After discovering the therapeutic value of plants, a San Antonio couple started the city’s first mobile nursery.
When Jasmine Garza’s ill grandmother entered hospice care last year, Garza and her fiancé Héctor Rivera made it their mission to enliven her surroundings.
Inspired by her grandmother’s green thumb and their shared admiration for plants, the San Antonio, Texas couple adorned her room with indoor greenery.
“It was starting to look like a hospital room, and we didn’t want that for her,” Garza said. “We wanted her to be comfortable.”
Though her grandmother eventually passed away, Garza, a 25-year-old former kindergarten teacher, recalls the therapeutic impact the plants had. She and Rivera, a 27-year-old former senior gardener at the San Antonio Botanical Gardens, continued to collect houseplants as a hobby, which soon evolved into an idea for a new business venture.
“For me it was therapy because we were really looking for life in the midst of a hard time,” Garza said. “Just being able to see growth everyday really inspired us. We thought if plants could do this much for our mental health, I think we could really get into the business.”
With little capital of their own, leasing a storefront was out of the question. Influenced by San Antonio’s food truck culture, the house plant enthusiasts instead converted a small cargo trailer into the city’s first and only mobile nursery: Burgeon Plant Company.
However, halfway through the build they were faced with an unforeseen challenge: the coronavirus pandemic.
“It couldn’t have come at a crazier time,” Garza said. “We had invested so much into it so we were obviously nervous because things started shutting down.”
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Garza and Rivera persevered, finishing up the build in six months. In July, they hosted their first socially distanced pop-up event in the parking lot of a fellow Latino-owned coffee shop and held subsequent pop-ups at local farmer’s markets.
The idea was well received, which Garza said could stem from the shop’s outdoor setting— often deemed safer than indoor, enclosed spaces—as well as the blooming popularity of indoor plants while people have been confined to their homes.
“A lot of people were telling us ‘man, this is really helping us through depression,’” Garza said. “We’ve learned very quickly how much plants can do for your mental health. People are struggling due to the pandemic and it’s just been awesome to see how our business has been able to help them cope with that.”
Rivera said they would often fill the small trailer to its limits with plants only to find less than half of them left by the end of most of their events.
“I think just being different from everybody else really helped people notice us at first,” Rivera added.
Garza and Rivera said they are “blessed” to be young business owners, taking pride in their family’s humble roots and their hard work that made it all possible.
“Being young, a lot of people don’t even see us as someone that could own their own business,” Rivera said. “My mom was a migrant worker… she wasn’t even able to graduate from high school. My family is just so proud of what we’re doing.”
“My grandpa is just extremely proud and for us it’s a big deal,” Garza said. “Before, I think [this] was something unattainable. Our people were migrant workers, working in the fields or just working extremely hard to get ahead in life. It makes me emotional because had it not been for them we wouldn’t have had this opportunity.”
With their newfound success, they recently opened the doors of their first brick-and-mortar shop in San Antonio’s Southtown on Oct. 24th. Both Garza and Rivera quit their jobs to operate the store full-time.
“This is our dream and what we want to have as our careers,” Rivera said. “We’ve always wanted our own store. We’re giving our whole time and money to do this so we want to go all in.”
Acknowledging that many small businesses are struggling through the pandemic, Garza and Rivera said finding community with other local businesses as they have could help. They have highlighted other local businesses on their social media and allowed some businesses to sell products at their new shop.
“Come together and see if you can put on a market or do something where you are supporting each other’s businesses,” Garza said. “Lean on each other.”
“Whenever we would go to farmer’s markets we would meet other business owners that are just starting out too,” Rivera said. “So we make friends and they support us and we support them. I think that plays a big part in gaining more momentum in your business.”
In the future, the couple plans to continue participating in farmer’s markets with their mobile nursery with the help of employees and eventually open a larger store. For now, they are relishing in their newfound success.
“It’s pretty amazing to see where we started,” Rivera said. “We didn’t even have one customer and now we have loyal customers who come back and they’ve become our friends. It’s a humbling experience and we’re excited for what comes ahead.”