With a Grandmother who was an avid gardener, Karen Hughan helped plant flowers and vegetables each spring, and this experience planted the seeds of her future career. Karen’s father also loved to garden and as he passed away at a young age, gardening became a way of staying connected to her roots. Choosing a degree in horticulture and natural resources, she landed a job in interior landscaping and began a corporate career that lasted 20 years.
Providing plantings and gardens for malls, atria and office buildings, she worked her way up the ladder, and became a managing director. But one night in a hotel in California when her daughters were 5 and 9, she counted the number of full weeks a year that she was home, only 14. Her friend remembers her sobbing and trying to figure out how she could spend less time traveling for work and more time at home. She and a partner decided to start their own firm in interior/exterior landscaping, hoping she would be able to have more time for her growing family.
That plan backfired, as she grew the business to more than 20 employees in two years; managing a small business and a family proved overwhelming. So she made a difficult choice. Karen sold the business and she and her husband downsized their lifestyle from Atlanta to a small CT town, so she could be closer to extended family and be a full time mom. Karen says, “It ended up great, I can’t imagine not having made that choice.” But she says she felt weird not being at work all day.
Once her two girls were in high school, she had more time for herself and missed the process of landscape design that had once been such a huge part of her life. One of Karen’s friends had a home goods store in town and needed someone to offer the green things that a home needs. So Karen sold terrariums and houseplants in the store. This allowed her to build her gardening reputation in her new hometown. Staying in the shop just a year, retail was too intense with teens to run around, she put out the word to her following that she was utilizing her skills for garden design. Through word of mouth jobs began to trickle in.
She found she was busy drafting designs in the spring and fall. But she needed to fill other months so her entrepreneurial intuition led her to her diversify her services based on the seasons. Karen provides container and window box planting in the early spring. Getting creative with help, she is able to hire college kids, who have some time before their real summer jobs begin. In late fall, she decorates clients’ homes for the holidays. Working with a homeowner’s vases, containers and unique family pieces, Karen’s original ideas can take a blank slate and create a festive atmosphere that is very personal. Karen’s garden designs strive to incorporate a client’s existing landscape as well. Working within a budget, she’ll suggest new and often move existing plantings.
So her calendar is full and varied – spring and fall, planning and drafting gardens and overseeing landscape installation. Early summer, it’s containers and window boxes. Holidays keep her busy with home decorating. She has clearly defined services in each season. Filling in the other months with flower arranging and weddings, Karen has a full time job but on a schedule of her own making.
Her oldest daughter, Kirsty, has entered the entrepreneurial world by starting her own web design business, including designing her moms’ site. Karen is pleased to see her daughter follow in her footsteps, having inherited the creative, entrepreneurial gene. Currently designing and creating in her home and garage, Karen is considering a new venture into a space of her own, as her youngest daughter is off to college. Who knows, she could be planting the seeds for her next big move.
Contact: [email protected], www.goodgardensllc.com
Set a business calendar that works for you and gives your venture variety and income diversification.