Meet Jill Plumb from Art of the Garden
Name of Business: Art of the Garden
Name of Principals: Jill Plumb, Zinda Colburn, Jennifer Ott Cameron
Location: Woodland, California
Sunset Planting Zones: 9 and 14
Years Gardening: 45
Years In Business: 5
Tell us about Art of the Garden:
We design and manufacture the M Brace® and the HighRiser®, recycled sheet metal corners that make it easy and fast to make a raised garden bed…and it looks great when you’re done! We use a laser cutter and we now use a robot welder, affectionately known as “Sparky.” Our offices are in Woodland, CA, just north of Sacramento. Our factory is in Galt, CA, just 45 minutes away. We have two full-time employees, and one part-time employee, and it’s an ALL WOMAN operation!
Entrepreneurship is challenging! What inspired you to start your own business?
I was inspired to start the business by friends, neighbors and family who loved my invention, The M Brace® “Simply embrace your garden.” Also, total strangers were trying to buy them out of the back of my station wagon, so it seemed like a good idea to start a company! I was a high school teacher for 28 years, and an incorrigible self-starter, constantly coming up with new ideas and programs to enhance the learning experience, so it was an easy transition to entrepreneur.
Walk us through a day in your life as a business owner:
Mornings, out in the garden picking and eating what’s available, watering, weeding, a meditation on the deck if it’s not too cold and the chickens stay quiet. Answer emails from everyone, check orders that arrived overnight, make shipping labels and ship orders, return phone calls, communicate with office staff about invoices and PO’s to our factory for larger retail orders, check in with Zinda about projects we are working on, check the website to be sure it is functioning correctly for our customers, make a green drink from the garden using varying combos of chard, kale, parsley, beet greens, mandarin orange, spinach. It tastes awful, but I think of it as medicine for continued good health, and I love knowing it grew right here in my garden. After a bout with cancer in 2011, I am now fully aware that my health is my #1 priority. My business hums to a different tune every day. I go with what MUST be done, what NEEDS to be done, and then I am OPEN to what comes my way!
What about your business has given you the most pride?
I am most proud that I invented the M Brace®, then followed it through the patent process, then found a US manufacturer, then actually started Art of the Garden! I have heard from so many inventors and entrepreneurs who have ideas, but do not follow through. Because I did, I have no regrets. I speak to entrepreneur groups in my area, and always encourage them to GO FOR IT, don’t just think about it. Also, I am SO PROUD of all the gardens we have helped establish all over the USA. A portion of every sale goes toward starting school and community gardens, and we are SERIOUS about it. We give when we are asked, period. No applications, no proof or pictures required. We do this as a practice in generosity, not as a marketing tool, but it ends up being both.
What about your business has been the biggest challenge, and how did you overcome it?
The biggest challenge has been to grow our business with limited capital. We are still working on that! We could have stayed a small manufacturer, local, Internet based, but we wanted to get into distribution to garden centers nationwide. It is a complicated, time-consuming process, and We WILL SUCCEED.
What advice would you give to a new business owner who is just starting out?
Master Excel, have sufficient working capital to grow your business, make sure you truly love what you are doing, and never put your business before your health.
What is it about your products and/or services that make them special, unique, and worth having?
All of our M Braces® are made from 100% recycled steel. No new iron is mined from the earth to make our products. We are very proud of this, and would not have made the M Brace® any other way! Additionally, the M Brace® was designed to slowly rust over time…becoming beautiful garden art in the process. We want to be sure that, many years from now, our M Braces® (and Squiggle Stakes, and Edgers, and Mini’s) will not be clogging up landfills, but instead will be slowly transforming into their original element: iron.
What’s your next project?
My next project has yet to present itself…my mind and heart are open and waiting!
And finally, how does your own personal garden and/or gardening enrich your life?
My garden feeds me, gives me room to wander and think, and excites my creativity. I have not developed an encyclopedic knowledge of plant names and diseases, nor do I trim everything up nice and tidy. My garden is its own space, not my project. It’s full of bees, butterflies, aphids, ladybugs, and those pesky green worms that eat EVERYTHING. I share with every creature in the garden, and my reward is always greater than I could imagine.
ART OF THE GARDEN LINKS: