Hub Spotlight: Living Glass Inc.

Posted on Friday, July 24th, 2020

Written by The John F. Wood Centre For Business and Student Enterprise

Living Glass Inc. provides solutions to indoor plant growing. They sell maintenance-free plants grown inside a glass ornament by integrating tissue-culture technology. Living Glass plants grow without the need of watering or light. We had the privelege of getting the inside story about Dennis Zhu's, the founder of Living Glass Inc., journey to becoming an entrepreneur!


How did you come up with Living Glass Inc.?

Back in High School, I used to be involved in trading and selling exotic plants — particularly carnivorous plants. My friends sort of knew me as the person to contact for interesting plants to gift their friends and family. One issue I noticed was that while my plants offered a level of uniqueness, they lacked in ease of care. Most of the plants I gave were donated back into my collection since they didn’t fare well in the brutal environment we call “the house”. It was until I started volunteering in the plant science lab that I had the revelations of what would become the seed of the company. Every Christmas, the department would sell these ornaments containing a living plant using a technique called tissue culture. These ornaments sold well, and I saw this as a microcosm to the global market. With the support from a network of people, we then refined the production process and created a brand. The end result was an enchanting product that encapsulated the beauty of exotic plants while maintaining an incredible ease of care.
Here at Living Glass Inc., we offer houseplants that are never offered commercially and guarantee an endearing experience along with it.

What motivated you to take the next step and apply to the Hub?

Reflecting back to my years preceding University, I’ve never known what the word “entrepreneur” meant. However subconsciously, I was always entrepreneurial and wasn’t aware of it. One of my most vivid memories was back in grade 10 where myself and a team of students attempted to build an greenhouse behind a food bank to provide fresh greens for the needy. My motivation for applying to the hub was in pursuit of consciously understanding what it  means to be entrepreneurial and meet other like minded individuals. I wanted to learn vicariously through the seasoned entrepreneurs and be challenged. Of course, the hub has not only fulfilled those aspirations but exceeded my expectations, and I’m very thankful for being able to be apart of it.

What do you hope to get out of the Hub?

I hope to continue to meet other entrepreneurs through the hub and throw ideas around with the community. What’s great about the Hub is that it has such a diverse network of people at all stages of business and expertise. As individuals, our perspectives are often limited to the knowledge we’ve accumulated so having that 3rd or 4th opinion is incredibly powerful in the decision making process.

Do you have any advice for someone with a business idea in mind, but are not sure what to do next?

My advice would be to execute and persevere. If you can live by those words, I guarantee that at the very least, your business would have made its mark in someone’s life.
 
Execution is to connect your plan with an action and follow through with it. Something I see quite often that becomes a hindrance to start-ups is that teams spend too long loitering on the planning stage. I like to think of plans as a compass. It’ll give you a sense of direction but won’t tell you the exact path you will have to follow to reach success, rather that path comes from trial and error. What I can propose is to highlight your first goal (i.e. obtain funding and mentorship) and link it to something you will do by a certain date (i.e. apply to the Hub by Friday). By doing this, you will be constantly making small steps in your venture.
 
Perseverance is to stay with your idea for as long as possible. As easy as this is to say, the journey in entrepreneurship is lengthy and often not fuelled by immediate results. Changing ideas too often lands you back into square one and you’ll soon realize that no venture becomes successful without the test of time. My best advice, is to reward yourself for achieving small goals within your venture (i.e. launched website) to keep the motivation up.

Finally, another thing to keep in mind is to curb the fear of failure. Perhaps you will be successful in your first business or perhaps you may fail. Just realize that nothing in entrepreneurship is done in vain and the things you learn through the journey are the fruits of your labour. I should mention that Living Glass is my 6th venture, with 4 failures preceding it, all of which were humbling experiences that add to an insatiable hunger for personal growth.

 

 


Housed within the John F. Wood Centre for Business & Student Enterprise (Wood Centre), the Hub is a business incubator designed to support early-stage business ideas with high-potential, but unproven business models. The goal of the Hub is to provide University of Guelph students (undergraduate and graduate) and alumni the opportunity to build a successful business enterprise in a supportive learning environment.

The Hub has a tiered program that ensures a good mix of start-up companies at varying stages of growth. “Hub Start” is for ventures still getting their idea off the ground. These ventures typically have a great team and a great idea, but still have not demonstrated product-market fit with traction. “Hub Build” is for ventures with traction looking to refine their business model and/or scale.

 

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