By Marjan Golpira

Iranian entrepreneur leading an online exotic plant store

December 8, 2017

With grand aspirations of becoming a successful entrepreneur, Mohammad Ali Esfahani has ventured into the field of commerce by operating a unique online store that offers exotic carnivorous plants, for sale.

These plants get their nutrients from trapping and consuming flesh of insects.

Graduated with bachelor’s degree in industrial mathematics from the University of Sharif, his business is a far cry from math, which suggests an imagination well beyond mathematics.

This true business idea man, now 25, grew up in the flourishing city of Karaj, about an hour from the capital, Tehran.

About seven years ago, Esfahani, who was 18 years old at the time, visited a charity bazaar in Tehran where he stumbled across insectivorous plants.  The precocious teenager had always been intrigued by the nature’s strange and outlandish creatures and hence was compelled to purchase a number of these florae, along with their seeds to cultivate at home.

Much to his chagrin, the seeds failed to germinate, but he remained fascinated by carnivorous plants when he travelled to Australia to visit his sister.  
As fate would have it, he had picked the right time to be in Melbourne where flowers were in full bloom.

Carnivorous plants get their nutrients from trapping and consuming flesh of insects

This true business idea man walked into a plant shop and found himself surrounded by the intriguing carnivorous florae he had come across in Tehran, and consequently, acquired a number of them, along with their seeds in hope of growing them in Iran.  

Once he was able to get them past customs at Tehran’s international airport, which adheres to strict guidelines as to what is imported to the Islamic state, he was determined to succeed in fostering the growth of these precious plants.

Esfahani noted that the plants were very delicate and required constant care and nurturing. They appeared to be sensitive to very low humidity and high temperatures. However, over time he learned the ins and outs of proper care and later acquired the skills to grow his own collection and offer them for sale.

Eventually, the idea to open his own business entered his mind.

Esfahani, who is also a Persian classical music vocalist, was mocked and discouraged by his peers, but the negative reception he received from his friends did not deter him. He moved ahead with the plan to launch a business with a close friend, Sina Meysami, who is also a composer and musician.

One must wonder if the bizarre flesh eating plants he sells might also sing to lure their insect prey in to their traps!

The partners decided to generate revenue through the sale of these plants in order to pursue their passion, that being music.

Once his business is recognized in the Middle East, the self-made Esfahani wants to donate his wealth to musicians and to advancing knowledge of traditional Persian music

Esfahani confessed they had no idea how to begin the business, but one thing he was sure about:

“I knew in my heart we would have good sales even though we didn’t really know what we were doing.”

In the last quarter of 2014, operating from the basement of his parent’s house, the entrepreneur managed to make a good profit in sales: “One customer ordered 2 million tomans ($500) of the plants in a single order,” said Esfahani.

The business expanded well. During the second year, they imported seeds from overseas and bought a greenhouse on the outskirts of Karaj, leaving the basement behind.

In the spring of 2015, they showcased their collection of carnivorous plants at a friend’s coffee shop in Tehran. For the first time, they got to meet some of their customers face to face, and from then on the business took off through the use of such social networks such as Instagram and Telegram.

Today, the online business takes around seven to eight orders daily, each ranging from 20,000 tomans ($50) to 300,000 tomans ($75).

The online business, called Golkhaneh Darwin, which means Darwin’s Greenhouse in English, is named after the father of evolution, Charles Darwin, whose very first book published in the 19th century was on the topic of carnivorous plants.

Esfahani is aiming for further expansion of the business so “that each Iranian gets to hear the name of these plants at least once in his lifetime.”

Once his business is recognized in the Middle East, the self-made Esfahani wants to donate his wealth to musicians and to advancing knowledge of traditional Persian music.

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