Roman Gonzalez’ startup is helping people get their hands a little dirty.
Gonzalez founded Gardenio, a company that strives to empower people to grow their own food. Users choose what they’d like to grow and then the planters, soil and starter plants are delivered to their front door. Gardenio also provides care guides for plants while cultivating an online and in-person community for growers to swap tips.
Gonzalez sowed the seeds of his company growing up, he just didn’t quite know it.
He developed an entrepreneurial spirit at a young age. Through high school and college, he built several organizations up from nothing but didn’t really see what he was doing as entrepreneurship. He saw his recruiting, leadership and business acumen as a way to create services he saw a need for.
“I wanted to take these ideas that were made to seem difficult and communicate them to people in a way that was useful to them,” Gonzalez said. “I wanted to be the medium. After college, as I got more into tech, I realized I’d found a sector with the potential for global impact.
Gonzalez has now taken that instinct and paired it with experience as a political organizer, marketer and designer to develop Gardenio.
The company sprouted from Gonzalez’ own failed attempt to grow food.
“So about four years ago I tried growing my own food and failed miserably and didn’t learn anything,” he said. “I’m a UX designer though…so I’m like, ‘hey now, there are some well established UX principles broken here, and we’ve been doing this for 20,000 years. This should be the easiest thing to do.’”
Gardenio launched in February after completing the DivInc accelerator program last fall. The team delivered their first boxes in March and are hoping to release their app in the third quarter of this year.
Gonzalez was recently announced as a finalist for Austin Inno’s 2018 50 on Fire awards.
For a long time, Gonzalez’ biggest hurdle was getting the idea out of his bedroom and in front of people to get feedback but as he’s grown alongside his company he faces another challenge.
“As an entrepreneur, you want to surround yourself with incredibly smart people,” Gonzalez said. “Many times those smart people are being smart around a lot of different folks, and you don’t want to be imposing, so you let those connections fade, or weaken.”
He said to combat this issue, he’s building an intentional circle of folks he trusts and is investing his time, energy and faith in them.
With the right people and the right technology, Gonzalez is building Gardenio with the same ideals as he did the organizations he helped develop when he was young.
“We have a tech component to what we do, but we’re deliberate in how we build the app and what we build it for — we use it to get people playing in the dirt,” he said. “It just feels like the most punk rock thing you could do is use the tools of the private sector, of a tech-enabled world, to spread a message of anti-screen, of reconnecting with the ground below us, with the things that our monkey brains understand, that have made us reliably happy for millennia.”
This story is part of a collaboration between Austin Inno and BLNDED Media to increase coverage of diverse startups. BLNDED Media’s Investor Series provides insight on funding for diverse startups and businesses. To be featured as an investor, or to nominate an investor, email firstname.lastname@example.org.