"The Business of Being Green"
by Shelley Levis
Are you passionate about gardening? Do you dream of starting an online business sharing your love of all things green? Perhaps you already have a blog and are active on social media but it’s just not generating the kind of income that your friends would call a legitimate ‘job’.
I’m not exactly ‘there’ yet… but I’m growing. In this post I will share the seeds of wisdom I have learned from gardenistas I admire and from my own journey along the way. Grab a coffee (or a glass of wine)… this is a post that has been months in the making!
I love Mother Nature, gardening, plants, and all the little critters that share my outdoor Eden. I am not new to this industry by any means but I’m still learning new things everyday. I have a degree in Horticulture, I ran my own garden design business for 8 years and have managed a retail nursery for the last few.
I also love business and marketing. This may seem odd for a tree hugger, but if you plan to be an entrepreneur, then you’ll need to embody some of the characteristics of this type of personality too.
The Northwest Flower and Garden Show happens every February in Seattle, Washington. I LIVE for this show! Gorgeous display gardens, booth after booth of garden goodies and tons of educational seminars on every horticultural topic you can think of.
This is where the who’s who in my industry gets together to dish the dirt. I’ve admired these garden gurus and gardenista's online for some time now. I have read their books, watched their videos and shared their posts.
This year I left my hubby home and headed off to the Northwest Flower and Garden Show by myself. I made it a priority to meet as many of my favorite gardenista's as I could while I was there. I filled my calendar with seminars and book signings and planned to spend as much time as I could cruising to each and every booth. I was going to connect with people doing what I want to do and learn everything I could about what they had done to get there.
I went online and started tweeting, emailing and PM’ing the ladies I wanted to meet. The worst thing that could happen was… nothing would happen.
The week BEFORE the Northwest Flower and Garden Show was an experience in itself. Twitter blew up with everyone excited about the upcoming show, and I was connecting with so many people I couldn’t wait to meet.
One of the biggest lessons I learned came from two of the garden world's most comedic gurus I have ever met. Dawn Hummel and Stephanie Cohen are a force to be reckoned with, and these gardenista's have no problem getting dirty.
As we sat in the book signing room discussing their ideas about what makes a garden guru successful, we were interrupted dozens of times by folks that came up laughing about their recent seminar on "Trials and Tribulations of Gardening: Dirty Ladies Doing Stand-up." If you are one of those plant people that’s a stick in the mud, this was definitely not a seminar for you. In fact, Dawn joked about how a few people were a little too ‘sensitive’ to their racy garden humor and quietly excused themselves from the room.
The message here: Don’t take yourself too seriously. Even Mother Nature has a sense of humor! Ever get two weeks of gorgeous weather before the last frost date and think you can outwit her by planting your annuals earlier? Ha ha ha!
Dawn spoke about choosing things that make you happy. She clearly knows how to keep a smile on her face while working as a marketing manager for UpShoot, designing gardens, creating digital media and coordinating garden show events. I went with her to return a prop to a booth that she had borrowed for their comedy routine… I think I’ll let you just take in the photo below that she had me take of her with these two lads from the UK… do you see the joke? LOL, what a riot!
Stephanie Cohen is known by many names and describing her as a Perennial Diva certainly fits the bill. Her sassy, no-bones-about-it attitude has netted tons of respect in the industry. She relaxed back in her chair, leaning forward every once in a while to rest her hand on my knee when she wanted to make sure her message was really getting through. ‘Find your niche,’ she advised and be honest, be yourself. People can sense a phony, and the more authentic you are, the more success you will be in this business.
She also said several times that “Life does not go in a straight line.” I understood that completely… I most certainly have had to take a few detours to get to where I am now, but I didn’t forget to enjoy the view along the way.
I am so grateful for the connections, friends and new colleagues that have come into my life over the past couple of years. As a garden blogger, I have a whole ‘online’ life filled with amazing people too.