The House Plant Pixie
By: Krysta Kearney
These are the words of professional plant consultant and stylist, 25 year old Susanne Zirkiev, AKA, The House Plant Pixie, boss lady and owner at PLNTD, based out of Queens, NY. It’s a confirm, she’s got Moxxi. So what's a Pixie? A cheerful, mischievous and vivacious human. Recently, she has found her calling, (her passion) and has grown into a strong woman, an individual with spunk and courage, ready to take on new challenges, but most importantly, herself. PLNTD was born out of the shadows, in the darkest of times. Through the love and nourishment of plants, the light they seek and the air they breathe, she too found solace and growth during a time she needed it most. She had no way of knowing what lay ahead, an awakening, a discovery of a passion she never knew she had.
Turning a hobby into a career is everyone’s dream, right? How does someone take what they love and make money from it? Well, not just anyone can figure out how to do that. Without the drive, the charisma and the undeniable desire to make it happen, it won’t work. You can’t just throw some plants on a shelf and say, ‘I like these, do you want to buy them?’ PLNTD encompasses all of her expertise in one place. As a planterior design hobbyist, photographer, writer and digital creator, she is gracing people’s homes with virtual and in person consultations, providing her professional services in any way possible. Each and every client has different needs (different plants/styling/design) so she tackles all accounts with an open mind as well as her unique and individual approach.
Like we said, she’s got Moxxi, it’s something you have to have, that energy and drive. Apparently, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. Zirkiev’s parents are self-starters themselves. Both being refugee immigrants, they moved to Queens, NY as teenagers in the late eighties when the former USSR split. They are Bavarian Jews from Tajikistan, coming from a very small tribe of less than 500,000 people who mostly all now live in Queens, some in Brooklyn and other coastal states such as California. After a long list of many jobs, her father now proudly owns a barber shop in the Upper East Side and her mother is a teacher's aid. They were penniless when they arrived in the states and both now have established careers and sprouted a strong and loving family.
She witnessed the struggles and tribulations they faced while finding ways to provide and also learned the value in creating something on your own, having a relentless work ethic and doing what’s right. Coming from a family oriented culture, her relationship with her parents and grandparents is incredible, they are committed to supporting one another. She is so proud of her parents for who they are, that they are always willing to work on themselves and she respects that they are continually willing to change, grow and evolve.
“I have the best parents, their willingness to grow and change throughout their lives, I'm so grateful for, most immigrant families get stuck in their ways and I'm thankful mine haven’t.”
Growing up, the only language spoken in her household was Russian so she didn’t speak a lick of English until she went to school. Her parents pulled together their means to ensure that she would get a private school education but then at the age of ten, she started attending public school because her parents couldn't swing it anymore once they had their second child. Fortunately, she never had a hard time making friends, some kids in her culture did, considering the language barrier.
Obviously, that type of treatment is not ok. At the end of the day, that is still bullying and calling someone hurtful names. Even though people made fun of her, she still had a lot of friends and was very social. Highschool is a hard time for everyone, a time of finding identity. Teenagers are vicious, no one knows what they really want. All are just trying to fit in, but no one knows how to.
“I was growing up in a time where Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie were the ‘It girls’, I didn’t look like Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie, I can tell you that, hahaha.”
In her pursuit of self discovery, highschool is also when she discovered her queerness. Thankfully, her peers didn’t bully her for that, students weren't harassing people in her school who identified LGBTQ+. Zirkiev was unlike most teens in that she was confident in herself. Not many teens are , she put a lot of effort into figuring out who she was. She didn’t have the time to be mean to people, didn’t see the point, never even talked back to the people that bullied her. It was easier to be nice to everyone. What was the point in making an effort to be mean or hostile? She just wanted everyone to get along.
“People are so stupid. It's really like, the nature of growing up is unlearning that you don't have to be hateful to people, because those are things that are learned, you learn that way...and you have to unlearn it.”
When she was 13 she went through a traumatic life event, a medical experience that changed her life forever. Her parents put her into therapy to cope with it. By actively seeking guidance in her teens, it helped shape her to be cognizant of other people's feelings and she recognized that even if someone is a bully, the feelings could be coming from elsewhere.
Zirkiev is compassionate, aware of herself and other people's difficulties in life, and why people act the way they do. It was and still is important for her to forgive people, and reconcile with their actions. She experienced how tough life can be. Mental issues are hard to cope with, so she reasoned with bullies, knowing it was deeper than what was on the surface.
