Rupt Ventures – the venture arm of Austin, Texas-based Rupt (PPAI 826757, Standard-Base) – has announced its second strategic investment in the promotional products industry: Desk Plants (PPAI 797124, Standard-Plus).

Founded in 2018 as a direct-to-consumer business with a brick-and-mortar location in an upscale shopping district in Austin, Desk Plants pivoted during the COVID-19 pandemic to promo, offering customizable potted plants for corporate gifting.

“We’re excited to embark on this journey with Rupt Ventures as we continue to innovate and grow,” says Lawrence Hanley, founder and CEO of Desk Plants. “With its expertise and resources, we’re poised to expand our reach and amplify our impact within the promo industry. Together, we’re redefining corporate gifting with sustainable and memorable branding solutions.”

Supporting Innovation

While Jason Lucash, CEO and co-founder of Rupt, was enjoying retirement, his promo friends kept buzzing about Desk Plants. He couldn’t resist reaching out and received a plant that’s still sitting on his desk, alive, over a year later. Lucash says that was a common refrain heard on the show floor during Expo.

“Desk Plants embodies the essence of what Rupt Ventures stands for: innovation, sustainability and a commitment to excellence,” Lucash says. “With Lawrence Hanley at the helm, Desk Plants has redefined the corporate gifting landscape, and we’re thrilled to support its journey to even greater heights. This investment represents a strategic step forward in our mission to reshape the promo industry through visionary partnerships with amazing entrepreneurs.”

Lucash and his longtime business partner Mike Szymczak made their own splash at The PPAI Expo 2024 by coming out of retirement to introduce Rupt, the first supplier whose entire product line is made from recycled materials.

  • The duo previously co-founded Origaudio, which they sold to HPG in 2018.

The industry veterans have a full five-year financial roadmap, developed with help from a big four accounting firm, to support expanded staffing, more new products and investments. Meanwhile, Rupt Ventures is a side play that will pour VC money into a stable of other suppliers.

  • Last month, Rupt Ventures announced its inaugural deal with Stacy Stahl, founder and CEO of St. Louis-based supplier Sweeter Cardswinner of The Pitch at The PPAI Expo 2024.

Lucash sees strong similarities between Stahl and Hanley, including their sustainable business practices and innovative products.

“As an investor, you bet on the jockey as much as you bet on the horse,” Lucash says. “Stacy is a good jockey with a great horse in the race. Same for Lawrence. And there aren’t other comparable horses to them. It’s interesting to have investments in sectors where there aren’t a lot of other players, finding the people doing it really well and helping those businesses grow.”

Strategic Partner

With the support of Rupt Ventures, Desk Plants plans to accelerate its expansion efforts, broaden its product offerings and enhance its sales and marketing initiatives to reach a wider audience. The investment will also enable the firm to further strengthen its commitment to sustainability and customer satisfaction.

“It’s a strategic partnership – it’s not some private equity firm looking to just throw money into a space and hoping for the best,” Hanley says. “Mike and Jason have a bevy of experience that I’m able to learn from, including their approach to market and what has made them successful.”

As far as Hanley is concerned, the investment is already paying dividends: Desk Plants has moved into Rupt’s massive production facility in Austin, allowing for seamless production and room for expansion.

“Being in the Rupt facility allows us to harvest the muscle of Rupt as a big-time player from a fulfillment standpoint and allows me to be able to focus on the sales and marketing side,” Hanley says. “I’m able to really focus on the growth of the business from a go-to-market strategy rather than having to worry about the nitty gritty details of the processes of each project. I couldn’t think of a better position to be in to scale a business than where I am right now.”

As part of the Rupt Ventures’ stable, Lucash says that companies like Desk Plants and Sweeter Cards will benefit from split booths and sales representatives, as well as shared accounting and creative services behind the scenes.

  • Beginning in early April, kits will go live with products from all three companies.

Lucash envisions new hires coming into the office for their first day of work and their desk having a plant with their company’s logo on it next to their computer and a card welcoming them to the team.

“Owning the desk from an advertising perspective is the most valuable public real estate you can get outside of having a branded home screen on someone’s iPhone,” Lucash says. “From an investment standpoint, having a supplier or product offering that sits there front and center next to someone’s computer screen is invaluable.”