Mother Pucking Nature


Service Design, Retail Strategy




August 2021 - November 2022


Entrepreneurship, Adaptive Reuse, Collaboration

Mother Pucking Nature is a passion project that grew into a brick-and-mortar store. It was my first experience in retail, service design and entrepreneurship, and the first step in my career transition from finance to design.

I started Mother Pucking Nature to share my love of plants with others. I created content about plants, plant care and sustainability and gained popularity on Tik Tok when one of my videos went viral. When my videos started showing up on #plantok (Tik Tok's plant community), I received inquiries from friends and followers asking to buy the plants I was featuring in my videos. Before I knew it, Mother Pucking Nature had grown from an educational account to an eCommerce shop.

Retail strategy is a lot like growing plants. You need a combination of planning, attention, luck and plenty of room to grow.
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Tik Tok to eCommerce

The transition from social media account to eCommerce shop came with many challenges. I had to secure enough inventory to meet demand, have storage to hold my inventory and find a way to deliver orders to customers. In the early days, I had no experience with the plant industry. Not knowing about wholesale retailers, I initially sourced my plants from a D2C nursery in Long Beach. I was also naive in my storage and shipping practices, often choosing unnecessarily expensive methods and sacrificing my own house and space to store plants.

My eCommerce strategy succeeded for a month before I experienced critical challenges. First, sourcing from Long Beach meant that inventory took at least a week to arrive and second, I had run out of space to hold the hundreds of plant orders I had to fulfill. My operations were not sustainable and I needed to change my strategy.

Enter, Academic Coffee.

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The Jump to Brick & Mortar

While I was struggling to handle my eCommerce orders, Academic was struggling to cope with the pandemic. Shelter-in-place orders had emptied their dining area, leaving them to pay rent on an underutilized space (among other challenges). We were facing opposite problems - I didn't have enough space and they had too much. It only made sense to form a partnership.

The SWOT Analyses above outlines how the partnership addressed our challenges and gave us a competitive advantage over other cafes and plant shops in the market. We were also in agreement that working together would expand our customers bases and optimize our operations. Academic's owners, Frank and Kathy, understood that this was my first venture and gave me guidance on how to run a small business. With their help, I was able to find new plant vendors and establish a local supply chain to reduce my carbon emissions and environmental impact.

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A Caffeinated Collaboration

Once we agreed to be partners, I designed collateral and merchandise to advertise the new Mother Pucking Nature and Academic Coffee collab. I used Academic's brand guidelines, designed by my friend and fellow coffee lover Leonardo De La Rocha to inform the designs' color scheme. The graphics combined Academic's coffee cups and the different varieties of plants sold in my shop, and we printed the designs on stickers and tote bags.

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Service Design

The store's opening was a hit and we were met with great reception and support from our community. They loved the idea of the "plant cafe" and were extremely vocal about their support. However, they also expressed their confusion about how we laid out the store.

Our partnership granted me half of the cafe to pop up in. My half of the cafe was positioned by the shop's windows so that Academic's team could use the kitchen and counters to make coffee. I understood that my layout had to accommodate Academic's popularity; on weekends, lines would wrap around the store and down the street. Therefore, my initial layout pushed all of my furniture and displays to the perimeter of the cafe in order to accommodate more customers.

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Unfortunately, customers struggled to differentiate between Academic and Mother Pucking Nature, often heading to my register to buy coffee or heading to Academic's register to buy plants. Their confusion also created bottlenecks in the line, creating the opposite effect of what I had intended.

I wanted to understand what made my first layout ineffective and performed user research. I used a combination of user interviews and ethnographic research to understand the customer journey. I learned a lot from talking to and observing my customers (summarized in the Customer Journey Map below) and realized that the biggest reason for confusion was a lack of signage. I had not created signage to preserve the shop's aesthetic and because I had assumed the layout was obvious. Obviously my assumptions were wrong, and I learned first-hand the importance of human centric design.

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To improve the customer experience, I added signage and redesigned my layout. I wanted to create more differentiation between the two businesses and created an alcove for my plants. The physical separation between both shops reduced customer confusion and bottlenecks in the line.

An Exercise in Design & Systems Engineering

Designing the shop's layout required methodologies from both design and systems engineering. My design experience helped me conduct user interviews to understand the customer experience. On the other hand, my ethnographic research leaned strongly on systems engineering methodologies like systems dynamics modeling and process flow analyses to understand how customers' interacted with the layout, and how the layout affected the larger ecosystem and efficiency of getting customers through the cafe.

The images below show how I implemented my findings from the service design exercise. The first two images are of my first layout, with plants pushed to the perimeter of the shop. The third image shows my second layout (aka the "plant alcove") and the fourth image shows an example of the signage I created in response to my user research.

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A Community of Creatives

My partnership with Academic showed me the importance and value of cultivating community. To pay it forward, I allocated space in the shop for other creators, artisans and other small business owners to "pop up" and sell their work. The artisan pop-ups diversified the products that were sold in the shop and showcased local talent. Some creators I partnered with include Habibi Ceramics, Doodle&DoGood and YouLovePoon.

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Mother Pucking Nature was a passion project that grew into a retail storefront through a combination of strategy, community and luck. It was an incredible learning experience and connected me with a community that still supports me to this day.

While the learning curve was steep, I gained experience in building and running my own business. I had previously thought that my work as a consultant made me a "jack-of-all-trades" but I redefined the title when I had to manage all of the shop's operations from watering the plants to greeting and working with customers to filling out a never-ending slew of tax forms and registration documents.

This experience gave me insight and perspective into a new world, and made me a stronger strategist and businessperson as a result.

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