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Inspiration

November 1

Born on Instagram: London’s First Cactus and Succulent Boutique

BY: Instagram Business Team

San Francisco, CA

For entrepreneurs across the globe, Instagram offers a wealth of resources and inspiration to turn their passion into a business. Born on Instagram is a new series spotlighting brands that have used Instagram’s tools to build community, explore creativity and shape culture — forming the foundation of their success.

Award-winning photographer and self-described “houseplant addict” Gynelle Leon is the mastermind behind Prick (@prickldn), London’s first and only cactus boutique selling cacti and succulents sourced from across the UK. Once she decided on the concept, she launched the Instagram account, and that was that. She’s now written two books, including a bestseller on succulents, and pens a weekly “houseplant of the week” column for The Guardian.

image of Gynelle Leon wearing a floral headpiece

“I have been a user of Instagram from the very beginning, so it feels like home to me and using it comes very naturally,” Gynelle says about expanding Prick’s digital footprint. “I love building a community, and Instagram allows me to reach people worldwide with shared interests and values in such a visually powerful medium, which is perfect for sharing the beauty of these magical plants.”

Whenever Gynelle shares her plants on Instagram, she notices an increase in website sales, so it’s no surprise she’s put so much effort into curating her shop on Instagram. She tags products in content so customers can shop at the moment of discovery, and she curates collections to help shoppers find what they’re looking for.

To learn more about how Prick drives website sales through Instagram, tune in for a live conversation between Gynelle and fellow entrepreneur Sharmadean Reid (@sharmadeanreid) Friday, November 5 on @instagramforbusiness. Both founders, — Sharmadean’s venture is The Stack World (@thestack.world) — they have plenty of experiences to share when it comes to their respective journeys. Ahead of their chat, Gynelle opened up about how her brand flourished on Instagram.

How did you come up with the idea for Prick?

Like many of us do in our 20s, I got dumped. It was one of many failed relationships, and I decided I needed a significant change in my mindset and my life. I decided that instead of placing my happiness in relationships, I would make myself truly happy first, which meant living as the most authentic version of me. So I decided to make a career out of my passions. I was working as a fraud and compliance analyst in an office [from] 9-5, and I started training part-time as a florist and interned on a Saturday [for] a local florist. On this journey, [I] realized there was a growing demand for houseplants and nowhere that specialized in the especially rare cacti and succulents. I thought that London really deserved the store of my dreams: a cactus and succulent boutique with beautiful, unique plants and equally beautiful ceramics sourced locally from independent artists.

How was the brand born on Instagram and why did it feel like the right place to launch?

I knew the sensible thing would be running pop-ups to build an audience before jumping straight into a shop. But I'm quite an all-or-nothing person, so I decided to invest my time and effort into photography and conveying our story, my love for plants and the excellent addition they make to our lives.

Instagram is great for storytelling. Bringing followers along for the ride — the ups and the downs — makes them feel like an essential part of the journey. So showing us building the greenhouse, importing the plants and renovating the shop was crucial for allowing others to be with us every step of the way. I love using stories as behind-the-scenes [content], showing the day-to-day running of the business and teasing new stock or ideas.

Gynelle Leon in front of a greenhouse of cacti

What's your approach to the social content you create and share with your audience?

I feel like my voice, creative direction and sense of humour is a large part of the brand, and I really enjoy having the platform to personally connect with so many plant lovers. Also, I'm obsessed with Instagram; it's so much fun.

My approach is to entertain, educate and engage — the three Es; I just came up with that! I love using stories for behind-the-scenes [content], to show the daily running of the business, tease new products or get feedback, set countdowns to stock drops and build a real buzz. I go live on Instagram for my Sunday Plant surgery, where I play agony aunt to my followers’ plant care questions and plant problems. Plus, I use Instagram Video to provide my weekly plant of the week video, which is 1–2 minutes long.

What opportunities and collaborations have come from the Prick’s Instagram presence?

Collaborations include Squarespace, Vodafone, Spotify, Uniqlo, Google x Black Pound Day, Gordons Gin, Horse With No Name and so many unique pieces of press and features, including a full-page feature in British Vogue.

How have you been able to foster community through your business?

With my shop being on the high street, I have been able to be at the heart of our local community and be the face of the business. Our regular event, called “cactus and chill,” is our way of bringing locals together with plants, music and drinks.

Through Instagram, I build community by personally answering DMs — mostly plant care questions — and replying to comments to keep a conversation going between our community and me. I love engaging with the plant community by creating posts that will be shared and enjoyed, like my recent hit "if my plants could talk," which was picked up by many other plant shops and shared and replicated.

How are you using Instagram as a toolbox for creativity?

Gynelle Leon celebrates her book

Instagram is an excellent source of inspiration and allows me to stay on the pulse and see what resonates with the plant community — what plants are trending, what content is creating the best buzz and helps me create creative content. It keeps my content relevant, current and enjoyable. Also, using as many features as possible helps push our creative outlet through filters, question boxes, Instagram Video or Reels; there are many ways to keep our account exciting and engaging.

Are there any Instagram-specific anecdotes or success stories that you can share that have had a significant impact on you and your business?

The commissioning editor for my book found me through Instagram. Impressed by my photos, I was offered a book deal only a couple months after starting the business.

What's next for your business?

I want to create more plant care products that bridge the gap between great design and functionality, so I am programming for my new botanical creative space Shallow Roots (@shallowroots) to design real-life and virtual botanical workshops and talks that celebrate plant art, design and culture.

Looking to learn more about how Instagram can help you push your brand’s creativity? Browse our Instagram for Business blog for more inspiration, and follow @instagramforbusiness to watch Gynelle’s live chat with fellow founder Sharmadean Reid on Friday, November 5, 2021 at 4:30PM GMT / 9:30AM PT.

BY: Instagram Business Team

San Francisco, CA