Jul 22

Digital Solutions Business Feature: Selvatica Plants & Coffee

“I love being able to connect with people over plants and helping people connect with nature and the larger discussions that come from that. And we all love being masters of our own destiny.” - Chris Slatter, Co-founder of Selvatica Plants & Coffee,

When Chris Slatter, a self-professed ‘horticulturist and hospitality tragic’ set out to open a business with coffee roaster Mauro Orellana and professional musician Seb Orellana in 2018, she had no idea what lay ahead.

“Originally, we planned a sustainable, inner city take on the lovely suburban nursery cafe. Unfortunately, COVID had other plans,” she reflects.

Because Selvatica Plants & Coffee had been open less than 12 months prior to the pandemic, the family-run business didn’t qualify for JobKeeper and thus lost all staff. Thankfully, Chris and her co-founders were able to pivot with the help of the Digital Solutions - Australian Small Business Advisory Services Program to ensure the business would survive.
“Now we have a fairly large warehouse space full of indoor plants, pots and all the lovely related treats, alongside the roastery where we roast fresh beans almost daily. We offer a free delivery service to the local area and have an extensive website so customers can access caffeine and greens 24/7.”

Chris describes her business as a ‘little green oasis in the middle of a concrete jungle’. Selvatica Plants & Coffee is a ‘small and sustainable place where locals can come and buy freshly roasted coffee and get the horticultural advice they need to keep their plants happy.’
But the oasis wasn’t built without its challenges. Pre-COVID, Chris and her team spent 10 months concentrating on establishing the bricks and mortar side of the business. Though they planned to go online eventually, when the pandemic hit they ‘definitely had to speed things up’.

“We didn’t have much of a digital strategy in place because if the hospitality trade goes well, word-of-mouth usually does the job of promo pretty well. Until COVD-19 hit, it did! That’s where Melbourne Innovation Centre and the Digital Solutions Program came in.” 

The Selvatica team were encouraged to join the program by fellow small business Edible Eden and entered with the hope of improving their digital strategy and engagement.
Chris says the team now have a ‘much better understanding’ of the finer points of Facebook and Instagram and how to use the platforms to benefit their new business model. They also have a marketing plan in place and feel ‘more confident’ moving forward to grow their business.
“We found the endlessly informative webinars so valuable. There are so many useful webinars that there isn’t enough time to watch them all! Since starting the program we’ve implemented the marketing plan we developed during our mentoring sessions. It’s not going to happen overnight, but we’re getting all those ducks in a row. Our mentor really made the process seem simple and approachable, which has made it manageable for us.”

Green at heart, the sustainable coffee roaster and nursery ‘with a twist’ has a strong community focus and is heavily invested in being a vibrant part of the local environmentally-conscious economy.

Selvatica Plants & Coffee proudly offers free delivery throughout the local area to make beans and greens accessible for all. They’ve also invested in a 10kW solar array to supply their energy, and exclusively use compostable packaging for their coffee.
Chris appreciates that running her own business enables her to make passion her professional purpose.

“I love being able to connect with people over plants and helping people connect with nature and the larger discussions that come from that. And we all love being the masters of our own destiny. We’ve all worked in environments that were not healthy, where people weren’t valued and where legal obligations weren’t met. It’s a relief to be able to foster a better workplace for ourselves, and eventually our staff.

“I would definitely recommend Digital Solutions. Running a small business means you are generally low on funds and time-poor, so having access to affordable advice is an immense help.”
Selvatica Plants & Coffee is located in Melbourne’s Coburg North but all products are available via their online store. If you’d like to learn more about the Digital Solutions program, see here