“Being in a tough mental space is hard to deal with. If I'm in therapy and it's hard for me to deal with, and there’s other people that are my age that aren’t in therapy it must be even harder for them to deal with it.”
She considers herself a very emotional and sensitive person. Along with the health issues that she was battling in her early teens, and the bullying from other students about her weight, she ended up developing a very severe eating disorder, lost a lot of weight and became unhealthy.
“My relationship with food and my body and myself was horrible, it was not good and that's something I've had to work on my whole life is to improve my relationship with my body; and it's not over. That development and growth, it never ends, you think ok great, I'm grown, I did it, I made it to this point and I’m good now, it's over…well, it’s not.”
Now in her mid twenties she has done a full circle. She looks at herself different, talks to herself with praise and addresses herself in public with confidence. It hasn’t been a smooth ride, slowly overtime she has stripped these unhealthy behaviors. Facing the harsh truths of reality, she began a massive journey of personal growth. Zirkiev faced many difficult experiences to get to where she is today, bettering her person, becoming a more confident self.
“It never goes away, it's hard with eating. It’s not like drugs or alcohol, you need it to live and when you’re battling a disorder, for example an addiction like a substance, it's not that it's easier, it's just easier to avoid. With an eating disorder you can’t put yourself in situations where you don’t have to eat, you always have to eat, and that's the most difficult thing.”
As a kid, she would binge eat. As the years went on what was once overeating became anorexia. Noone realized she had an eating disorder. She is a big boned woman, it wasn't super obvious how much weight she lost, but she lost a lot. People would say things like, ‘You look great!' and when she would gain the weight back on, they would say, ‘Wow, you need to lose some weight.’ It’s comments like these that in ways fueled her disorder. In non-American cultures being large is frowned upon, people are vocal and down right mean. When someone is large, no thoughts, no nothing is held back, people just say whatever they want, whenever they want. After many years of depriving herself of food, she ended up becoming very skinny. At the time, she found herself romantically involved in an abusive relationship and eating became a coping mechanism which led to her eventually gaining all the weight back. Currently she is trying to adopt a sustainable way of eating, a more intuitive approach, while being willing to make changes.
“It's so difficult, especially for women, because we are at the brunt of eating disorders. There is so much pressure on us to look a certain way, to act a certain way, to be precious and cute and dainty, especially in my culture, being fat is gross.”
After highschool, she went to a city college for English Literature and Sociology, she had visions of working in Human Resources and figured a stable 9 - 5 could do her good, she could with people and help to ease their lives. It didn’t last very long, she got a job offer that she couldn’t refuse, a full time position in Operations Management, so she dropped out of school and pursued her career. Having had a lot of work experience at a young age, she trusted herself to make the commitment, she couldn't turn it down.
Once she had a bit of savings, that undeniable urge to move out of her parents home became pretty real, it's not typical in her culture to move out until you're married, but she isn’t your average girl and does things her own way, in her own time. Her parents supported her decision. At the time she was in a young relationship, there were signs of it being unhealthy but she ignored it. The Covid-19 pandemic started, but she still pursued! She needed to be on her own, so she found an apartment with some roommates and made the big move.
“Part of me is really glad that I did that. There are some parts of me that think what if I didn’t do that, but those parts of me are silenced by, ‘Look at what you have now, look at what you have done.’ Being independent has been my dream since I was a kid.”
Her boyfriend ended up getting very upset and quickly turned abusive. He didn’t trust her and would constantly check up on her, it was a pandemic, she wasn’t going anywhere! Regrettably, she was emotionally dependent on him and felt like if she could just prove to him that she was home all the time that their relationship would get better. So she welcomed him to come live with her and her roommates. In retrospect, not the best decision, but there is an upside to it all.
Walking the beautiful streets of Queens, she found discovery in herself and her surroundings. Every time she would walk by Astoria's gorgeous plant nursery's, she couldn't resist and would buy a plant. Once a collection flourished, she connected with her grandmother, seeking her help in taking care of them. Her grandmother is like a plant guru, has 100’s of plants around her house and growing up, Zirkiev remembers going to her jungle oasis of an apartment and listening to her as she nurtured and spoke of all the wonderment plants had to offer. Her grandmother was so flattered that one of her own seedlings wanted to know more about plants so she would send Zirkiev’s father with starter plants when he would visit. Before she knew it, she was living in a plant lovers dream, embodying #plantlife and #plantmom, and she literally couldn’t stop collecting, pruning and nourishing. A passion was born.
