For Kevin McHugh, part of an education in business meant growing a company.
He’s the founder of Bloom Box, which started as a class project at the University of Baltimore. With an entrepreneurial mindset and help from resources at the university, the company blossomed to launch just as the 2020 holiday season arrived.
Bloom Box offers subscription services so people living in tight living spaces like apartments and senior living can have the opportunity to garden. The company provides kits to grow microgreens, the one- to three-inch greens that are picked young and pack a higher nutritional value than fully grown plants. And there’s no dirt involved, so it’s essentially a just-add-water operation.
“Customers get a box every three months that has three seed varieties, a planting mat and a plating tray,” the founder said.
McHugh calls microgreens the “future of food.” The kits offer a model toward democratizing how they’re grown.
“They are a way for people to garden in any environment in any place at any time,” he said. “You can grow them all year in your house.”
We’ve seen microgreens at the center of many urban farming efforts, but the kits can bring it to the individual level. McHugh points out that NASA is even growing them for nutrition in space.
“If they can grow them in outer space you can definitely grow them in your apartment or condo,” he said.
McHugh has had plenty of help along the way from a network that he counts in the dozens, but is running the business solo. With the launch, Bloom Box available via the website and social media channels. He’s putting together orders himself, as well.
McHugh started working on the business while studying at UB, where he completed an undergrad before entering the MBA program. Along with developing the idea as a class project, he had the chance to present in class and get feedback.
“Professors afforded myself and a lot of other entrepreneurial students the opportunity to work on their business,” McHugh said. “Each class improves your idea a little bit.”
He also took the stage to pitch before packed auditoriums in the UB Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation’s Rise to the Challenge business competition in 2019 and 2020. That helped to provide the motivation and feedback to keep growing the model.
After taking the stage at the 2019 competition, McHugh said the audience reaction — and winning crowd favorite — helped make him determined to get the product to market.
“I wanted to pursue it anyway, but that gave me motivation to commit to the idea,” he said. “It’s really been an exhilarating experience.”
As with many ventures, there have been tweaks along the way. McHugh originally wanted to provide bigger plants, but upon learning about microgreens he saw the opportunity for a more manageable size and to provide fresh produce. In doing market research, he also hit on a market opportunity in senior living.
“They’re great for elderly people to grow and what’s really awesome is gardening can decrease the effects of dementia by 30%,” he said. “That’s really where our mission is, to impact people’s lives in gardening.”