An Interview With Local Small Business
For the Love of Foliage
Last week I featured my first ever interview on the blog with Cleveland Plant Shop, Recreational Pots & Plants. This week, I am so excited to share the second interview in the series featuring For the Love of Foilage!
Today’s Featured Cleveland Small Business
We all have a dream plant. Are you plant obsessed and on the hunt for that rare, expensive plant to add to your collection? Or do you admire plants from a distance, and wish you could own them? Maybe you are a mix of both, but can’t quite seem to keep your plants on the up and up.
I remember when I first met Emily. It was at Plant Bingo, a local event hosted at the Winchester Music Tavern in Cleveland, Ohio. I had followed her on Instagram a few weeks earlier and was really excited to see her products in person. That night, I had a mini fan girl moment and started checking out all of her options – I didn’t think that I would be able to pick the perfect pair that night – I wanted them all! And then, in all her cool girl sweetness, Emily pulled out a pair of her banana leaf earrings, that she still needed to finish assembling. She said they were a new launch that night and I could buy them before she “officially” put them out, as long as I promised to post a picture on Instagram later.
(However, while writing this I realize that I have never posted those earrings on social media. My bad. Be sure to keep an eye out, because that post on Instagram is coming.)
Since our initial meet-cute, I have bought more earrings, shared DM conversations, and slowly made a new friend. You have seen some of my favorites featured in last year’s Spooky Season Small Business Haul. It’s not just about the earrings anymore. While I love the pairs I own, I love even more that I have had the opportunity to get to know a really cool person.
So, now is your chance to get to know Emily, her business, and be reminded of why small businesses are awesome.
Please introduce yourself with your name, and where you are from
My name is Emily, I am originally from central New York but live in downtown Cleveland now.
What was your life like before starting For The Love of Foliage?
Before starting my business I was originally in school for music, but ended up dropping out to work for a nano-coating manufacturer, where over the course of 4 years I had a hand in almost every aspect of the business. Literally, everything from customer service to system development to accounting to marketing. It was nice having a salary, but I always felt very under appreciated there and was desperate to do something more fulfilling with my time.
Can you tell us the story behind the name of your storefront?
So when I decided I wanted my business to be plant-themed, I was determined to make my business name some kind of plant pun. For those that don’t know, there is a very popular plant called the “Fiddle Leaf Fig” which is often shortened to FLF in the plant community. Fiddle Leaf Fig = FLF = For the Love of Foliage.
What inspired you to start your business? When did you officially start your business?
I have been crafting and selling since I was a little girl, and all throughout my life I had tried to find a particular craft that I could make decent money from. During the pandemic, as we saw a huge rise in all things planty, I started to notice some gaps in the marketplace for things relating to more niche plants. (Rares, if you will). So I took it upon myself to start making all sorts of different things, and eventually found that I could frame an entire business around the theme rather than the type of product. I spent a few months experimenting and eventually got myself into a 3-day black friday pop up, which I consider to be my official first step into small business ownership!
Why Are You So Passionate About What You Do?
A large part of it is that it has allowed me to start designing the lifestyle I have always wanted. It’s been so nice for the last year and a half to wake up when I want and work on what I want. Basically I like being in charge of my own success, rather than working purely to make someone else money. As for my creations themselves, there is nothing quite like watching someone walk up to my earrings, wide-eyed going “Oh my gosh this is my favorite plant!!”, and I especially love being able to give people unique ways to express their love for plants. Plus constantly adding new and improved products/designs satisfies the creative urges in me & brings me an insane level of job satisfaction.
What are your goals or what do you strive to accomplish?
One of my biggest goals for a while now has been to open up my own studio space, which I actually just accomplished this month! Beyond that I really want to get to a point where I need 1-2 employees to keep up with orders and have hundreds of plant stores across the country stocking my products. I also really want to get more people into my monthly earring subscription, which I haven’t been able to dedicate much time to yet.
What is unique to your business?
Primarily, the technique I use to make my earrings as well as the variety I offer. There are plenty of other people making plant-related products, but very few offering handmade, paper-based earrings. Of those few, no one has as many different kinds as I do.
Do you advocate for any causes through your business platform?
