business

Creative Profile: Zen Succulents

When I first stumbled into Megan's store a couple of years ago, I was really excited to finally check out the store friends were telling me about. I was attracted to the cute handmade pottery plant holders and adorable succulents, but after the first purchase I was sold. I didn't just buy into the products--the plants and pottery and the like are all incredible quality--but you can get those things other places as well. I bought into Megan and her vision. Even the day that I went in to take pictures of Zen Succulents for this profile, it was so easy to fall into easy conversation with this boss lady. We talked about plants, the cultural significance of storefronts in cities, and the importance of smart business choices.

As much as I  love plants, I'm sometimes not so great at keeping them thriving or alive. But Megan has answered every question I have ever had about why my plants whether it was dropping her a quick message on Instagram or popping into the shop. She troubleshoots my plant ailments and sends me off with the doctor's orders. I love this shop and I can't wait to see how it grows. 

As some of you might know, Megan is about to open her second store front here in downtown Raleigh, so we thought no better time to give you a tour through her business, and if you keep reading you can get some sneak peaks into the store, opening July 11th!

History of Zen Succulents  

It really started as a terrarium and plant craft business with my mother and I for a passion in planting greenery that started at a very young age. It started as that in 2012 focussing on selling plant crafts, terrariums, focussing on succulents, all over the United States. But then that business really morphed into something else, meaning that we didn't just want to sell plants to our customers, but we also wanted to provide that education, that knowledge, that community as well. And that is what lead to the Zen Succulent to being that terrarium and plant craft business, but leading into a storefront in a workshop space, in a gathering space for likened people who love low maintenance greenery, love community, love caring for something other than themselves. in 2016 became in spot. 

What got you started in plants and plant care? What inspires you?

Honestly my mom. My mom has a passion for greenery and just working with her hands. She's a scientist by day and helps out with the business still.  She is a career scientist working forty years for the government, but over all that time she has always been very crafty. She still is. When I was five years old I remember her going to local craft fairs selling her hand made embroidery t-shirts. I always saw my mom having that 9-5 job along with a side hustle. I learned my plant care from her because she liked having plants in the house and we learned how to take care of them. Instead of our chores just being mowing the lawn and taking out the trash, it also included taking care of the living things around us. Things that inspire. me? My mom, nature, all the delight in color are the things that inspire me. 

Zen Succulents - Lifestyle Blog - Small Business - Creatives - Creative Consultants - Product Photography - Raleigh Creative Community - Raleigh Small Business

What are some things that are unique to being woman of color business owner?

The fact that you're seeing something different than the normal. I don't like to say that my shop has a color. It is a little bit more gender oriented with the lighter pastels that tend to be feminine, but the first thing that people notice is this gorgeous painting painted by Rachel Campbell, a Durham Artist by way of New Zealand, and her name is Melinda. Melinda is a gorgeous Durham African American Woman that is up in age. Ms. Melinda had lived a lot of years, but you can see this woman is inspired and joyful and surrounded by her plants. I love that painting. It is so amazing to have that piece in the shop because it does give a sense of this is a shop created by someone not in the mainstream, but it also brings together the fact that we are able to do a lot as woman business owners. It is very inspiring to be a woman of color because there isn't really a lot of that within the realm that I am in so its nice to show a great representation of my culture as well as a female business owner. 

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What makes your plant shop different? What about your brand stands out?

As I mentioned earlier, the Zen Succulent really morphed from being specifically terrarium, plant crafts, and other ways to display plants to being that neighborhood plant shop and gift shop, giving that opportunity that was allowed to myself when starting my business of having maker's independent micro businesses that share a creative theme is outstanding. We not only provide those plants and those great giftable items but we also provide the knowledge to take care of those plants so that they are living past that day and you are building confidence within yourself to continue to maintain them. We're not only providing those great looking, fun plants, but also providing the knowledge so that you gain confidence to take care of them. Our original store in Durham is 400 square feet. It is not large at all. It is baffling that we are able to have so much in that space, but everything that is in there is intentional and has a purpose so that our customers don't feel overwhelmed and its also cozy, and we have what you need.  

Zen Succulents - Lifestyle Blog - Small Business - Creatives - Creative Consultants - Product Photography - Raleigh Creative Community - Raleigh Small Business
Zen Succulents - Lifestyle Blog - Small Business - Creatives - Creative Consultants - Product Photography - Raleigh Creative Community - Raleigh Small Business

How do you push yourself to learn more about plants and their care and go further with your business?

