to make these ‘our’ style and affordable by developing Wildernis products which we will sell in-store and on our webshop. That’s our goal now.
We usually work on our gut feelings. Since applying to the programme it’s been a bit of a rollercoaster; we take each step as they come.
In what other ways do you try and keep ahead of the competition by being original?
One of the things we do at Wildernis is host a lot of workshops from green initiatives such as Cityplot, an organisation that encourages city dwellers to grow their own vegetables. These are really great because we build up a large network of people we love working with. Also, these workshops attract a lot of diverse people, you can have a 21-year-old women sitting side-by-side with 40-year-old women, both learning about how to make their balcony greener. It’s something everyone wants. We also have a coffee bar so you can also have coffee and chat with us.
What else are you going to focus on during the programme?
Because we’re growing so quickly, we’re at the point where we seriously need to take a step back and take a bird’s-eye-view of our business. We need to become more organised and bring more structure into Wildernis. We usually work on our gut feelings. Since applying to the programme it’s been a bit of a rollercoaster; we take each step as they come, from getting accepted after the Open Innovation Call to pitching at Selection Day. But we now have five people working for us in the store and as we become more popular, we have to be more structured and start making goals for the future. That’s where Let it Grow comes in; they are pushing us to do that.