Plantbid’s Cameron Cantrelle is on a mission to bring open sourcing to the horticulture industry. As a professional landscaper, he spent an inordinate amount of time pouring over availability lists, deciphering spreadsheets and hunting on the phone for the best place to buy plants. He knew there had to be a better way. His answer to the problem — Plantbid — a web-based plant sourcing system that harnesses technology to make conducting business much simpler.
Recognizing green industry players have limited time, Cantrelle and co-founder Dave Wooden, started Plantbid to help both sides of the industry — buyers and sellers — communicate better and more efficiently by providing a pain-free way for them to share information. Cantrelle says his goal was to build a platform that thinks like the industry thinks.
“Plantbid is basically a platform that speaks the truth,” he says. “We aren’t putting words in anyone’s mouth. We network what sellers say to what buyers need. We introduce the two parties and allow them to negotiate their final terms and final sales.”
Plantbid Strives To Level The Competitive Field
Plantbid is a free trade network where sellers list their products, free of charge, simply by adding Plantbid to the email availability lists that they send out to their customers or manually uploading data to the website. Once the data is downloaded, usually within 24 hours, and approved to go live by the seller, it is accessible to buyers, who for a small pay-as-you-go fee, can search against the network of sellers.
“People are extremely busy, and if something is hard to do, it will not be adopted. We have spent a lot of time listening to the needs of both buyers and sellers, so we have been able to develop the solutions they need to feel secure that they can sell the way they want to sell, and buy on their own terms. It is all about creating efficiency in the marketplace,” says Cantrelle.
Plantbid launched its full platform August 2014, with the initial push in the southern half of the U.S. and plans to spread further into northern markets. The site already has nearly 1,100 networked users.
“We want people to be aware that it does take time to build the network,” says Bud Powell, Plantbid’s vice president of sales and marketing. “We are an internet-based service, and we can scale as fast as the community wants us to scale, but it is a two-sided market. The buyers can’t shop if the seller market in the region is not on board.”
Plantbid Offers Growers A New Way To Market Plants
Powell says getting started with Plantbid is as easy for growers as emailing their availabilities to [email protected] in either an excel file or pdf. Plantbid staff will then call you once your availability is ready on the site and ask for your approval to make it live.
Growers can also update their availability in real-time on the website. Each grower on the site has their own account, where they can use the tools offered to tailor it to the way they want to be searched, for instance, setting delivery or pick-up minimums. All of these services are free of charge to sellers.
Additional tools of interest to growers include:
- A Plantbid app (Google Play and iTunes) that promotes quick and efficient communication between buyer and seller for the exchange of images via emails.
- The ability to actively update images with IP addresses, so when an image is updated on a seller’s website, it automatically updates that same item on Plantbid.
- An inventory management tool that allows growers to build their inventory in Plantbid, and then export the list for their personal use.
- The capability to make inventory accessible to searchers in popular browsers like Google and Yahoo.
- A seamless RFP (Request for Proposal) system that allows buyers to submit lists of plant materials, and then alerts growers to indicate what percent and dollar value of that list can be filled by each grower’s last updated availability. Customer service representatives that can co-browse with users when the need arises to assist with website use and site navigation.
Cantrelle says the future of Plantbid depends on the adoption of the seller network. If the industry can recognize that we can help each other become more efficient, all by participating in a fair marketplace, then everyone can spend more time with their families and doing what they love — growing.