LiveTrends Booms In Apopka With Trendy, Low Hassle Plant Decor – Orlando Sentinel

Apopka’s LiveTrends Design is trying to lead a revolution in home decor using an old staple and a new twist — small, trendy houseplants that take no or little maintenance. In the place referred to as the “Indoor Foliage Capital of the World,” LiveTrends has built a 120-employee company that distributes to more than 14,000 retailers in the United States including Lowe’s, Costco Wholesale and Target. The company specializes in cacti and succulents arranged in hip displays. Founded in 2013, it does it all without growing plants. Instead, it imports plants and accessories to create new pieces.

LiveTrends is targeting millennials and other young consumers who want the aesthetic appeal of plants without the hassle. “So many plants die within the first two weeks after they are taken home from the store,” said LiveTrends founder and CEO Bisser Georgiev, who wants his plants to remain care-free for at least six weeks. Surrounded by nurseries for ferns and other indoor plants, LiveTrends is trying to zig while the rest of the plant industry zags. “There is a lot of competition in the consumer goods category, though; creativity is going to be very important to what they do,” said Cari Coats, who sits on LiveTrends’ advisory board and is the executive director of the Center for Advanced Entrepreneurship at the Rollins College Crummer Graduate School of Business. LiveTrends has nearly doubled in size every year since it was founded, Georgiev said, and expects to continue similar growth in the next year with demand from its largest retail partners. It will need new warehouse and assembly space in Apopka to do so. The company is also researching expansion to Europe and Asia.

Georgiev used to run one of Apopka’s larger nursery operations at Hermann Engelmann Greenhouses, which was sold to Miami-based Costa Farms in 2014. Costa still has a large operation in Apopka. With LiveTrend, the company is trying to emulate the “fast-fashion” model of H&M and Forever 21 and stay a step a head of old-fashioned florists and nurseries. LiveTrends has a design team that works in both original art and 3-D graphics. Then it produces a produce a few thousand pieces and moves onto the next collection. “We’re researching trends 18 or 20 months out to try to find out what will be fashionable,” he said. The company produces about 150 different designs a year and has products for occasions such as Valentine’s Day (glass hearts filled with plants with color-coordinated stones and wire) or Halloween (air plants topping ceramic skulls and ghosts).

Cacti and succulents are shipped from California, Canada, Guatemala and other plant hot spots. Pottery, wood and other decorative materials come from Asia and Europe. The Apopka plant is dedicated to design and assembly. Workers at the LiveTrends headquarters form assembly lines, picking up pieces of moss and rock with chopsticks and tweezers to arrange the pieces. Assembly workers typically start at $9 or $10 an hour, he said. In stores, the smallest pieces with an air plant and a piece of stone sell for $4 to $5. A larger piece with several succulents, rocks and moss arranged in a boat-shaped piece of reclaimed teak sells for about $120 at Costco, Georgiev said. “At the end, we are making pieces of art, not necessarily plants,” Georgiev said. “It’s a piece of decor for your home.”

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