Yes! I have always been a big supporter of Planned Parenthood, and have been raising funds for them through my “plant parenthood” product line. I also donate to the non-profit One Tree Planted for each sale I make. My goal for 2023 is to donate enough to plant 1,000 trees in the Appalachian mountains.
What is the greatest challenge in your business?
It’s probably a tie between me and cash flow. Like most businesses, it’s hard to grow when money is tight. A big hurdle is finding the funds I need to run the ads I need to run in order to get more sales and make more money… which in turn would be used to pay for more ads, etc. At the same time, there is so much I want to design and produce and improve for my business but I also have to make, market and ship everything myself (mostly) so I have become one of the biggest bottlenecks in my business. I literally don’t have enough time in the day to do everything I want to do.
Is there any particular customer story, business ownership story, or other memory that stands out to you?
One of the coolest moments I have experienced since opening my business will forever be burned in my memory. Last summer to make ends meet I was working as a valet part time, and I did a charity event downtown where I was briefly shuttling guests around in a golf cart. This was a week or two after I participated in the Lorain Summer Market. As I was driving a cart full of people, the woman behind me tapped my shoulder and said, “did you get those earrings at the summer market?” and I was just absolutely stunned that she recognized them.
I told her that I was the girl there who made them, and the whole cart of people started raving about how much they loved my earrings and how they had all bought some and planned to buy more for Christmas gifts that year. It was the first time I can remember being “recognized” and I was on cloud nine for the rest of the night.
Do you collaborate with any other small businesses? If yes, in what ways?
I honestly don’t do too much with other businesses yet, aside from the occasional joint-giveaway or buying materials from them. I currently get some of my packaging from a woman-owned small business online and plan to have my tote bags made locally in the near future as well. Other than that, nothing comes to mind BUT I am always up for collaborations and would love to get more involved with other local businesses in Cleveland especially.
What is the most important thing people should know when interacting with a small business?
We have feelings & take pride in our work – please don’t be rude! This should go without saying… but like… maybe don’t insult our products/ proclaim out loud that your sister’s friend’s aunt could make that because she has a Cricut? (also… I’d love to see her try LOL) In all seriousness, though, please remember that a small business is not Walmart or Target or Amazon. Be kind and patient, we are just people and we are doing our best to make you quality products that come from the heart.
What advice would you have for someone wanting to start their own business?
Please please please don’t be fooled by the ultra-aesthetic IG and tiktok accounts out there with thousands of followers showing you their daily routine where they go to starbucks in a comfy lil’ sweatsuit with perfectly messy claw-clipped hair then head back to their cute home office where they make, pack and ship out 50 shirts 20 cold cups and 10 packs of stickers in cute little mailers as they spin around with joy.
That isn’t the real world. Business isn’t glamorous or cute most of the time. It’s more like staying up until 2 in the morning to get products finished, bribing friends and family to help in a pinch, sweating your ass off at summer events, wondering where the next order is going to come from, and putting every cent you have into something that people might end up hating. It can be the most rewarding thing in the world, but it isn’t for the faint of heart and it certainly isn’t easy.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try it, by all means I am a HUGE advocate for business and pursuing your dreams…. But if you go into it with unrealistic expectations, you are going to be in for a rude awakening and a lot of heartache.I don’t want to see that happen to anyone!
Honestly, you should make sure you are following me so you can be the first to hear about my new business-related blog series as it comes out over the next few months. I have been through so much the hard way which has left me with a lot of knowledge and experience to share. So, I decided to put out a series of blogs this year that go into a lot more detail on the things I find most important when it comes to starting a small business. Also find a mentor or a business-y friend! (I am always just a DM away & I answer every single message personally)
Why should society support small businesses?
Simple, because they are up against big businesses that don’t care about their customers in the same way. When you shop small, you are supporting the livelihood of a single person or a select few, rather than lining the heavy pockets of a massive corporation. Your purchases quite literally put food on my table and fertilizer in my plants.
Is there anything else that you would like to share with the community?
Ashley is a sweetheart and I am so honored to be on her blog. <3
Is there any question that I did not ask, but I should have?
Nope I think that’s good.
I have to give a big thank you to Emily for being a part of my blog. I appreciate her, and every person, who is willing to be a part of the Ordinary Hippie Community and share their story.
If you know of a Cleveland-based small business, or any small business, that you think should be featured on the blog, send me an e-mail.