Chantal Dawson is the face behind Grow My Wellbeing, a unique plant bundle business based near Bury St Edmunds. Here she explains how her South African upbringing inspired her small but growing business
Growing up in South Africa, Chantal Dawson learnt how to connect with nature in a big way. As a little girl she was forever walking around barefoot and getting her hands dirty. ‘I was born in South Africa and left when I was 19 – I went to America for a year – then came to the UK. I’ve been here for 19 years now. My background is quite corporate: HR and coaching. Having two young boys when Covid hit – I wanted a change of direction. I wanted to be flexible and to work around the boys.
Chantal continues: ‘I’ve always had houseplants, but it wasn’t until the Covid pandemic I realised the health benefits of caring for plants.’ She is hardly alone in feeling overwhelmed at times. ‘My mind felt so full every day and when home schooling finished, I could go to my plants, water them, propagate them, repot them, and just mess around with them.’
For Chantal, connecting with nature in this way, by tending to her plants was a form of mindfulness. ‘That was my switch off – I could switch off completely from everything that had happened that day.’
When a coaching opportunity came to an end, Chantal had a lightbulb moment. ‘If I found this mindful and calming then surely someone else would as well? I decided to come up with a kit that people could do themselves and feel the benefits of planting, having that true connection to nature. I guess a really big element of my business has really stemmed from growing up in South Africa,’ she says.
With Grow My Wellbeing, people can choose the rooted plant cutting, which Chantal will have cared for over the course of weeks. As she says: ‘I propagate all my own plants into rooted cuttings that I sell in bundles. I would chop the plant, place it in water and wait for roots to grow. Some take four weeks; others may take two months. To make sure all cuttings are healthy and happy, I change the water and give the plants a wash once a week – a long process with the 50 odd cuttings that I have on the go!’
The plant bundle will also be made up of carefully measured amounts of soil components: ‘I’ve made the soils a little bit healthier,’ says Chantal. ‘They’ve got household soil; bark; perlite; and coco coir, and worm castings (earth worm poo!). There’s no wastage, and no need to go out and buy huge bags. And all the packs have little stickers on to explain what they are.’
The pots are made from biodegradable coco coir and then there’s a decorative pot for it to go in, such as terracotta. ‘I don’t use any plastic in my products,’ says Chantal.
Finally, the bundle includes a plant information and care card, such as how much water it needs. ‘You get to do it all yourself. I sell the bundles to anyone who loves plants themselves or as gifts to loved ones.
‘I also offer a three-month plant subscription – you or a loved one can receive a plant bundle once a month for three months. And plant bundles make great party bag options – there’s no plastic and it’s a gift that continues to give.’
Chantal and her family (made up of husband, two boys and cockapoo puppy) moved from Hampshire to Bury St Edmunds a few months ago. ‘We’ve been in Suffolk over three months now – we just wanted to have a bit of a change in pace. We love Bury St Edmunds.’
As well as supplying plant-loving individuals with her plant bundles, Chantal is keen to forge relationships with local businesses and schools. ‘I’ve worked with a few schools in Hampshire,’ she says. Chantal recalls working with Years 7 and 8 at one secondary school in particular: ‘When they went back to school after lockdown, they each got their own plant bundle and now they’ve set up their own green room or chill out zone at the school where they can go and repot their plants.’
Chantal has recently worked with a youth group in Bury St Edmunds. ‘I do regular workshops in the community,’ she says. ‘Whether it’s children, young people or adults – it’s a mindful activity that isn’t just meditating.’ And she is in talks with coffee shops and other local businesses about potential collaborations. She also offers mindful planting workshops, for both children and adults – a recent Plants and Prosecco workshops sounded fun!
The 39-year-old says: ‘The important thing is to connect with nature: get your hands dirty, feel the gritty soil, and hear the trickle of water when you water your plants. That switches your brain off from everything else.’
Visit Grow My Wellbeing.