Sprout an Idea

How one pre-teen launched her own starutp

Back Article Jun 30, 2012

Anna Azevedo enjoyed gardening and doing good for the planet. So it was a natural extension for her to start a business sprouting and potting air-cleansing houseplants in glass containers.

She now has a thriving company that sells peace lilies, ferns, irises, herbs and succulents known to erase toxins from indoor air. But when asked recently what toxins these plants remove, there was a pause in the conversation. “I can’t pronounce them,” she admits.

That’s understandable, considering Azevedo is 11. She launched her business, Anna Sprout, about a year ago, and since then, the Loomis sixth-grader has made about $1,000 selling plants for around $5 each.

“My older brother started making duck tape wallets and sold them to friends,” she says. “I decided I wanted to make money too. It started out as kind of a competition with my brother, then grew into a business.”

Azevedo did online research on eco-friendly plants that clean indoor air by removing carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen. The plants scrub carbon monoxide, benzene, formaldehyde and trichloroethylene from the air and also trap allergens.

Azevedo recommends one plant for every 25 square feet of space in a home or office, and she explains that they can relieve stress, reduce headaches and minimize allergies.

She starts plants from clippings in the family’s yard and nurtures them in a greenhouse. Azevedo then pots them into used glass containers from thrift stores, friends and neighbors. She likes recycling old glass containers, ranging from baby food jars to drinking glasses.

“I decided on plants in glass because I thought it would be cool to see the roots growing down the sides,” Azevedo says.

She snaps a picture of the plant and posts it on her website, annasprout.com. She tried shipping her products but got complaints about broken glass, so customers either pick up their order, she delivers them or, “We meet somewhere.” Azevedo also sells at craft fairs and farmers markets.

She recently integrated the family chickens into the business by using their manure to make fertilizer as a secondary product.

Azevedo’s mother helped her design a logo and website, and Azevedo writes a blog. She says her parents pitch in when she has a big sale, such as a school fundraiser last year in which she filled 250 orders.

Azevedo keeps up her grades and hopes to begin cheerleading at school, so she doesn’t feel like the business is overwhelming. In fact, sales are slow when she’s in school, and she’s looking forward to devoting more time to the business this summer.

“I would love to have more orders and a special place to sell from, like maybe a space inside a store,” she says. “I also hope to get more into weddings, as gifts or centerpieces at wedding receptions.”

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