The big element is the plant care and plant knowledge base. This year we have become very interactive with our Instagram stories this year. Now every Tuesday we provide Plant Tip Tuesday where we select a low maintenance plant in the storefront where we tell you about the history, the care, also how you can style it in your home, and giving you more perspective of a plant that you might only see from a flat picture on the internet. We are trying to take this a step further on our blog which is revamped with out plants tips and knowledge. It's something we can catalogue. Customers would say 'we missed your plant tip Tuesday" so now we catalogue and put it on our Youtube Channel. You're never not learning when it comes to this. We are always picking up the latest books and talking to trusted growers and just finding out different tips we can trickle down to our customers. 

Zen Succulents - Lifestyle Blog - Small Business - Creatives - Creative Consultants - Product Photography - Raleigh Creative Community - Raleigh Small Business

What is the hardest thing about owning this small business in the RDU area?

Really, our business is such a niche market. You have to remember we started our business in 2012 online. We were on the online platform Etsy when it was in the heat of things, but we also took leaps and bounds by being in local shops and taking on local pop ups and putting our products in  local stores like West Elm and Madewell. We were able to move our business and see what people liked as we continued to build capital and build our business. During that whole time from when we opened a shop in 2016, we were trying to build a following. We were immediately able to see what was selling and what was not, so that we could curate our store. We were also able to go into those craft fairs as makers, and then see our friends next door and see what they were selling and build personal relationships with them. When I opened up the store it was so awesome to call on friends for specific items to be in the stores. We were able to utilize the skills of where we were as makers and bring that to the RDU area. That's not the hardest thing of owning a business in the area. It's really just a rewarding thing. 

Zen Succulents - Lifestyle Blog - Small Business - Creatives - Creative Consultants - Product Photography - Raleigh Creative Community - Raleigh Small Business

Describe your office space and what your most productive time to work is.

I am an early bird. My fiancé and I have a little puppy named Archer. So Archer and I are waking up at 5:45 and we start our day together by 7. That is my prime time because my brain is up and it is moving. I can shoot off emails and design ideas. I can go into the store front or green house before the traffic gets on the road and do a great deal of work. My workplace is the same cash wrap that our customers in Durham check out at. Its a lovely L shape cash wrap, my height. Its perfect height for me to pull out my laptop and my workbooks. My workspace is the store front where I can be inspired by the things around me. I can see what I need to order and see how the shop is morphing. 

Zen Succulents - Lifestyle Blog - Small Business - Creatives - Creative Consultants - Product Photography - Raleigh Creative Community - Raleigh Small Business
Zen Succulents - Lifestyle Blog - Small Business - Creatives - Creative Consultants - Product Photography - Raleigh Creative Community - Raleigh Small Business

What is your favorite plant or your favorite project that you’re working on?

I have worked personally on some amazing projects. I have had some stints working with the Home and Garden Television and their Instagram stories, even building a ten foot succulent wall which was an amazing and growing experience. We have also written a book called "Modern Terrarium Studios." All of those have been some exciting projects to work on. I would like to say that my favorite project to work on has also been the most stressful and that is working on opening up the storefront. 

The jade plant has to be, if I had to say, one of my favorites at the moment. It's sturdy and meant to bring good luck. It's party of the succulent plant so its so easy to maintain and it can grow super large. It's a forever plant. Very cool.

Zen Succulents - Lifestyle Blog - Small Business - Creatives - Creative Consultants - Product Photography - Raleigh Creative Community - Raleigh Small Business

What’s the most tedious but necessary task in owning a business? How do you hustle through it?

It comes to delegating. Delegating tasks are a huge bit of growing your business. Delegating tasks allows you to do something you're really passionate about and put the things that are necessary on the plate of someone else that might take away your joy. For me it was hiring an accountant. I love looking at the numbers, but I would rather focus on building a beautiful store front and an online presence than looking at those details and getting all those papers together. As soon as the new year hits you are getting off that high from doing so well during the holiday season to all of a sudden "Oh my gosh tax season is coming." I found an accountant who only focusses on small businesses.

Zen Succulents - Lifestyle Blog - Small Business - Creatives - Creative Consultants - Product Photography - Raleigh Creative Community - Raleigh Small Business

What are some goals you have for your business?

