Women We Love: Eliza Blank of The Sill
At Follain, we believe in celebrating women every day and especially today, International Women’s Day. In honor of the holiday, we’re tipping our hats to the woman behind one of our favorite brands, Eliza Blank. She’s the founder of The Sill, a marketplace that makes it easy to buy beautiful plants for your home. We caught up with Eliza to find out more about her business, the women who inspire her, and how caring for 50 plant babies is her version of self-care.
Tell us about your “aha” moment when the idea for The Sill was born.
As a 21-year-old living in Manhattan in 2007, I realized I didn’t actually know anything about plants, except that I liked them. I bought my plants at Home Depot, took them on the subway back to my very first apartment, carried them up six flights of stairs only to make a mess and slowly kill every last one of them. I didn’t know what they were or how to take care of them. That’s why I started The Sill—to help make plants more approachable and provide a way for urban gardeners to discover their green thumb.
It took you several years from that moment to the launch of The Sill on Kickstarter in 2012. What ultimately motivated you to pull the trigger, quit your job, and start your own company? What were the biggest challenges you faced?
I started writing a business plan for what would eventually become The Sill straight away. But I realized I didn’t yet have the operational experience to bring the idea to life. I was lucky enough to land a role at Living Proof, a beauty start-up out of Cambridge, MA. After four years at Living Proof, I was ready to revisit and launch The Sill. The greatest challenge was simply getting started. I co-founded with a friend and co-worker from Living Proof after she shared her excitement for my business plan and was eager to help get it off the ground. Unfortunately, the partnership lasted only a few months and then I was on my own. It was my first real test of courage. I convinced myself just to keep going and I’m so glad I did. Today, my old co-founder is still one of our biggest fans.
What’s something you wish you knew back in 2012 that you know now?
I’ve learned it’s best not to play Monday morning quarterback (my husband’s favorite sports metaphor). No sense in saying “if only . . .” I am proud of where I am today and I might not be here if I did it differently.
What’s surprised you most about your business and being an entrepreneur?
It surprised me how much I love it. I LOVE my work. And I LOVE the challenges of being an entrepreneur. Most people probably would hate it, but I think I’m just wired for it.
What’s the proudest moment of your career?
Recently The Sill appeared on the cover of The New York Times Thursday Style Section. Specifically it was on November 8, just two days before I gave birth to my now nearly 4-month-old daughter. I appeared in the article with my very pregnant belly. Not only did The Sill have such a strong moment of recognition, but it was acknowledged that I was able to achieve this as a pregnant executive. It can be done!
In the spirit of International Women’s Day, tell us about a few of the women who inspire you and why.
My grandmother inspires me, my mom inspires me, my daughter inspires me. I’m lucky to be surrounded by and supported by so many amazing women. And as I’ve built this business, I’ve met so many amazing women along the way, including Tina Roth Eisenberg. Besides founding the beloved design blog swissmiss, she founded and runs Tattly, CreativeMornings, TeuxDeux, and her Brooklyn based co-working space Friends. Tina is a woman that inspires me to run a company with a soul. She is also a mom of two as well as an ever-growing collection of plants, each of which has a name.
What are the biggest challenges of being a mom, wife, and CEO?
Well, I certainly wish there were more hours in the day. If I’m totally honest, I just didn’t realize the time commitment that goes along with breastfeeding a baby (add “dairy cow” to my business card). So chances are, if I’m on a business call, I’m also pumping! It’s all about prioritization and multitasking when you can. I have SO much respect for moms—whether you’re a mom that works or a mom that “stays home.” Neither is easy. Both are tremendous. I see you, moms. And I salute you!
What helps you find balance? Do you have any specific ways that you like to practice self-care?
Self-care . . . ha! I shower every day. Does that count? In all seriousness, plants help. As you’ll read, I love tending to my little indoor garden and watching it grow. It gives me peace of mind.
Your motto, “Plants Make People Happy,” captures the idea that plants are part of wellness. Tell us about this motto and why you think it’s true.
It’s the basic principle on which The Sill was founded. We hear it every day—it resonates because it’s honest.
I read that you have 50 plants at home. How do you manage to take care of all of them?
They’re all low maintenance! I water them only once every few weeks—super easy, and totally worth it.
What are your favorite places to connect with nature besides your plant-filled home?
I absolutely love Central Park. It’s one of the most romantic places in the world. And I’m also happy in the mountains, be it the Catskills or the Adirondacks.
What’s the best advice you can give first-time plant parents?
You can do it! Plants are such a great metaphor for life. Caring for plants takes practice—and sometimes it doesn’t always go so well. But over time you’ll gain confidence. And when you do cultivate that green thumb, it’s so rewarding.
Interview by Briana Palma | Photo by Masha Maltsava, courtesy of The Sill | March 8, 2019