How to organize a Plant Swap like a pro!

On October 1, 2017, we had an inaugural Plant Swap & Chat at lululemon’s Hub Seventeen. We had a tremendous showing from the NYC Plant Lover community and it was a ton of fun, as it was one of the first times we got together en masse. Many of you have written in saying, “Come to London!” “Come to Toronto!” but I’m not present in any of those cities (nor would I be able to get my plants across the border), so I would encourage other plant lovers to take the lead in their hometowns / cities and do their own Plant Swap.

I know organizing an event can be a little intimidating, so I wanted to take this time to put together these 10 steps to help you to organize a Plant Swap in your hood. BTW, I’ve done a whole Plant One On Me video on this very topic (see below and on my channel), if you prefer to watch versus read.

What is a Plant Swap?

A Plant Swap is simply an event where fellow plant owners can come together to swap their plants. This could be done anywhere—like someone's home, a public park or community garden, a church or community center, or even a local business, which is where we had ours (shout out to lululemon Hub Seventeen!). 

Rules of a Plant Swap

I'm sure the rules can be many, but ours were simple: bring a pest-free, beautiful plant, or two or three for trade; they can be potted or bare root—as long as you’re prepared to part with them. I found that most people brought more than one plant, and those who had more interesting varieties ended up going home with cooler stuff. As the organizer, I should say that you should make it your duty to ensure everyone at the event has traded something, as it’s really about the spirit of the trade. I brought a lot of extra plants for that reason—and at the end of the night, I had traded with two folks who had yet to take something new home.

Step 1. Gauging interest 

The first step is trying to gauge interest from others in your community. I’m active on my Instagram account, so I posted there to take the crowd’s temperature. Much to my amazement, I had over 50 replies (see post below)! I’m sure there are other ways to gauge interest, like posting in meetup groups, Facebook groups, and even emailing just a few friends. The key is to reach out, because the more people you have, the more fun it will be.

Step 2. Finding a place to host

Because of the outpouring of interest, I had to find a big enough space that would host people. Not many houses in the city can support 50 people comfortably, so I decided to reach out to one of the local businesses that hosts community events. Given that the event would likely happen in October in the Northeast, I didn't want to chance the weather outdoors, so finding something indoors was imperative. lululemon's Hub Seventeen on 5th Avenue was an obvious choice for me because I had thrown events there before and I'm also one of their Ambassadors. It’s OK if you don't have connections like that, because it's all about reaching out and building those connections, so send an email, attend another community or business event, and ask if they would be interested in hosting you and your group. Most businesses these days are looking for “experiences” such as these, as it draws in potential customers in a genuine and engaging way, so look at it as an equal exchange. If you only have a small group of plant lovers, then perhaps you can consider having it at someone’s home or apartment, which should be easy enough. Once you have the location set, you can talk to them about getting the best date and time for both parties. 

We hosted the Plant Swap at lululemon's Hub Seventeen, which is a space where events are often held for the community.

We hosted the Plant Swap at lululemon's Hub Seventeen, which is a space where events are often held for the community.

Step 3. Identifying in-kind sponsors

Once the basics are in place, like location, date and time, then you can decide as to whether you want or can get any in-kind sponsors. In-kind sponsors are simply companies that would be willing to give products, like food or drink, to your event. For our event, I reached out to sweetgreen, which is an amazing salad company here in the city; and Health-Ade Kombucha for the drinks. If you can't get sponsors, you can always host something simple. Maybe you just get chips and salsa and have tap water on hand. Or perhaps you make it a "Potluck and Plant Swap", where everyone brings one dish and at least one plant to share and swap.

Step 4. Ticketing 

I needed to get a headcount for how many people would come, as my sponsors needed to know how many salads and drinks to provide, so I decided to have people RSVP and pay a nominal fee for the event, for which proceeds would go to support a local community garden.

My experience is that if events are free, you have a larger drop-off rate, meaning people sign up but they don't always show up. In my case, I wanted to make the tickets really affordable at $5 and have the benefit of raising money for a community garden, which is just good all the way around—as it helps to green both indoors and out! We ended up raising over $300 for the garden, which will cover their summer lunch program for volunteers.

Step 5. Finding partners

I wanted to make this Plant Swap a little more special, so I thought it would be cool to have a little Q&A session that was live-streamed on Instagram, and to find partners who would also be interested in partaking. To do this, I reached out to a local media company called MindBodyGreen, which writes on health and wellness issues; and also The Sill, which is a local plant shop. Together, we formed a little panel that would happen right before the evening's actual swap. 

Step 6. Selling tickets

Now that you have the initial interest from fellow plant lovers; and the location, date, time, sponsors and partners, and ticket pricing in place, you can make an event page. Some ways to make an event page are on: Facebook, Meetup, Splashthat, Brown Paper Tickets, and Eventbrite. That's not an exhaustive list, but it's some of the ones that you’ll find out there. I made my event on Eventbrite then created a reciprocal event on Facebook and sent the link to the Eventbrite page to RSVP.


Step 7. Promote the event!

Promoting your Plant Swap out to the world might be the most fun! This is where your partners can come into play too. In our case, I asked an illustrator whom I admire: Sara Beth, if she could do a specially-designed image that we can use to promote the event. She was interested, so we used that as the “hero image” to promote the event. You’ll want to give yourselves enough time to get the word out. I had two weeks leading up to the event to promote it, which was enough time for the majority of people to hear about it and RSVP. 

You can share the event across your social media, like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and through email lists, if you have one—or Facebook groups, if you’re a part of those. You can also encourage others to share to their audience. In our case, I created the hashtag #NYCPlantSwap17 so people can share in advance what they were thinking of bringing. Otherwise, texting, emailing or calling a few friends will help. If you’re doing it in a small town, then posting it in newspapers or on bulletin boards at community centers and the local coffee shop may be more applicable. 


Step 8. The details

Before the event, you may want to take care of some minor details. For instance, name tags and markers are helpful, so people can see each other's names. Having plates, drinking cups, and napkins is always useful. Knowing where to direct people if they need to use the bathroom, etc. can all come in handy.

Step 9. Show up (early)!

If you're hosting the event, you're going to want to show up early and make sure everything is set up before people walk through the door. I went two hours earlier to rearrange the furniture, pick up the salads, get the cameras set up, and make sure that the place was just overall prepared for the event. We sold 70 tickets, so I ended up checking in people for the first half hour. What I liked about checking people in is that I could get a sense of everyone's name and share with them how the evening would unfold, and answer any questions they may have. If you need some extra hands, perhaps you can enlist some friends to take part in the organizing. After the event, I had multiple people offer their help on the next one, which was marvelous. No one said you have to do this alone! 

Step 10. Enjoy!

The tenth step is the most important. Enjoy the event. Plant Swaps are a ton of fun, incredibly rewarding, and a great way to meet fellow plant lovers.