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An Interview with John, The Plant Guy

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An Interview with John, The Plant Guy

Post by alexmtl on Sun Oct 19, 2014 2:14 pm


Hi John. We are so fortunate and proud to have The Plant Guy as one of our sponsors here at Canadaquaria. Thank you for consenting to be interviewed and sharing your response to our many questions. On behalf of the membership and the Moderators I appreciate your patronage and thank you for your commitment to our Forum.

Q. What makes The Plant Guy stand out amongst other online aquarium stores ?

I think there’s quite a few things that make my store different from others.

I think the biggest thing that separates my store from other aquarium related stores is that I’ve decided to be very specialized in the area of aquatic plants. I do this for a few reasons.

I operate online, out of my house and this is not a full time job for me. This allows me to have a narrow focus and not be too concerned about the bottom line. Most actual pet stores are run as full time businesses with a lot of overhead, and as such need to generate more income than would come from just selling plants.

Q. That is a great strategy for an online business model. Specializing creates a competitive advantage and makes The Plant Guy distinctive. What are some of the downsides to your plant specialization ?

The local fish stores do a pretty good job in the other areas of the aquarium hobby but I feel most don’t do very well in the planted area. Plants require more space, are more difficult to keep alive for longer periods of time and have less profit than fish so this might be why most stores don’t focus as much on plants and I can’t blame them.

Q. Can you tell us more about John personally and how your interest and passion for aquariums began ?

I was born and raised in Winnipeg, attended the university of Winnipeg on a basketball scholarship and moved to Japan shortly after graduation and began a teaching career which lasted 5 years.

This is where I got my first fish tank (in 1994 I believe) and was also where I experienced a rather unique occurrence as far as aquariums go. I was living in a very small one room apartment about 8x10 in size, at the front of my bed was an entertainment unit which housed a TV and a 29g fish tank on top of that.

On the morning of Tuesday, January 17, 1995, the great Kobe earthquake struck Japan in the early morning. Although I was 20 km from the epicenter, the apartment shook quite violently. I jumped out of bed to protect the tank from falling out of the entertainment unit and by the end of the quake there was only 3 inches of water left in the tank with fish all over the floor!. Luckily I did manage to save most of them.

Q. What do you do professionally and how did The Plant Guy start as a business?

After moving back to Canada in 1997 I began a career in the IT industry where I’m currently employed full time in government. Having this IT background has been very helpful when it comes to running an online store.

My business has evolved over the last 3 years to what it is now.

It started with me selling mainly stem plants out of my 75g to local hobbyists. As time went on I would have people ask me if I had this or that plant available (mainly easier plants, like anubias and crypts, which I didn’t). So I began to investigate what it took to import plants. In order to do this it became necessary to setup an actual business and learn about importation rules and regulations etc.

Q. Well, that is so innovative, as starting an online business requires so much to discover and learn in order to be successful. Where do you see The Plant Guy serving the aquarium community here in Canada, in the near future ?

The main focus for me is to provide plants to areas of the country that are poorly served when it comes to aquarium plants. In many cases, there just isn’t a large enough market in some places to justify carrying a lot of exotic aquarium plants at the local fish store. This is the need that I see myself fulfilling. Ideally the best place to buy aquarium plants (next to other hobbyists) would be the LFS, but this isn’t possible in a lot of cases. This is where the online option fills a need.

R. John, that is a great strategy and need that so many aquarists would love to have met.

As Canadaquaria grows in national coverage and membership, we hope to help you as a sponsor meet these needs. The Plant Guy has been a great addition and partner in educating and increasing awareness and interest in aquarium plants. It was my pleasure to have had the opportunity to interview you. So thanks John, for your time and great contribution.
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Re: An Interview with John, The Plant Guy

Post by guppyguy on Sun Oct 19, 2014 3:11 pm

Great interview guys. Well done and very interesting learning about how it all began. Thank you to both of you for taking the time to do this. Cool

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Re: An Interview with John, The Plant Guy

Post by Starfish on Sun Oct 19, 2014 4:17 pm

I quite enjoyed reading this interview. Great idea. Thanks
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