The sun always shines in San Diego, and it shines even brighter on Kevin Espiritu, CEO and Founder of Epic Gardening. The charismatic plant-whisperer was always a fan of gardening but took his hobby to the next level through his gardening blog back in 2013. Since then, he and his plant-focused YouTube videos have amassed a following in the millions. Now that Kevin has the audience, as well as a qualified team behind him, Epic Gardening has branched out into the ecommerce world, curating tried-and-true gardening products that can turn any thumb green.
We spoke with Kevin about his journey from blogger to industry leader, and how ShipStation helped him monetize his dream while helping others live a more colorful and sustainable life through gardening.
When Kevin launched the Epic Gardening brand in 2013, he wasn’t thinking about selling anything. He simply wanted a place to blog about his favorite hobby. After transitioning from written articles to YouTube videos, though, he realized that he wasn’t alone in his passion for plants. Now, the Epic Gardening empire is part gardening tutorials, part one-stop-shop for curated and tested gardening products.
“The inspiration for the blog was really just to get off the computer and do something with nature,” says Kevin, “Of course, now it’s an internet media gardening company, but that’s a different story.”
The irony of pursuing an outdoor hobby full-time, only to find yourself behind a computer screen for hours a day could be a little surprising. Unsurprising, perhaps, to anyone who is trying to build a business in this day and age, though.
Expanding from content creator to online seller is no easy feat, but Kevin has managed to keep his YouTube fresh and relevant while also prioritizing his ecommerce efforts. The two avenues, in fact, are intrinsically linked; the videos promote the products and vice versa. This method has served the brand well, as their ever-growing sales indicate.
While Kevin and his team are always innovating and sourcing new products, the star of the show has always been Birdies raised garden beds. These beds make it easy to garden in small spaces or unique landscapes, which falls right in line with Kevin’s mission to make gardening more accessible.
“We’re shipping out thousands of products a month,” says Kevin. “We started offering products in 2019, with the idea of, ‘why work with brands when you can just be the brand that you would’ve worked with?’. It just makes sense to offer products directly to customers. We know what is good, we know what is bad.”
Sending out products, creating online content, and remembering to step away from the computer… it’s not all flowers and sunshine for Kevin. As any business owner knows, no one can function as an island, however lush it may be.
“Up until late last year, I had three team members besides myself and some contractors. And now, we’ll be at fifteen full-time members,” says Kevin.
And not a moment too soon. Currently, Epic Gardening is selling more products than ever and shows no signs of slowing down any time soon.
“In 2020, of course, with COVID, gardening exploded, and we had products set up and so that really rocket shipped the company both from a content perspective and from a commerce perspective. We started selling crazy amounts of product at the time,” Kevin says.
To keep up with the heightened demand for all things garden-related, though, it took more than manpower. The team at Epic Gardening leaned on ShipStation to do the heavy lifting when it came to getting packages out the door.
“When we get an order, it’ll go through Shopify, and then, of course, Shopify syncs up with ShipStation. Then, we’ll split the orders, and then the label gets printed, packed, and slapped on. From there, it goes out to our carrier and it eventually comes to your door,” says Kevin.
A greater ‘good’
When it comes to ‘what’s good,’ Kevin and his team aren’t just considering profit margins. They look for quality products that are easy on the environment from shipping barge to backyard. This is one reason why Epic Gardening utilizes a Third-Party Logistics (3PL) company when shipping their most popular product, the heavy and cumbersome raised garden beds.
A 3PL is a separate warehouse that handles distribution for multiple companies. By using a 3PL, Epic Gardening is able to cut down on shipping distances, saving money and leaving a lighter carbon footprint.
“The heaviest planter is also oversized, technically. So getting closer to the geography of the end consumer for us is important. I mean, it could save us easily half a million bucks a year in shipping,” says Kevin. “Plus, it’s more wasteful to ship over longer distances. I’d rather take containers and put them closer to a distribution center than ship thousands of things from San Diego. It’s smarter and it’s cheaper, and if it’s cheaper, that means I can hopefully pass those savings on to the customer.”
The brand is also developing its own line of seed cell trays made from recycled plastic. Kevin explains that plastic is an unavoidable downside of these crucial gardening tools, which is why he and his team made it their mission to find the most durable recycled plastic for the product.
“If we’re not inventing the product, we’re distributing a product we love. And so we have a list of questions that we run vendors through, like “Where is it made? What material is it made out of? Where’s that material come from?”
Epic Gardening’s commitment to sourcing and creating the best possible products ensures that the brand is sustainable in terms of both business practice and environment.
“I figure if we offer the best stuff and put that out there and really make that our product ethos, we’ll hopefully start to change not only our own practices but other businesses as well.”
The ecommerce world is looking to the future, and, thanks to brands like Epic Gardening, that future is looking a lot more green. ShipStation is proud to help Kevin and his team keep innovating, growing, and chasing that sunshine.