Interview with Michael Stausholm, Founder and CEO at Plantable Pencil Company: Sprout World

Michael Stausholm

Sprout World is the eco company behind the world’s first plantable pencil, the Sprout pencil. We like to think of our Sprout pencil as a green messenger and icebreaker to start a conversation about sustainability. The product is an illustration of how easy sustainability can be: take a product and once you are finished with it, use it for something else, in this case, plant it and literally give the product a new life by planting and growing herbs, flowers or trees.

Sprout World is all about how we can do small things in our everyday lives, which when added up, can actually make a difference. A Sprout pencil cannot save the world, but it can hopefully help inspire small everyday changes. All too often sustainability is too complicated and too big to comprehend for most of us.
Sprout World - GeniusWorks

How did you come up with the idea for the company?

The story begins on the crowdfunding site Kickstarter back in 2012. I saw this fantastic new invention, a plantable pencil that could grow into a plant after use – and immediately fell in love with it. So, I got the rights to sell the patented pencil in Europe from the group of MIT students that invented it, and founded Sprout World in 2013.

I could see great potential in it because the message about sustainability was so clear and easy to understand: use, plant, reuse and grow. Everyone was talking about sustainability, but no one could really put words to it. For me, the Sprout pencil is everything that sustainability should be.

Seven years later and having sold over 30 million plantable Sprout pencils in more than 80 countries – we are still true to our mission. We want to inspire people and companies to plant a green mindset in their everyday life.


How has the company evolved during the pandemic?

With over 25 employees across Europe and the USA, many were already used to working from home, but with the head office in Copenhagen, where most of us work, it was different. Suddenly we had to send everyone home to work and quickly pivot to a home office.

However, people quickly adapted and worked flexible hours. We made sure our employees understood that family came first and it worked – we had no decrease in productivity, and many were even more productive, as they didn’t have to commute.

As with many other companies, Zoom meetings became the norm and had their own set of challenges with spouses and children often popping in calls, so, a big part of my job was to tell people to take it easy and do things as best as they could under the circumstances.

The key is trust, and if you don’t trust people working in your company to do their jobs and sometimes more, pandemic or no pandemic, it is your responsibility, not theirs.

Fortunately, Sprout World entered Covid-19 financially strong and profitable with a strong cashflow, so I did sleep well during the whole period. However, one of the first things I did following the shutdown was to call my bank and tell them that I needed to double the credit we had, which they did, almost no questions asked.

We have been fortunate that we’ve not had to draw on any of these loans, but to me, it is all about planning ahead and sometimes for the worst. If you wait until you actually need the loan, then chances are your bank (or investors) will turn you down. Cash is king, and even more so during uncertain times, and by tackling this issue early on, it gave me a sense of calm, which ensured I could focus on other important issues.

What can we hope to see from Sprout World in the future?

We’re planning on launching the world’s first make-up pencil that you can plant after use and grow into wildflowers. I have great expectations for this!

We are also making it possible to buy personalised Sprout pencils, which will be perfect for all sorts of gifting, from wedding favours and birthdays to baby showers and corporate gifting.

Our focus is to inspire positive change. All too often sustainability tends to be about guilt – if you don’t do this, then this thing might happen. Instead, it’s better to focus on what you can do every day which will make a positive change for you, which will ultimately benefit the planet too.