“It was definitely a method of healing for me. It was a coping mechanism. I was trying to emotionally get away from the relationship because physically I could not get away from him, I was miserable all the time unless I was with my plants, so it became very imperative to my mental health to be with them, to be tinkering with them.”
Growing up in the city, in an apartment with her parents, she never seeked plants for herself, this was her first time really experimenting with them, it became an infatuation, a romance. Her grandmother was obviously a huge influence on her, teaching her about natural fertilizers, how to trim them, propagate them, she literally taught her everything, and virtually so, given it has been during a pandemic. Plants became a creative release for her and what started as just plants became researching interior design, decor and the spacial relationship between plants and people. She began styling her apartment and experimenting with various decor. Free time was spent going to second hand stores and she would buy shelving and all sorts of things to display her plants on. Her apartment became her paint brush, her tool to create art and understand all the elements that revolved around plant design. The more she got into it, the more she was able to separate herself from her toxic relationship with her boyfriend. Eventually, she broke up with him but as it never is, (especially in an abusive relationship) it didn't come with ease. Her roommates encouraged her to leave him, they gave her the extra push to totally set herself free from his emotional and mental abuse.
“They basically said, ‘Suzanne, we love you and we cannot continue to live with you or be friends with you if you’re going to stay in this relationship because he has been abusing you since you moved in here and we can't let you do it and he’s making us miserable too.’”
Her family and roommates helped her push him and his belongings out of the house. She moved into her own apartment, for the first time all on her own. It’s what she needed, as scary as it was, it was a space that allowed for her to be in touch with herself and the universe, to have some mental clarity. Jump forward to today, it's been well over a year since the move and she just moved into another place! It wasn’t the best apartment but as a space, it did so much for her. It was the place where she healed herself from the terrible relationship, from her eating disorder, all of the self hatred that she had built up and generally, she became a better person in that apartment. She became more spiritual and started to fall in love with herself and what she was creating in her home. She started exploring on TikTok and Instagram, people were responding to and loving her content and she was getting deeper and deeper into finding what she truly cared about.
Another part of her recovery has been the two cats she adopted, Daisy and Olive. Her first cat Daisy is a rescue, she found her on craigslist, she was being hoarded by a man pretending to be an adoption agency. Daisy was abused and not in a good place, she didn’t let Zirkiev touch her for a long time.
“I really related to that because I had been abused and I didn’t want to be touched at all and so we kind of learned to respect each other's boundaries and I had this beautiful experience with the cat.”
Zirkiev and her cats are equally infactuated with the plants in their house. The therapeutic properties have been healing for all of them as individuals and their relationships with each other. For her, caring for plants and starting the business are such a huge part of her healing, she couldn’t be more grateful. Recently she quit her job. After having been there for two years, she knew it was time to make a change and spend more time on her own business, The House Plant Pixie. While Moxxi spoke with her, she was scrambling, cat’s circling her begging for attention, getting ready for a job interview. Currently she is looking for something part time, that she can hold while focusing more attention on her own business. It’s amazing to look at the past two years of Zirkiev’s life and growth. What began as a hobby, a coping mechanism to get through an abusive relationship and a pandemic, in a cry for help, she turned to where the world began, and what brought life and energy to earth, plants.
“It started when I saw everyone else monetizing their passion and starting plant shops. My boss at my now former job had told me not to do that, she didn’t think it was financially lucrative and recommended consulting.”
One she decided to go for it, she became a freelancer. She is so happy she listened to her boss, she doesn’t have the financial burden that opening a store would have given her. She noticed more and more that so many people online were asking her for help with their plants, so why give the advice away for free? Her time is important and now that she is a professional, she deserves to make money at it.
“What I lacked in clients, I didn’t lack in marketing knowledge because I had worked in business for so long, so I found out how to market myself on TikTok and came up with a catchy title for what I do.”
She gave herself a professional look, and acted like she knew what she was doing. She knew little and was young at the game, not nearly enough to be giving people the advice that she was, but she spoke with confidence and continued to learn and grow. Now, she can brush her shoulders off a bit, she knows her plants! Customers started to trust her, she had a couple viral videos on TikTok which helped a lot, her social media presence started to take her pretty far and here she is, getting clients and making money! Her TikTok and Instagram accounts have really helped her business flourish. Her simple yet informative videos make you feel like you can grow plants too, and that it's normal to have failures. They are friendly, approachable and easy to watch. It's just her being herself, sharing her passion, doing what she loves most. Not only are they helpful for people at home, they are also a form of advertising for her, they exhibit her work. People reach out asking for a consultation. It's been a really smart business move, she has become a successful business woman, girl's got game! Now, not only does she have almost one million likes, she has found a whole network of professionals who help and support each other as well.
