Clara Leung is the founder of Clara's Greenhouse, providing plants and Feng Shui tips to her happy customers.
After almost accidentally selling an extra Dieffenbachia plant she had through Facebook Marketplace, Clara Leung felt encouraged and motivated to sell more houseplants. That got her to start her side business.
Clara Leung has since sold more than 3,000 plants. She turned her dining room, which is showered in natural light, into a makeshift greenhouse. About 150 plants currently fill her home. She travels around the Maryland, Virginia, and D.C. area in her spare time, delivering her plants to their new owners and imparting feng shui and plant-rearing wisdom along the way.
What's special about Clara's Green House?
Clara’s Green House was created as an outlet of my lifelong passion of utilizing Feng Shui through house plants.
My family and friends have recognized my ability of providing such knowledge with simplicity, which I have been fortunate enough to transform into a business that enabled customers to have the peace of mind of buying quality house plants that matched exactly what they were seeking within the shortest amount of time.
Why did you start Clara's Green House?
The shop started after a Dieffenbachia plant I’d nurtured grew 4-feet tall and needed to be separated into a second pot. I wanted to give it away but didn’t have a recipient in mind.
So I posted a photo of the waxy plant on Facebook Marketplace with an encouraging description: “This plant isn’t very easy to kill. It doesn’t need a lot of light, and it needs only a little bit of water.”
Minutes later, someone contacted me to buy it.
How did you start it? Did you have any previous experience as an entrepreneur?
Facebook Marketplace is the very first and only platform utilized, which has brought results far better than I ever imagined. This business is my first business ever to start up from scratch as an entrepreneur.
How did you validate your idea?
Before it started, I carried a sizable business notebook around 24/7 – whenever ideas, thoughts, and needs came to mind, I wrote them down. For example, I decided that using my informal dining room as a makeshift green house workstation worked best due to the abundance of bright sunlight that already comes in that make the plants happy.
As a result, I thought of how to best incorporate the business into my day to day activities, besides being a full-time mother and also keeping a full-time job.
Other examples include: thinking of where the most popular and efficient locations are for customers to pick up their purchases; the types of plants that customers may want from my shop the most; how to package my products, such as how to include Feng Shui, planters, stands, care advice. Once I had the complete idea, I was able to start the business without trouble.
How did you finance your project?
After being surprised by how quickly my first plant was sold, I was able to use that plus a small amount of my savings account which served as the seed fund of the business. Since I reinvested the profits from the sale of the plant sets, it is financing itself on its own.
How did you market and promote Clara's Green House when you were launching?
I created my own website and posted blogs and vlogs, plus a friend helped me create the logo for the business.
I even overcame my initial fear of hosting a booth at neighborhood market here in Washington, DC metro area, which to my surprise had everyone buying every single plant set I had to offer. Upon popular demand, I held a few more, which combined with my online sales, caused word of mouth referrals that brought many more customers than I had expected.
This then led to being noticed by media outlets such as magazines and news stations, which then led to the demand for providing hands on Feng Shui houseplant workshops that I have been fortunate to do on both coasts of this country.
How long did it take you to start getting the first results and see you could create a viable business?
Within a month – before starting, I wouldn’t have guessed the amount of response that I received from customers, but I just kept on going. I look back and am in awe of the trajectory that this business has led me upon, including new business networks, knowledge, and experience that wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for Clara’s Green House.
You started and run Clara's Green House as a side hustle. How do you organize to work on your side project while having your day job at the same time?
I have been fortunate to have a natural knack of multitasking and time management, which have helped immensely with my ability to handle every aspect of my life that I have going on. With this business, I am fortunate enough to be able to at least set aside two hours every evening, only after my son’s bedtime and my dog’s last walk.
What has been Clara's Green House revenue progression?
The revenue has tripled since the creation of the business two years ago.
Do you plan to switch full time to your business?
No, I don’t plan to switch to Clara’s Green House as a full-time position as I still have my passion to work for the Department of Justice position that I currently employ.
What do you like most about being an entrepreneur?
The knowledge that I have gained even in the most unexpected ways, the ability to create an additional stream of revenue that seemed to be easier than imagined, and also the relationships with some of the customers that have been created.
What has been your biggest challenge/failure as an entrepreneur?
Sometimes, there are potential customers that push harder than is appropriate, asking for the lowest prices that would then not allow this business to continue and grow, if I had given in to such demands. Customer relationship is very important to me, and sometimes that is a challenge in itself.
You're a special and inspiring entrepreneur. Was being deaf an obstacle to starting a business or was it a motivation for you to prove that you can make it and inspire other people?
Being deaf has not once been an obstacle since day one, and it is very fortunate that it has never been an issue in the duration of my whole business. In fact, I have been very surprised by the amount of feedback that I have received from others, especially when they mentioned that my first ever booth in DC served as a point of inspiration for them.
From that moment on, I started to recognize how my business has inspired many people which then serve as a source of motivation for me on my path forward.
What are your business goals for this coming year?
For this year, I plan to travel within the United States to provide workshops with many well-deserving organizations. In the meanwhile, I have been working on a large goal (that I wish I can share) that include many aspects to complete in order to accomplish the goal. So hopefully the progress on meeting that goal goes smoothly and hopefully exceeds my expectation, which is exciting!
How can an aspiring entrepreneur start building a side hustle business now? What would be a good business type to start as a beginner?
I’d like to answer by sharing a few simple tenets that I followed as what happens inside of you as an entrepreneur is as important as the action of starting up a business:
1) Be positive and optimistic.
2) Don’t expect too much.
3) Be ever conscious that things can be worse than what is happening.
4) When things go bad, don’t give up and keep going.
5) Be prepared if things fail or don’t work out. Don’t let it affect personal life.
6) Be patient, cool and friendly with ALL customers.
7) Practice to know that “I will be fine” whenever experiencing unexpected challenges, such as customers’ rude attitudes
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
To be honest, one of many habits for myself is to continuously say to myself: “I am happy, hence customers are happy. This happens all the time! I love it.”
What are the main benefits of houseplants and what would be a good plant to start with?
Understanding and especially utilizing the unique Feng Shui energy that each houseplant give off, and even knowing which houseplant kill Feng Shui energy. Another great benefit is the type of air purification that it provides; there is no on and off button as it just does it naturally, which is simply amazing! For the beginner plant owner, I strongly recommend the Snake Plant due to the ease of care plus the energies that they possess.
What's your favourite quote?
As my father always said, “First bitter, sweet later.” When starting something new, whether it be a new goal or habit, you may face obstacles in various ways. Yet when you accomplish what you set out to do, the feelings of reward cannot be beat.
Any good book to recommend to an aspiring entrepreneur?
I admit that I have been too busy to resort to books written in the area of entrepreneurship. However, I do not doubt that there is a wealth of books that inspire different types of individual entrepreneur’s backgrounds and needs.
For me, Forbes is the only magazine that I don’t mind spending my spare time to read. They have provided some articles that caught my eyes, because they do apply to my business background/experiences, which I love to see.
Learn more about Clara's Greenhouse at www.clarasgreenhouse.com
Read more about Clara Leung's story on Forbes and House Beautiful.
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