On a short six-day visit to New York, I had the pleasure of meeting like-minded business owners at the NEW YORK NOW Exhibition, touring The High Line and Central Park, and visiting the rooftop greenhouse at Gotham Greens.
The main reason for the trip was to visit the NY NOW Exhibition, looking to explore how best enter the US market with our self-watering CUP O FLORA® pots. This was my sixth visit to New York and I had Alicia Keys’ Empire State of Mind playing in my mind as I was walking down the avenues, experiencing the relentless heat and being entertained by black trapeze artists in a Brooklyn-bound subway car.
Keys’ words were playing in my head as I was heading to meet an important client:
“I got a pocketful of dreams
Baby, I'm from New York, concrete jungle where dreams are made of
There's nothing you can't do
Now you're in New York.”
'Concrete jungle where dreams are made of?' I had a feeling that is going to be a good trip.
NEW YORK NOW
The NEW YORK NOW Exhibition is one of the largest tradeshows for new designs, home and giftware. I came as a visitor to see if this was the right place for me to launch into the US market.
I spent a full day talking to local exhibitors and picking the brains of Australian businesses which already had a foothold in the American market. By the end of the day, I had a solid understanding of where I needed to be and the challenges that a small business might face when trying to launch across the Pacific.
I learned that CUP O FLORA pots were best positioned in shops that already had access to plants. It is true that many homeware and related outlets could be perfect for our pots, but florists, nurseries and plant shops were best positioned to capture customers who wanted to keep their plants thriving for longer. I came back clear about the optimal way to enter the US market. More to come.
THE HIGH LINE
One thing that strikes you about the city of New York is how well it does public spaces. The High Line is no exception.
Can you believe that 25 years ago one of the city’s most popular tourist destination was a dilapidated infrastructure earmarked for demolition?
It was saved in the 1990s by The Friends of the High Line, a grout that fought land owners who wanted to demolish the Line, and raised funds to create one of New York’s most astounding urban rejuvenation projects.
On a one-hour tour of the raised goods line, I learned about the history of the train going into Manhattan to deliver raw materials to factories such as Nabisco (think Oreo) and dropped shipments of prawns inside a freezer building.
For me, the most interesting part was the way the architect sowed the local flora, including weeds that were growing on the old derelict line, into a seamless and prospering garden, suspended 30ft (about 9 metres) above street level.
You have to be determined to arrive on time for the tour of Gotham Greens. Located on the roof of Whole Foods in an oddly named Brooklyn neighbourhood, the 20,000 square feet greenhouse (about 1,860 square metres) grows over 200,000 pounds (91,000 kg) of fresh leafy greens (main basil). It is a long way away from the nearest subway station.
The facility is out of reach for visitors, and the tour is from the observation deck. I was nevertheless amazed at the quality of the harvest (freebie lettuce and pesto were included) and how little the produce had to travel to reach its final destination. In a city that sources its raw materials from as far as Florida and Mexico, it was encouraging to learn a working business model that keeps food production locally, while delivering water and energy savings.
If this the future of agriculture then there is a reason to remain optimistic.
The trip to New York was short but productive. I received valuable feedback about CUP O FLORA and forged a plan that will position the pots for success. From The High Line, I learned that determination and belief are what success is made of, and one person’s conviction can turn a conservation plea into a beautiful living monument. Finally, the Gotham Greens experience made me optimistic about a future where production is clean and local.
New York's greenery is all around for those who know where to look. Who knows, perhaps it's not such a concrete jungle after all.