Business is Blooming

You’ve heard of food trucks, but a plant truck? FAIT NOLA can’t be rooted down, and its popularity is growing.
Photos by Sara Essex Bradley

 

Operating out of a 1-ton solarium-on-wheels nicknamed “Axil Rose,” FAIT NOLA is one of the most unique mobile businesses in the Metro. The company, founded by sisters Emily and Laura Stirling Joffrion and their mother, Kathleen Robinson, has bloomed since launching in August 2018, offering carefully crafted plant arrangements and succulents at farmers markets, festivals and events, as well as classes and instruction, to an eagerly growing clientele.

FAIT NOLA is on trend with the current spike in popularity of succulents, cacti and indoor plants, especially among millennials — the largest segment of plant purchasers since 2012. According to GardenResearch.com, consumers age 18 to 34 account for 31 percent of all houseplant sales.

And this plant parenting trend among the country’s youth is showing no signs of weakening. According to a 2017 report from Garden Center Magazine, 41 percent of independent plant and garden centers across the country reported sales volumes above $1 million in 2016. That number jumped to 49 percent in 2017.

Unlike your traditional plant and garden center, however, FAIT NOLA is a traveling operation. Mobility is a key part of the inspiration, customer outreach and continued success of the business.

“Having the ability to bring our product to the customer is a huge advantage,” Laura Joffrion said. “For the cost of an annual lease, we modified an old laundry truck into something beautiful that is quickly gaining international recognition [with attention from Instagram followers in Paris and beyond] It’s not something you see every day. Our guests love being inside and sharing their experience on social media.”

Popular items range in price from $12 to $70, from simple succulents to cacti and handmade items.

“Our most popular selling item has been our smudge sticks. They are gorgeous, made with lavender, sage, cedar and rosettes,” Joffrion said. “We source the elements from California and Northern Oregon and they are handmade by my mother, Kathleen. Most of our more expensive products are the 10-inch cactus and the Blue Tango bromeliad. Its vibrant purple and pink colors make it a huge hit.”

Joffrion has seen success with farmers’ markets and weekend popup markets across the city, with a growing list of patrons who access the truck’s location via social media.

“We love the Freret Street Market,” she said. “The truck does really well in that environment and we enjoy the food, vendors and music they offer. We also do really well popping up in partnership with other businesses. [For example,] we have a brick-and-mortar partnership with Lionheart Prints on Magazine Street. They have most of our products in their store. This way our inventory is still accessible when we’re not rolling. We also pop up outside their store frequently. We have such a girl crush on their team.”

Accodring to Joffrion, other business partnerships include: LemonShark Poke, Magazine Merchant House, Freret Street Market, The Kolache Kitchen, Lilly’s Cafe and Saint Claude Social Club.

“We have [also] started popping up on weekdays, which will open up a lot more opportunities to partner with a variety of local businesses all over the city,” she said. “We are doing our best to branch out into different neighborhoods in New Orleans.”

The truck, a Chevy Stepvan, is also a showpiece, crafted by a local builder and designer with a team of artists.

“She is 23 feet long and 8 feet wide,” Joffrion said. “We partnered with Christian Reepal at New Orleans Airlift to do the fabrication of the truck. They did all of the work custom, including the roof. Mankh of Italistics Collective did all of the woodwork. Honestly, we could not be happier with the result. They did an impeccable job.”

In addition to selling plants, FAIT NOLA also offers a series of workshops.

“We have a regular library of workshops that we do around plant care and plant design,” says Joffrion.
Recent classes have included: “Mounting Staghorn Ferns,” “Pots, Painting and Planting,” “Terrarium Building” and “Problem Plants — Plant Hospital.”

Plant sales still dominate the business’ revenue and Joffrion notes that FAIT NOLA is seeing constant growth in its sales.

The seeds for FAIT NOLA were planted with experiences the trio of women gathered from living in diverse, creative cities across the United States.

“My family is originally from Baton Rouge,” said Laura Joffrion. “We moved away in 2002 and spent about 13 years living all over the U.S. There are other mobile plant companies in San Francisco, Brooklyn and Nashville. We are plant people and believe in plants as a medium for creative expression. We believe plants bring people together through a love of nature and wanted to offer our guests time away from technology to reconnect with getting their hands dirty.”

A true family-owned and run business, each member of the team has years of experience that each brings to the planting bench.

“My mother, Kathleen Robinson, went to LSU for horticulture and has 30-plus years of floral design experience,” Joffrion said. “Her love of plants has always been a huge part of our family and so, naturally, my sisters and I all love being surrounded by plants. My mother leads our product mix and the design of all of the products on our truck, Axil Rose.”

While Robinson brings plant knowledge to the table, Joffrion and her sister Emily bring marketing skills.

“Emily has 10 years of public relations and brand-messaging experience,” Joffrion said. “She also has worked for a number of companies to expand their branding. She came to work with us for six months full-time to create our brand identity and launch the truck, and now [she] lives in San Francisco, where she’s a marketing consultant.”

Joffrion also brings West Coast flair to the business, with lessons learned in design and marketing.

“I worked in digital marketing and social media strategy for over 10 years,” she said. “I also have a merchandise marketing degree from the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in San Francisco. I manage the company on a day-to-day basis, building relationships with the community, and exploring future opportunities and partnerships for the company.”

While Kathleen and Laura work full time and Emily consults, FAIT NOLA’s quick success means the company is nearly ready to bring someone new into the fold.

The company is also making a move indoors, but not out of Axil Rose.

“We are now offering interior living walls [made of plants],” Joffrion said. “Axil Rose is getting two walls installed this month, so guests can see the impact they offer.” Walls can be crafted out of tropical plants or even herb gardens for your kitchen.”

Joffrion says her family is building the company organically.

“We are exploring options as we grow but our main focus is to stay true to the values of our mission,” she said, “to bring exotic, beautiful plant life to New Orleans and spread the love of plants and plant design within our community.”

Follow FAIT NOLA’s website and social media for current and upcoming locations: faitnola.com/find-us


 

Growing Green
Most popular plant trends
Succulents $10-$20
Cactus $10-$20
Monstera $30-$50
Snake Plant $10-$30
Pilea $15-$30
Fiddle-leaf fig $60-$250

 


 

Did You Know?
Indoor Plant Benefits
The American Lung Association touts the importance of indoor plants for lung health. Plants help remove harmful volatile organic compounds (VOC) found in many mass-produced products, building materials and carpets from the air.

 


FAIT NOLA’s one-ton Chevy solarium-on-wheels is nicknamed “Axil Rose,” and features plants for sale, custom plant arrangements and classes on plant care and design. Recent classes have included information on Staghorn ferns, terrarium building and plant problems. “Axil Rose” and the FAIT NOLA team can be found around town at farmers’ markets, festivals and in partnership with local businesses around the city.




A peek inside the 1-ton solarium-on-wheels that is FAIT NOLA.


 

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