Goals are something I try to have as short term as possible. I don't know everything and I don't know how my business is going to go. I envision my business online at one point and that's what I made happen. I envisioned when the market was right to have a storefront and everything lined up. Really another goal has been to bring a little bit more of that to another area that our customers were coming from that we new if we brought it to them in a different experience, a larger storefront, it would provide more avenues for plants and taking it to that next level (hint hint Raleigh Storefront). I can't wait to share more of those goals soon (as in July 11th!).

Zen Succulents - Lifestyle Blog - Small Business - Creatives - Creative Consultants - Product Photography - Raleigh Creative Community - Raleigh Small Business
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What piece of advice would you give to someone just starting out in their small business? 

We started ours a little bit different than most. We didn't have a whole bunch of capital to start off with. We didn't max out credit cards. I didn't have one. I started the business when I was 24, shortly after college. Literally, the first order that was sold I used that profit from that to make the second one. Everything was a slow build for us. We only used the money that we had. That made me strap down to figure out exactly where I wanted to put that money so it wasn't frivolously going out the door. That slow and constant build really is something I would encourage a small business to do. I also encourage you to test the waters. We went to those craft fairs and went to those shops. At some of those fairs, even the disappointments, we were able to test it out in different markets. 

Zen Succulents - Lifestyle Blog - Small Business - Creatives - Creative Consultants - Product Photography - Raleigh Creative Community - Raleigh Small Business

What do you use most for marketing? What is your favorite social media platform? 

It has to be Instagram. Our plants are just so visual. Instagram sums it up without even using words that goes across languages and barriers.

Sneak Peak of the new shop coming soon to Raleigh

Zen Succulents - Lifestyle Blog - Small Business - Creatives - Creative Consultants - Product Photography - Raleigh Creative Community - Raleigh Small Business
Zen Succulents - Lifestyle Blog - Small Business - Creatives - Creative Consultants - Product Photography - Raleigh Creative Community - Raleigh Small Business
Zen Succulents - Lifestyle Blog - Small Business - Creatives - Creative Consultants - Product Photography - Raleigh Creative Community - Raleigh Small Business
Zen Succulents - Lifestyle Blog - Small Business - Creatives - Creative Consultants - Product Photography - Raleigh Creative Community - Raleigh Small Business
Zen Succulents - Lifestyle Blog - Small Business - Creatives - Creative Consultants - Product Photography - Raleigh Creative Community - Raleigh Small Business
Zen Succulents - Lifestyle Blog - Small Business - Creatives - Creative Consultants - Product Photography - Raleigh Creative Community - Raleigh Small Business
Zen Succulents - Lifestyle Blog - Small Business - Creatives - Creative Consultants - Product Photography - Raleigh Creative Community - Raleigh Small Business

You can purchase Megan's terrariums, plants, and other gift items in both store fronts, located in Downtown Durham and Downtown Raleigh, as well as online. Be sure to support this creative and small business this coming week for the opening of the Raleigh Storefront. We hope to see you there! 

Durham Location: 125 E Parrish Street, Suite 100 A, Durham, NC 27701

Raleigh Location: 208 S Wilmington St, Raleigh, NC 27601 

 

Creative Profile: PupVenture

Meet Lauren and Alison 

I was lucky enough to meet Alison through an amazing Reddit Ladies Group (because Yes that is totally a thing) and discovered not only is she fun and amazing but she is a badass lady boss. As someone who is constantly on location for shoots I knew I needed a reliable, fun, and trustworthy person to take care of my pups while I'm away. 

These two are nothing short of amazing. They come to your home, walk your dogs, give them all the love and attention they need, throw ball, and send you photos and updates every time they stop by. If my pup's smiling faces on the screen are any indication of how much they love these two I know your pups will love them just as much! 

Interested in learning more - Read Below or visit their website here. 

raleigh dogwalkers - raleigh dogwalking services - north carolina creative community

 

How did you get started? How did you know you wanted to start this business?

We had known each other when we both worked in the DTR bartending community, and both needed a change. Lauren got work at a doggie daycare and a locally owned natural dog and cat supply store. Alison started walking dogs and doing pet sitting on the side. Over brunch one day we connected on our love of pets and our desire to start a business that treated pets as we would want ours to be treated - like family.

pupventure raleigh - raleigh dogwalking services -

What is the hardest thing about being a small business owner? 

