Jim Schreiber was a special-education teacher for 23 years before he retired to start Plantables with his biology professor wife Karen Klyczek in 2013. Based in Hudson, Wisconsin, Plantables is a manufacturing business—but that’s just part of the story. The company’s products were developed with two things in mind: the needs of his former students and the needs of the environment. Jim and his team are tackling social and environmental issues with a successful business model and unique pollinator-friendly products.
As a special-ed teacher, Jim worked with K–12 children with moderate to severe physical and cognitive disabilities. In that role, he worked to prepare his students for employment after graduation. Unfortunately, employment proved elusive and none of his students landed jobs; this unmet need provided the spark that grew into Plantables.
Jim calls Plantables a “worker-focused business.” The products he makes map to the needs of his workers as much as to the needs of his customers. He chose to make high-quality products that he knew his workforce could produce using adaptive equipment and assistive technology.
Plantables offers three types of “seed-embedded” products, each created with the current pollinator decline in mind, and each developed to attract and support beneficial insects or birds. Plantables’ products include:
- Plantable paper, which has seeds embedded in the paper and can be used to make greeting cards, bookmarks, and decorative wraps. You can plant the paper when you’re finished with it and wildflowers will grow to attract pollinators.
- Seed bombs, or clay and compost balls embedded with seeds. Plantables makes Bee Bombs to attract bees, Butterfly Bombs packed with milkweed seeds, and Herb Bombs. Jim says that some of his workers are on the autism spectrum and their sensory needs are met through the calming process of rolling seed bombs.
- Birdseed wreaths are made during the holidays and were inspired by Jim’s father and his love of birds.
When asked about the values that drive Plantables, Jim responds that “it’s about never giving up and working really, really hard because our business is much, much more than just a business.” He goes on to say that “Plantables isn’t necessarily about Plantables and the people that are there. It’s about all the people that aren’t there.” The business currently employs 17 people, but hundreds more are eager to join the staff. Jim is working to demonstrate his strongly held belief that we can all be productive, working members of society and there should be opportunities for us all. He’s dedicated to spreading his message and educating others.
Plantables sources most of their seeds from Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Utah. The company is careful to sell products made with the seeds of only noninvasive plants. All of their bombs include organic compost from Purple Cow Organics, which is also in Wisconsin. The clay in the bombs is a potter’s clay and all the seeds are non-GMO.
Wondering how seed bombs work? The folks at Plantables explain it this way: “The clay protects the seeds from insects and birds. The compost provides organic matter and nutrients. When conditions are right (water, sunlight), the seed ball will break down and the seeds will germinate. Over time, they will grow into plants and flowers that provide habitat and food for pollinators.”
Hatch Lab is offering a Seed Bomb Set that includes 15 Bee Bombs (for your specific region) and 12 Herb Bombs. Or, if you want to make your own seed bombs, check out the DIY instructions from Jim. Thank you for supporting the mission of Plantables, the well-being of pollinators, and the idea that everyone in our society can contribute in meaningful ways. Now get out there and plant some seeds!
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