From a student idea to 10 million-sold seed pencils

Remember the plantable Sprout pencil that a group of MIT students invented back in 2013?

The patented pencil has become world famous. These days, the start-up behind Sprout World reaches 10 million-sold pencils in over 60 countries. With clients like Disney, Coca Cola, Marriott, McKinsey and Unilever, the U.S. born invention is hitting a demand in time for more sustainable products and new ways to communicate about them.

10 million potentially new plants like tomato, basil and sunflower growing from waste – this is Sprout World´s humble contribution to the planet. Five years after the launch of the world´s first plantable pencil on Kickstarter, this original student project seems to have conquered the world.

Since the beginning of this year, the Sprout pencil has been featured on a long list of big Facebook sites that have a total reach of 150 million followers. Without spending a dime.

The idea with the Sprout pencil is that you plant it, when it becomes too short to write or color with. This way you give it a new life by turning the stub into herbs, vegetables or flowers. The Sprout pencil is 100% natural and biodegradable, and it has become a popular green alternative to company plastic ball pens with logo.

135 million plastic ball pens a day:

“Every year, an estimate of 50 billion ball pens are produced and sold. That is 135 million plastic pens a day! A huge amount of plastic that sooner or later will end up in the landfills. If we could replace just a tiny part of plastic pens with plantable pencils, we have a good reason to be,” says Sprout founder, Michael Stausholm.

Stausholm also explains that his company is still faithful to the DNA of the student´s desire to develop a product that inspires businesses and consumers to more sustainability.

“First of all, while many start-ups move their production to Asia as they grow, we have kept the production in Minnesota to cater to our U.S. and Canadian markets. By doing this, we save CO2 and keep jobs in the U.S. at the same time. The rest of the world get pencils produced in Poland – under ethical work conditions, of course,” adds Stausholm.

“Secondly, we don´t just sell pencils. We are on a mission to be the preferred alternative, when it comes to showing that small steps matter when it comes to sustainability. If you can plant a pencil stub, what else can you do to recycle more? This is the spirit that lies in our pencils and in the mentality of the Sprout team. The story of what the pencil can do and how people and businesses can benefit is what drives the wheel,” he says.

Growing demand for sustainable products:

Michael Stausholm has great expectations to both the U.S. (Northern America) and the European markets in the coming years.

“There is no doubt that businesses today are forced to look for more sustainable products and solutions. However, they also seek good ways to communicate with partners and customers in new ways. And here Sprout is an ideal solution,” he says.

90% of Sprout´s sales go to businesses, 10% to private consumers. He expects the consumer market to grow to 15% in 2019. A goal we will reach thanks to a growing presence on Amazon, where the Sprout pencils are now being sold in seven countries, including the USA and Canada. Mexico and Japan are the next countries on the list.

Sprout World is also developing the world´s first plantable makeup pencil that they expect to launch in the beginning of 2019.

A bit about the background:

The idea of a plantable pencil comes from a group of MIT students five years ago. Today, the patented Sprout pencils are sold in over 60 countries – mainly to businesses and organizations that get their logo and messages engraved and use the pencils as green giveaways.

There is a growing trend both in Europe and in the USA to demand more sustainable products. Businesses are longing for new ways to communicate about their green initiatives.

Sprout has clients like Disney, Coca Cola, WWF, Marriott, Toyota, McKinsey, New York Highline, Spice and Tea Exchange. The Sprout pencils are also sold onboard airliners, in more than 20 different airlines shops.

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