Although it is a very rewarding aspect of owning your own small business, scheduling time off for yourself can be challenging. The thing people don't realize about a dog walking business in Raleigh is how much driving we do! Because we prefer to give a personalized experience to each of our clients and because of how spread out Raleigh is, we spend a lot of time in our cars!

raleigh dogwalkers - raleigh dogwalking services - north carolina creative community

 

What are some of the pros and cons of your business?

Pro: Hanging out with dogs all day

Con: Hanging out with dogs ALL DAY.

raleigh dogwalkers - raleigh dogwalking services - north carolina creative community

 

What is your favorite part about your job?

All the amazing pets we get to develop amazing relationships with and to hopefully enrich the lives of by providing a personalized service.

 

raleigh dogwalkers - raleigh dogwalking services - north carolina creative community
raleigh dogwalkers - raleigh dogwalking services - north carolina creative community

Tell Us about your services.

- Dog Walks - 30 minute walks that focus on good leash manners and exercise

- Drop Ins - 30 minute visits that are our response to pet sitting. We visit the dogs up to 4 times a day for personalized care, attention, exercise, and feeding.

- Overnight Camp - your pet comes to stay at either Lauren or Alison's house! Doggy Camp!

- Wedding Services - want your pet at your wedding or for your engagement photos, but still want to enjoy your day? We're here to help with that!

And all services include picture and updates sent to you!

 

raleigh dogwalking services - raleigh dogwalkers - north carolina creative community
Shark Attack Corgi -  visit his Instagram here. 

Shark Attack Corgi - visit his Instagram here. 

raleigh dogwalking services - raleigh dogwalkers - north carolina creative community
north carolina creative community - raleigh dogwalkers - raleigh dogwalking services

What are some goals you have for your business?

To continue to develop a clientele of pets that become a part of our extended family

 

What piece of advice would you give to someone just starting out in their small business?

Be sure you love and have a passion for whatever business you start, because getting started is a lot of work so you must truly enjoy and feel fulfilled doing so.
 

north carolina creative community - raleigh dogwalkers - raleigh dogwalking services

What do you use most for marketing? What is your favorite social media platform?

We primarily use word of mouth marketing - networking the community and building trustworthy relationships with our clients who go on to recommend us to their friends, family, and neighbors. Our favorite social media platform is Instagram because it's fun and we get to share all of our incredibly cute furry friends with the world.

 

raleigh dogwalking services - raleigh dogwalkers - north carolina creative community
raleigh dogwalking services - raleigh dogwalkers - north carolina creative community

How can we book your sessions?

The easiest way to get in touch with us is to email us at pupventureraleigh@gmail.com or go contact us through our website at www.pupventureraleigh.com
 

To see more adorable pups check out their Instagram here. 
 

 

Creative Profile: Amy Richards Illustration

The moment we stepped into the magical, whimsical office of Amy Richard's Illustration we knew we were in for a treat. When I was working for a local Mexican restaurant I actually stumbled upon her "Taco" illustration and reached out to feature it on their Instagram page. From there I saw her at a few Sola pop-up markets and immediately fell in love with her designs. 

We are so honored to have her as our February creative and if you go to her page and sign up for her newsletter you'll gain access to her monthly desktop calendar backgrounds. 

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How did you know you wanted to start this business? How did your craft come about?

Towards the end of college, while working on my art education degree, I got really into children's book illustration. I knew then that while I planned to teach, ultimately I was an artist first and would find a way to work towards that as my main gig.

creative community - amy richards illustrations - lifestyle blog
creative community - amy richards illustrations - lifestyle blog
creative community - amy richards illustrations - lifestyle blog

What is the hardest thing about being a small business owner?

For me it is taking breaks. Even the stuff I don't really like doing (i.e. finances, tax stuff) I don't really mind doing, if that makes sense. I think its because its all mine, its my thing that I have worked to build and even if its just entering my monthly info into my finance spreadsheets, I'm still pretty content to do it. I have a hard time putting the work down—it's pretty much always on my mind, especially ideas for what I will create next.

creative community - amy richards illustrations - lifestyle blog
creative community - amy richards illustrations - lifestyle blog
creative community - amy richards illustrations - lifestyle blog

Tell us a little bit about your design themes! What draws you to the elements and mediums that you use? What inspires you?

