The seed for Chad Corzine’s Urban Agriculture Co. was planted a few years ago when he got a tired of paying a lot of money for fresh vegetables, herbs and flowers at farmers markets. Corzine, who was working as director of business development for his father’s candle firm, decided to create a mini garden on his Los Angeles balcony. The project, as they say, was an epic fail. “I thought, how hard could it be to garden on a balcony?” recalls Corzine, 30. “But I was wrong. It turned out to be one giant mess.”
Thinking there would be an easy solution for urbanistas like him who desired a just-plucked tomato or two, Corzine searched the internet for gardening tips or simple kits that would yield fresh veggies in an urban setting. His efforts bore no fruit. “I realized there was a void in the market,” says Corzine, a graduate of University of California, Santa Barbara. “The kits that were out there required buying soil separately.”
Corzine’s aha moment led him to begin assembling his own kits, containing organic soil and vegetable, flower or herb seeds, to be planted in a container made from recycled tea bags. “I would spend Friday nights assembling the kits and then selling them at weekend farmers markets and flea markets around Los Angeles,” he says. “I figured they would be big with millennials like me, who were trying to get into gardening, but I found that the kits had a wider appeal. People were buying them as gifts.”
In 2016, Corzine had cultivated enough interest in his products that he quit his day job and launched Urban Agriculture, moving the business into a 4,000-square-foot warehouse, where he has some 25 employees and produces Grow Kits ranging from arugula to zinnias, all created to sprout successfully on balconies, window sills, protected patios or walls. The line got a huge boost in 2016 when the kits were chosen as “Oprah’s Favorite Things” and featured in the media mogul’s O Magazine gift guide.
Urban Agriculture’s 117 products now include such items as garden accessories, seeds and Cocktail Kits, which come with an herb kit, a Mason jar for mixing, a muddler, straining spoon and recipe courtesy of a master mixologist.
But Corzine isn’t content to rest on his bay laurels. He’s launching 36 new products this year and plans to expand with items for pets, kids and personal care. “I’m a true start-up,” Corzine says, “so if I’m not in the office, I’m trying to figure out what we can do next. My work is my relaxation now. I go to housewares shows just for fun.”
He has, however, found the time to move from his balconied apartment to a loft in downtown Los Angeles. “Unfortunately, I don’t have a balcony any more, but I do have access to the roof. That’s where you’ll find me testing the prototypes.”