Air Plants, Entrepreneurship, and Decor: Meet the Founder of Braid and Wood
Plants, design, and entrepreneur-inspo
We first introduced BRAID and WOOD's plant hangers to the Influenster community as a Spring Gift suggestion. After seeing how popular their airy, minimalist designs were with you all, we wanted to dive deeper with the designer and founder behind the brand, Jennifer Braidwood.
Jennifer, you've had quite a journey getting to where you are today! Please, walk us through your story launching Braid and Wood.
I’m a creative at heart and I’ve always had a deep love for interior design. I spent the majority of my professional career in marketing, branding, website and graphic design, and I knew if I could figure out a way to fuse all of these skills together I could create something I was really proud of. I quit my job and went full time with BRAID and WOOD during the summer of 2018. I spent the majority of that summer meeting other creatives and doing a lot of stuff for free, or for trade. I did product photography for other brands, I took on a few interior design clients, I spent a lot of time asking questions, and learning along the way. The small business community in San Diego is so nice. Everyone just wants to help, and teach, and root you on. That wasn’t something I was used to. It was like a breath of fresh air. I was totally invigorated.
I officially launched the sale of my first product design at the beginning of 2019. I took all my own product photography, I built a simple website, and I created a product catalog. Everything I learned, I learned from Google or YouTube, and other creative entrepreneurs around me who were willing to share their insights.
Once I decided to go all in on plant hangers, I’d spend my days emailing small to mid-size boutiques and plant shops asking if they wanted to stock my products and a lot of them said yes! Then I spent the rest of my time making every single product by hand in my kitchen. I did that for over a year before I hired someone to help me make the products. Once I hired, I had more time to dedicate to sourcing materials, finding trustworthy suppliers, and to optimizing our business and manufacturing processes.
In January 2020, I brought BRAID and WOOD to my very first industry-only tradeshow. There we won the award for Best New Home Décor product and we were able to connect with new retail buyers, interior designers, and other industry professionals. In October 2021 I finally moved the business out of my apartment and into an industrial warehouse space. Let me tell you, not having your bathroom filled with shipping boxes and bubble wrap is life changing. Next, I’m taking BRAID and WOOD back on the tradeshow circuit from New York City (NY NOW) to Las Vegas Market. I can’t wait to get back out there.
Why did you start with plant hangers?
Pretty simple, there was interest! Often times people launch product-based businesses without really knowing if their product will sell. I was really lucky that there was a lot of interest in my plant hangers before I even decided to start selling them or even considered manufacturing them at scale.
BRAID and WOOD Design Studio was such a general concept at first, I was doing product photography for other companies, I was taking on interior design clients, and I was also sharing decorating advice, styling tips, and fun DIYs on Instagram. It always kept coming back to the plant hangers. People wanted to buy them and stores wanted to sell them. The plant hangers were generating the most buzz out of anything that I was doing so I just put more time and energy towards it and less and less towards the other stuff I was experimenting with at the time.
And you've since expanded your line - now you're selling air plants too? (I recently bought two air plants at a local shop, please share your tips on how to best care for these!)
Aren’t air plants just the best? Here’s some quick tips to keeping your air plants alive and beautiful:
- Water your air plant once a week. Simply run your air plant under the faucet. Be sure to protect the root (the base of the air plant) don’t drench it with water. Let the air plant dry upside down with the root facing up for 1 to 3 hours before putting it back. Make sure the plant is completely dry.
- Air plants also love a light misting every now and then, so do that.
- Be sure to do your watering in the morning
- If you want to get super fancy give your air plants a little dip in some rain water or the glass of water that's been sitting on your nightstand all day, they love that.
- Air plants love bright natural indirect sunlight. Rooms with southern or eastern exposure work the best.
- If your home is super warm with lots of bright light, water your air plant more often. If your home is dark and cool, water less.
You spent over a year diving into manufacturing and were hit hard by the pandemic. What have you learned about making products like yours at scale?
I didn’t start by making thousands of plant hangers right out of the gate. Slow, purposeful growth has really worked for me. I’d sell plant hangers, make them, fulfill orders, and repeat. Sell, make, sell, make, not the other way around. I didn’t hold a lot of product inventory for a really long time. I wanted to be sure I could move product first before I invested any additional time or money into scaling the business. Making something is the easier part (not easy, haha, but easier), getting people to actually buy it, now that’s hard.
What is your advice to other aspiring entrepreneurs?
There is no course, no coach, no service, and no consultant that can scale your business for you. DO NOT FALL INTO THOSE TRAPS. I see SO MANY “courses” out there these days of people promising to teach you some “secret” to growing your business, or some new fancy “method” that’s going to 10x your sales. It’s not going to work. You might, at best, walk away with a tip or two, but you alone have to put in the work. It’s A LOT of work, it’s endless.
Surround yourself with people you can lean on, people you trust, people whose advice is valuable to you. Learn a little bit about everything so you have enough information to make informed decisions and you can sniff out the BS when you hear it. We as entrepreneurs cannot be the expert in every single aspect of our business but we’ve got to know how to find the experts. In the end, a successful business owner knows how to get the right people on their team and until then, you’ve got to do all the heavy lifting yourself.
For our members who are looking to hang your designs in their homes, what is your advice on how to best display them or arrange their home artfully?
Start with the Plant Hanger in Large. Find a corner in your home and hang it. It’s that simple. Our large Plant Hanger will fill out any corner in your home perfectly and it’s a great way to start with hanging plants. You can always come back and add a medium or a small to the same corner to make a really fun impact.
At Influenster we are all about connecting people to the right products for them. Which brands are you loving right now?
Lately I’ve really been getting into the whole capsule wardrobe thing. I feel like I’ve always got a million different things going on and I don’t want to have to think too hard about what to wear each day. I’ve been LOVING elevated basics from Everlane, Good American, and Aday. I’m all about looking put together without putting too much time and energy into it.
How important are online reviews and customer feedback to the success of your business?
My customers are everything to me and so is their feedback. My customers drive a lot of the decisions that I make for the brand as a whole and for new product designs. Often times I’ll survey my Instagram followers about new design concepts to gauge interest. I also love surveying my super customers (people who’ve purchased from BRAID and WOOD more than once) and asking their options about anything from why they buy my products to how skilled they are at keeping indoor plants alive.
I always value customer feedback above anything else. In a world where the ecommerce market is so incredibly saturated, word of mouth and happy customers are everything. I don’t think you can have a successful business without having a good understanding of who your customer is and what they want.
Are you a plant lover? Share pics of your setup (and the products that keep your greenies going!) in our #GreenThumb Gallery. (Influenster app required to upload photos to galleries.)