I started using watercolor about 5 years ago now. I loved the look of it, it wasn't quite as popular as it is now and I didn't really know any other artists in the area that were using it. As soon as I started I was hooked. I love the way that it can be used to create super broad strokes that look light and effortless or the way I can apply it in a more detailed way, as with my pet portraits. My favorite subjects are flora, fauna, & food!

creative community - amy richards illustrations - lifestyle blog
creative community - amy richards illustrations - lifestyle blog

Describe your office space and what your most productive time to work is.

My studio space is as whimsical as my art. It is somewhat the aesthetic of the bedroom I always wanted as a kid. The walls are the softest shade of sea foam green and I get incredible lighting from two windows that sandwich my desk. I have lights, colorful garlands, art, greeting cards, photos, notecards, patches, and all kinds of treasures adorning the walls that keep me inspired. One of my favorite things is an old photo of my mom, me at 2 and my godmother who has passed, but was one of my and my mom's fav people ever. There is pretty much always a dog or two or three snoozing under my desk—I don't know how they all fit! I love working from home and do my best work for illustrating first thing in the morning.

creative community - amy richards illustrations - lifestyle blog
creative community - amy richards illustrations - lifestyle blog
creative community - amy richards illustrations - lifestyle blog

What is your favorite piece and why?

I think the pet portraits are my favorite. I am so attached to my 3 pups and I love creating something for customers that is so personal and can be enjoyed for a long time. Recently I have been commissioned to do more and more memorial portraits which is makes me feel pretty humbled. The fact that folks trust me to create something so special is really pretty neat.

creative community - amy richards illustrations - lifestyle blog
creative community - amy richards illustrations - lifestyle blog

What are some goals you have for your business?

One of my main goals for 2018 is to finally finish and self-publish a children's book I started 4 years ago. I have recently come up with some new directions for imagery and being that its a picture book, the illustrations have to be just right. I have completed/ about 50 illustrations so far and am re-working about 70% of them again this year. Some of the illustrations I'll be recreating for the third or fourth time! I am also working hard to find new wholesale partnerships both locally and regionally.

creative community - amy richards illustrations - lifestyle blog
creative community - amy richards illustrations - lifestyle blog

What piece of advice would you give to someone just starting out in their small business?

As a creative, the work load is about 30% creating and about 70% other stuff (marketing, biz things, emails, newsletters, social media, filling orders, etc.) Be prepared to put in the time to learn and make mistakes. Everyone has their own journey- mind definitely looks less like a straight line and more like a tangled ball of yarn! That is where the good stuff lives, in the journey. Also be kind. This community is small and you never know when a connection may come around again in your life.

creative community - amy richards illustrations - lifestyle blog
creative community - amy richards illustrations - lifestyle blog
creative community - amy richards illustrations - lifestyle blog

What are your most effective marketing tools? What are some Things that drive your business?

Recently, after about a year of dread, I started a monthly newsletter and I am totally loving it! I thought a lot about the kind of content I was willing to subscribe to and am striving to make my connections with people authentic and informative. We can't control the algorithms of social media but we can control things like our own website domains and newsletters. Folks in the maker community that I admire made their newsletters into types of 'clubs' which seemed really fun to me and that is how I came up with the "Sloth Mail Club."

Illustrations for a children's book Amy is working on. 

Illustrations for a children's book Amy is working on. 

creative community - amy richards illustrations - lifestyle blog
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Where can we buy your products?

The easiest place to find the widest variety of products would be in my Etsy store. You can currently find some of my products at Relish Cafe, Sola Coffee, Artspace, Bulldega & Ollies.

creative community - amy richards illustrations - lifestyle blog
creative community - amy richards illustrations - lifestyle blog
creative community - amy richards illustrations - lifestyle blog

Is there anything else you'd love for your audience to know about you? 

I'm a big believer in the power of a simple greeting card in someone's mail box to brighten their day. I come from a family of card senders and my Mom taught me the importance of snail mail correspondence, especially in an age where people can be too busy to send a text. I really think card sending and writing notes by hand is a lost art. I am also a believer in the necessity to surround yourself in your space with images that move you and keep you inspired.

creative community - amy richards illustrations - lifestyle blog
creative community - amy richards illustrations - lifestyle blog
creative community - amy richards illustrations - lifestyle blog

Don't forget to check out Amy Richard's Illustration website, Etsy shop, or follow along on Instagram. 

If you want to get to know Amy a little better why not sign up for her SkillPop class this month on February 13th and take home a floral watercolor painting! 

creative community - amy richards illustrations - lifestyle blog
creative community - amy richards illustrations - lifestyle blog