Tasha Adams made a routine out of walking around the office and looking at her co-workers’ plants when she was working at the Chase credit card call center. It kept her mind occupied when she craved a cigarette – a habit she was trying to quit at the time.
“That’s what got me into plants,” Adams says. “It struck something in me, and I made a goal to open a plant business.”
She soon after purchased a beat-up trailer for $150 off Facebook Marketplace and named it Lucy. Adams says she began mowing lawns and working at Captain D’s for eight months on the side, with each paycheck going toward rebuilding the trailer.
“I wanted to make sure I was able to do this without messing up our income on something I didn’t know would work out,” she says. “I’ve done everything debt-free.”
Now, her mobile plant business, Hickory Lane Plants LLC, is on pace to double its first-year revenue. Adams largely contributes this to house plant purchases becoming a trend over the last few years. It’s only grown amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“Even in the month of March, I was doing plant deliveries. During the shutdown, I’d post plants online and they’d sell out immediately,” Adams says. “Whenever I got the trailer back out, it was the best day I’d ever had in sales, and it hasn’t slowed down since.”
According to the National Gardening Association, U.S. plant sales have grown 50% between 2017 and 2019, tallying $1.7 billion during that time.
Data surrounding the financial impact COVID-19 has had on plant sales had not been published by press time, but the Los Angeles Times and The New York Times both have reported a surge in plant sales over the last few months among millennials.
A local competitor, Mike Schaffitzel of Schaffitzel’s Flower Shop, says his family business is reeling from the trend, too.
“I’m 57, and I’ve been in the business my whole life. The last few years, it’s been way different, and it’s been obviously bigger since COVID-19,” Schaffitzel says of the demand of house plants.
He says 80% of current sales are from house plants, up from 30% earlier this year. The shop also sells bedding plants and fresh and silk flowers.
“I’ve had some people say they don’t want a dog and don’t want kids. They want house plants instead,” Schaffitzel says, with a laugh.
Hickory Lane Plants is always on the go around the Springfield area.
The trailer, Lucy, stops most frequently on Saturdays at the C-Street City Market, on Wednesdays at Mercy Hospital and at various businesses throughout the week.
The trailer is covered in green that varies from low-light, versatile plants to others Adams says are more uncommon and require more attention. Prices typically run $3-$60 and popular plants currently include hoya, snake, monstera and calathea. Declining to disclose her suppliers, Adams says Hickory Lane Plants also sells products from local artists, various gifts and a plant cleaner that she created.
With her product being a growing trend, Adams says a large part of the job is plant education.
Hickory Lane Plants’ only other employee, Jasmine Bass, says many customers need help finding a plant that fits their lifestyle.
“Part of the education process is finding what fits the need of the customer and helping them understand the need of the plant,” she says.
“They bring a lot of joy, life and air quality, and if they’re dying, they aren’t doing that. It makes our hearts swell when people send pictures of how well their plants are doing six months to one year down the road.”
Hickory Lane Plants also holds plant classes throughout the year at various coffee shops for people to learn more about caring for their greens. The classes, capped at 15 participants, typically sell out, she says, though they’ve been paused amid COVID-19.
Adams has a growth plan in place for the company with a target of 2022.
One goal is to begin growing her own plants to cut back on wholesale costs, which she says typically cut her profits in half. That will require purchasing space for a greenhouse, which she says will eventually pay for itself.
“If I grow my own plants, that’s 100% profit and that relieves the carbon footprint that’s left in the environment to get my product here,” Adams says.
She also plans to hire three more employees and purchase another trailer and truck to expand Hickory Lane’s reach. And with COVID-19 impacting social gatherings, she’s working on creating a virtual option for her plant classes and is on pace to publish an e-book this winter about plant care.
Through it all, she plans to stay mobile.
“The biggest thing for me is how hard I worked for the trailer. I did it dollar-by-dollar, and that was a huge thing for me,” she says. “To see it all come alive is just amazing.”
Evangel University senior Abby Voelker became a first-time business owner; a Springfield Public Schools venture got a new home; and Branson-based The Robbins Group moved.
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