How did you become the owner of Botanical Concepts?
My journey began in my teens when I worked at various times in a nursery and a retail hardware store. Later I studied anthropology and found that the botany elements covered in this field really interested me. My growing appreciation of plants led me to the landscaping world where I was a crew leader. Then, as a volunteer creating gardens at some of our local schools, I needed more information about which plants would work best. I went to a small seasonal garden store where I met the two women owners. One was a botanist and I quickly found a wonderful resource for my plant questions. When I learned that these ladies were ready to sell their operation, I decided that I was ready to try the business myself and bought it in 2016. It felt right and made sense to me, even though I was literally flying by the seat of my pants and feeling like I knew nothing! Thankfully, the ladies helped me through that first year and here I am, five years later.
What have you learned that is helping your business?
I think the most important thing that keeps my customers coming back is we try really hard not to make them feel stupid. Many of our customers are from out of state, Texas and California in particular, and they really have no idea what to plant. We make them feel comfortable and take time to explain things – like plant hardiness zones. Providing people with the right information is absolutely critical for them to feel good about buying our plants. And that keeps them coming back!
What trends are you seeing?
While we don’t sell that many houseplants right now, we’re seeing increased interest in them. We’re also seeing more demand for organic items, especially soil products. Another trend is the tighter supply of bedding plants. This will be the first year that I have to branch out and seek new suppliers. Some of the shortages are due to growers converting to hemp.
What advice do you have for finding employees?
We’ve discovered a source that some businesses may not think of – our customers. Not only are returning customers good for business, they’ve turned out to be some of our best hires. As customers they see your business operation and the culture first hand. They are committed and dependable, so they have worked out well. Another source we’ve tapped a bit are landscapers. Again, as they come to get plants for their projects, they get to know us and we build a relationship. Over time they may want less of the physical demands that come with landscaping, yet still love working with plants. Our operation can be quite attractive at that point.
How does CNGA help a small company like yours?
The Colorado Nursery and Greenhouse Association (CNGA) gives me the connections I need to stay up on all sorts of things that help me run my business – from plants to business practices to legislative impacts. CNGA keeps my knowledge sharp for my customers, too. I can assure them that what I’m telling them is good information, because I’ve learned it through connecting with CNGA and other members. I love the education I get through the association.