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A digital marketplace to help a plant seller disrupt its 100-year-old business

The brief

“Working with TXI was fantastic. They were super professional, extraordinarily organized. There was just a sense of alignment."

Lisa Fiore, founder of LandscapeHub

Building a marketplace that connects buyers and suppliers on a single, price-transparent platform is a great idea — unless it’s competing with your wholesale business.

For over 100 years, the Fiore family has been supplying trees and shrubs to landscapers across the country. Their business, Fiore Nursery and Landscape Supply operated on the standard wholesale model: they sourced the greenery from growers across the country, and buyers came to them to purchase all the plants they’d need for building sites, golf courses, and even zoos. Now Lisa Fiore, the fourth generation of the Fiore Nurseries family, wanted to use all that industry knowledge to create an online marketplace that would disrupt the family’s original business — before someone else did. And she came to TXI to do it.

The result is LandscapeHub, a web-based, responsive, two-sided marketplace platform built in Rails and React. To learn what we needed to build, we started with a Google Design Sprint, an Inception and a lot of user research to validate everyone’s ideas. Then we paired with LandscapeHub as it built out a technical team, teaching their new hires how we solved tricky data problems and built a marketplace strong enough to support future growth.

The challenge

How to create an online marketplace using 100 years of experience

It’s rare for a family-owned business to break with tradition, and even rarer for one to embrace the changes technology can bring. But even though she’s four generations deep, Lisa Fiore is forward-thinking enough to know that e-commerce is going to change her business one way or another. Building a marketplace startup was her way of getting in front of it.

From the beginning, Lisa knew she wanted LandscapeHub to be a separate company, but one that could take advantage of all she’d learned at Fiore. And she had a long list of features informed by her experience. The goal was to give buyers — for the first time ever — access to a transparent online marketplace where they tap into a vast relational database of every available plant, which suppliers had them, what types and sizes were available, and, most revolutionarily, how much everything cost.

The goal, ultimately, is for LandscapeHub to be a true two-sided marketplace startup, where suppliers ship directly to buyers, giving buyers alternatives to the brick-and-mortar distribution network. In the meantime though, Lisa needed to build a minimum viable product that could prove her idea was worthwhile and worth investing in.

  • Built an online marketplace set atop a sizeable relational database of all types of plants, their sizes, and their containers.

  • Structured a content library of every plant species and searchable database by common name and/or Latin name.

  • Designed a site to accommodate every plant so each one has an image to serve buyers best.

  • Featured descriptions and Fiore’s expert advice in the form of content to help buyers, as well as individual pages, rank in search.

The outcome

Helping LandscapeHub’s team grow their marketplace business model

Part of the reason we worked so hard to earn Lisa’s trust at the start of the project was that we knew she needed a true technology partner. When we joined LandscapeHub, Lisa and her team had an idea and required a partner like TXI to validate, test, and build a prototype to scale her business. Since then, she’s joined forces with Chad Cooper, the former CTO of Grubhub, four developers, and an undisclosed amount of funding that will be used to grow and maintain this product for years to come.

To ensure LandscapeHub continues growing on its own steam, we worked hard to transfer everything we know to the new team. We’ve paired with the team extensively and created documentation and style guides they can use going forward.

The Solution

  • Delivered a product roadmap in a two-day Inception, including MVP and additional features
  • Elevated LandscapeHub experience in par with the level of service Fiore delivers at its physical locations
  • Expanded LandscapeHub across the Midwest, adding suppliers beyond Fiore
  • Created a scalable infrastructure to keep up with demand and growth of Fiore
  • Ensured every line of the infrastructure codebase was accepted by the LandscapeHub team

We had a successful seed round, but the work is full-speed ahead. The goal is to learn from the users, iterate quickly and prove product-market fit.

Lisa Fiore, founder of LandscapeHub
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