“I've always been the type of person, fake it til you make it.”
With everything she does in life, she doesn’t question, only moves forward. For example, she was a photographer for eight years, did she have any experience or know what she was doing? No. She has stood strong her whole life, first generation American, bullied in school but sticking up for herself, working at 15 and starting a career in her early 20’s, this is just another one to add to the books and we know she hasn’t even reached the tip of the iceberg.
She said for example, you can’t just decide to be a brain surgeon but you can decide to make the steps to become one. So, she educated herself, marketed herself and became a trusted individual in the field. When she started, she priced her services as cheap as possible so people would hire her. Now she has competitive prices but they aren’t set as no two projects are the same. Each client has different needs and desires. Some have a heavier focus on plant design, some on care, some on both, each project is a different size, catering to a large demographic of people and both residential and commercial businesses. Ultimately, her goal is to help and heal, to give ease to people’s lives through plants.
“I want to change peoples lives. That's honestly the best answer that I can give you. There’s something that happens to me when I talk to a new client and they tell me the experience has changed them. I have always been a very compassionate and loving individual. For me, I want someone to look at what I have done and say this is the happiest I have felt in my home.”
By having PLNTD, she wants to touch people, help make the world a better place, and what better way to do it. Plants are so positive, she is so kind and easy to get along with, both herself and the plants together can improve people’s lives. Zirkiev hopes to gain more visibility, she figures the more she is recognized, she will be able to help others with her services, hopefully she can affect more people with positivity.
Plants have been such a large part of her own personal healing that she wants other people to experience that for themselves. The way that Zirkiev talks about plants reminds us a lot of who she is, and the way she presents herself on social media. A true Pixie! Each are inviting, nurturing, understanding and sensitive. They both speak of their needs and desires, for plants it might be tilting towards the sun or showing their roots, for her it’s hanging out with her family and touching the world with PLNTD . Both are put on this earth to heal, give energy and give love to what surrounds them, to be a working part in helping to make the world a better place.
“I want to touch people, I want them to feel heard, I want them to see there’s someone there that can deliver for them. That someone can come through and help them get to a place where they can see themselves the way that other people see them.”
Q + A
Q: Is there any certain message you want your business to convey to women?
“No matter the vehicle that we use to empower others and to help others, we just have to know that we have the ability to drive and that we’re in complete control of what we can offer ourselves and what we can offer others in our personal lives and businesses, there’s no venture thats too large, there’s no idea thats unreachable, everything is possible and you don't have to box yourself into your gender, you dont have to think about yourself in the scope of, ‘This is a male dominated industry, I cant be here.' There is no industry that women cannot break through and make better.”
Q: Any other words of inspiration?
“One thing that's really important to realize is that we are so much more capable and powerful than we will ever allow ourselves to be and all we need to do is give ourselves the chance to prove it.”
Zirkiev says she used to wake up in the morning, look in the mirror and say things like, you're so tired, or so annoying….now she wakes up in the morning and says you look powerful today, you look great
Q: What does the word Moxxi mean to you?
“Hoootspa. When you have Moxxi, you’ve got drive you got character, you got PAZZAZ. I think it’s definitely a great word.”
Q: Have you come out to your parents as being queer and if so, how have they responded?
“I’ve never come out to my parents, ive never found it necessary, i've never come out and been like, ‘I’m GAY!!! Haha.” First of all I think its noone's business who i'm shaking up with and it's creepy that people care about it, it honestly boggles my mind. Ive never come out to anyone, I talk about being queer and I don't consider that coming out because its just a part of who I am. I dont have to come out. I think my parents definitely know i'm queer, but ive never been like, ‘Mom and dad, im a flaming pansexual’. I think it's definitely something thats widely not respected in our culture but my parents are very open.”
Q: Any people that inspire you in the plant business?
"Yes! Plant styling is very male dominated and there are some boss ladies coming in."
Ragean Castner - she is a plant stylist on TikTok and Instagram, recently Zirkiev got to work on a project with her styling a celebrities home.
The Disco Green House - Follow her on Instagram. Zirkiev describes her as, 'The physical embodiment that women can do anything.'
If You would like to help the Moxxi Women's Foundation Celebrate Ambitious Women who are the champions of their own story, or are interested in becoming a non profit member, please click the link below. Donate Today!!
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