The pen is mightier than the sword, or more specifically, the pencil is mightier than the spade.
The Danish company Sprout, which manufactures pencils that can be planted to grow herbs or flowers once they have reached the end of their writing life, has enjoyed great success since its launch in 2013, reports Dansk Industri.
Man with the seed money
Its Danish chief executive Michael Stausholm, previously an employee at Maersk, first spotted the project on a US crowdfunding site in 2013 when it was just a seed in the brains of three American students from MIT.
“It hit me straight away how ingenious, simple and sustainable the whole thing was. But I didn’t believe for a second that it had any business potential,” he told DI.
Nevertheless, he obtained the European rights and in just a couple of months had sold 75,000 of the pencils in Denmark alone.
Sowed, pruned, cultivated
Stausholm then helped them to sow the concept, pruned them from the business in 2014 and cultivated a thriving business.
Since its launch, turnover has doubled every year – a trend Stausholm is confident of doubling every year until 2020, for which he projects a total of 300 million kroner.
This year, the company has seen total revenue of 20 million kroner, and monthly sales of 450,000 pencils. It currently has 20 employees. Its clients include IKEA, Disney, Greenpeace and VisitDenmark.
Recent deals include 500,000 pencils to an Egyptian retail and hospitality conglomerate and 50,000 units to a Saudi bookstore chain.
“I have seen a wealth of startups kill themselves,” contended Stausholm.
“Right from the start with Sprout, I wanted financial sustainability by being order-producing and requiring pre-payment. Entrepreneurs often die due to lack of cash flow and I don’t want to be anyone’s bank.”
The bottom of each Sprout pencil contains a small, oblong ‘capsule’ containing soil and seeds, which once planted and watered will grow into a variety of plants, including basil, tomatoes or sunflowers.