The beginnings


She's the winner of the 'Idea' category prize of the 2016 Edition of the 'Femme Francophone Entrepreneure' competition organized by the Agence Universitaire de la Francophonie (AUF) and the incubator Berytech, in partnership with L'Orient le Jour and Le Commerce du Levant publications. With 'Someplace Green' the young 30 year old woman, suggests relooking balconies with green spaces. After 10 years spent abroad, between the United States and Taiwan, the young entrepreneur develops since her return to Lebanon two years ago, her internet project and is about to launch it this autumn. For Mondanite Deco, Maria Lati reveals all its secrets!

You are about to launch your project 'Someplace Green'. What can you tell us about it?

It is a website that aims to make it simple to add greenery on balconies! It is a complete solution with furniture, plants; flowers and aromatic herbs, with a guide comprising all the necessary information to select and install the right plants. There is no mobile application at the moment, but perhaps we will develop one later. 'Someplace Green' is actually a ready-made solution for balconies. For Beirut to become flowery and colourful, a city where we actually want to remain!

How did you come up with the idea?

I started thinking about it during the garbage crisis in July 2015. I was walking in the streets, looking at balconies and wondered that Beirut could become greener if each of us just added a little bit of green. I had personally never been able to maintain plants alive for more than a week, but now I know that with just a few instructions it's very possible!

You won last year the prize in the 'Idea' category for this project. What has that brought to you?

This has encouraged me to pursue the project. The prize gave me a framework, and I probably would not be at this stage without it. I saw the announcement for the competition last year and thought why not participate! The announcement said that even without winning, we could benefit from training, and that was my objective to move forward. I did not expect to win. When I applied to the competition, I was still at business plan stage and just drawing prototypes. Since then, it all took shape. 

So how will 'Someplace Green' work? How will we browse the website?

It will be very simple, I worked on the website, visitors can select and order furniture Units as well as the plants of their choice. The objective is to be practical and user-friendly.

What type of products do you have?

We have potted plants, not cut flowers. The plants remain potted, and clients then take care of them at home, airing the soil, pruning, watering. It is for balconies, home indoors and offices. The goal is to be accessible: the budget can vary from 40 dollars for plants to a few hundred dollars for the furniture units. Each order will feature a gardening guide with information about how to prune or water, and information specific to the plant. There will also be gardening advice adapted to seasons and weather on social media. 

Who are your suppliers?

I work with an agricultural engineer, Nadine Maroun, who has a nursery in Lebanon, above Baabdat. The idea was to pick plants that stay green yearlong, evergreen plants. The plants we selected are also easy to care for. My other partner is the architect Diane Chaoui who drew the furniture units of the collection. 

What was your goal in developing this project?

It is to encourage people to want to embellish the city. It is nicer to walk around when we look at flowery facades, when there is green and colours! It also feels good to take care of nature. When I wake up in the morning, I am happy to take care of my plants. It feels good to get close to green again. We might not revolution the cleanliness of the air but taking care of plants can encourage us to go greener. 

BOX
At just 30 years old, the young Lebanese Maria Lati seems to have lived 1000 lives. Before developing her project 'Someplace Green' and winning the prize for 'Idea' in the 2016 edition of the 'Femme Francophone Entrepreneure' competition, organized by the Agence Universitaire de la Francophonie (AUF) and the incubator Berytech, the young entrepreneur worked four years as Customer Relationship Management coordinator for the fashion house Balenciaga in Paris. Before that, she studied Finance in the United States and pursued a Fashion Marketing Master in Italy and later headed to Taiwan to learn Chinese. Maria Lati who moved back to Beirut about two years ago has already started her website for a greener Beirut. Full of resources, the young entrepreneur seems as determined as surprising!

 

Translated from article published in Mondanité Décoration, October 2017