Olivia is the young entrepreneur behind the beautiful greenhouse and nursery in Detroit: Concrete Gardens. She’s known around the world for her über-creative presentations of succulents and cacti. One quick look at her page will have you feeling like you fell down the rabbit hole and into her floral Wonderland.
I’d love to start by discussing how you got started into your entrepreneurial journey. Have you always had a green thumb? What inspired you to start your own business and, specifically, focus on plants?
Although my parents aren’t huge gardeners, they taught my siblings and me the importance of nature growing up. My green thumb didn’t develop until I was much older. However, they made sure I knew gardening basics.
Once I discovered my knack for succulent care at around 16, my boyfriend encouraged me to start my plant page, and I’m so glad I decided to listen! Both starting my page and starting a business did cross my mind, but my boyfriend is definitely the reason behind all of this.
There are many reasons as to why I specifically focus on cacti and succulents, but the main reason is because they’re so forgiving! No matter what you put them through, they almost always return to their former glory with the right care over time.
What role do you see your company playing in the lives of its consumers? What’s your mission?
The role my company plays is an inspirational one; I’ve been told by many people that it’s inspiring to be a part of. And that’s exactly what my mission is, which makes me extremely proud!
Your packaging and styling is especially stunning. What role do you think little joys, like plotted plants can play in our lives?
Thank you for the compliment! I feel our memories are what make a difference in our lives. Us humans are all emotional on some level, and I believe we hold onto certain things that we associate with particular memories in life; by just looking at a specific object, our day can be made. I strive to make those kinds of memories for people.
On a deeper note, what role does beauty play? What does beauty mean to you?
The role of beauty plays into everything I see created by my peers. Beauty to me is the simplicity, yet boldness and creativity that I am surrounded by daily! Gardening or not, I am surrounded by beautiful things and even more beautiful people.
One fan wrote on an Instagram photo of yours, “your posts are always so creative & whimsical.” I must agree. How do come up with your creative displays? Do you have a particular source of inspiration?
Creative and whimsical are what I strive for! The best answer I can give you as my source of inspiration is again, my peers: meaning those who I follow, and those who follow me on my page. There are things I do come up with myself, but it is so inspiring to see what others can come up with out of almost nothing but the environment itself. The beauty, inspiration, and creativity is indescribable, and I love sharing that with others to inspire them as well.
How important is it to you to discover yourself and follow your passions in life? How would you recommend one explore oneself in order to become more intimately connected with one’s authentic self?
Discovering yourself is probably one of the most important things in life. It will allow you to become that much of a better person, and learn new things about yourself. Your passions, however, often change as you mature; so, it’s always a good idea to have a backup plan in case things fall through as you try to pursue them.
Given that reality, can you share any struggles you’ve faced as an entrepreneur? What’s something you wish you would have known back when you started Concrete Gardens?
One thing I really wish I would have known prior to starting Concrete Gardens is that my business isn’t about me. For months I was in the spotlight and I wasn’t nearly as successful as I wanted to be. I finally realized that it’s because we live in such a selfish culture, and it’s refreshing to be selfless. As C.S. Lewis once said, “True humility is not thinking less of ourselves, but thinking of ourselves less.”
What interests you outside of the work you do?
I cook, read, sketch, and obsess over small animals!
Are there any quotes or mantras you ascribe to?
“Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you.” –Steve Jobs
“It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all, in which case you have failed by default.”
– J.K. Rowling
Do you have any favourite books?
Any places you retreat to in order to quiet your mind, maybe get inspired?
To get away, I love adventuring! My boyfriend and our friends often go hiking in the woods when we can. The inspiration I get from going outside and getting dirty is probably a bit overrated but I love it all the same.
Best part of working for yourself? Worst?
The best part about working for myself is knowing that when I mess up, I can get back on my feet in no time, with no one to judge me. The worst part about working for myself, is that I’m the only person who can get me on my feet when I do mess up!
Funny short quip?
My first time kissing a boy I almost passed out!
Something about yourself others aren’t likely to know?
My age! Most people assume I’m a lot older on my page, and some even go out of their way to ask. I’m 18.
Finally, favourite plant? Best to give for a gift?
I have several favorites, I honestly couldn’t give you just one! I love Graptoveria ‘Debbie’, Echeveria ‘Compton Carousel’ and Echeveria ‘Raindrops.’
They all make great gifts, you just have to know how to care for them!