Owner, Daisies and Dahlias in Saratoga Springs, NY
Here we are in the dead of winter, lusting over thoughts of the magical summer garden. One can’t help but think of the aroma of flowers, gardens filled with new blooms and a majestic array of colors and textures scattered everywhere. Do you know, that the planning never stops. For landscapers and gardeners winter is a time for them to plan for the new year and conjure up innovative ideas. This is not to say that winter isn’t beautiful in itself but as Peter Seeger from The Byrds said, “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose.” It’s ok to dream a little, think of your next garden, ask questions to yourself like, “Do I want Daisy’s, Hydrangeas...Dahlias?”
Well, how about Daisies and Dahlias? Not only are they beautiful flowers but in Saratoga Springs, NY it is an actual gardening company! Daisies and Dahlias established in 2015, offers gardening services including garden design, flower box plantings, perennial garden care, mulching, weeding and indoor plant care. Their services are unique in that they treat each project individually with careful consideration to both the environment and the client. Extra attention and detail is put into every single project. Owner, Rachelle Thomas ensures that all work is done to both her’s and the clients standards while exceeding all expectations.
Hard work doesn’t come easy. There is a lot of care, attention and manual labor that goes into what not just anyone can do. You have to have a super hard work ethic, a continual drive and sense of...well, how to work with plants! Rachelle Thomas is an inspiring woman. Originally being from the area, the green thumb runs in the family. Her grandfather was the originator of the Thomas Egg Company which is a fourth generation family poultry farm located in Schuylerville, NY. They produce and distribute eggs for both wholesale and retail sales.
“Sometimes I can feel his energy, that farmer blood...you just work hard and you keep going, you drag yourself through the monotony.”
Thomas learned early on in life what sacrifice is and why it’s important. At the age of 18, while just trying to be an average senior high school student, she became pregnant. This left her feeling stuck as she was the last person she ever expected to be a teenage mom. Being a good student she had high hopes and aspirations to go off to college somewhere other than her hometown. After graduating all her friends left to embark on their new adventures while she remained home, a mother raising her child...without a partner. Thankfully she has an incredible family that have given an immense amount of support through the years and have done everything they can to help. Having a newborn made Thomas learn about life quickly and she had jump start being an adult.
“It was definitely a learning curve but there is no room for error when you are a little person's role model. So I think it definitely encouraged me to be the best I could, live life to the fullest and set that example for her.”
Along with learning all the in’s and outs of motherhood, adapting to this new role and understanding how to provide for someone, she enrolled at SUNY Adirondack. Here, she completed a two year degree. Thankfully, they had Head Start daycare on campus, a free care program for students with children. A fellow student and her were talking one day about Skidmore University which led Thomas to learn she would be eligible for financial assistance to attend. She applied and got accepted! Thomas always wanted a degree from Skidmore. It was incredibly hard being a mother and a college student.
“From the outsider I didn't look any different from a college student. So nobody could look at me and be like ‘Oh she’s living a different life.’ So that was definitely tough.”
In 2015 Thomas attained her Skidmore University diploma with a degree in Health and Exercise Science. At this time, her daughter was five. She began seeking a position that would fit her daughters school schedule and pay well. A good friend of hers is a gardener and offered her a job. One thing kind of led to another, she started getting her own clients and Daisies and Dahlias became a real thing, a fully operational business. At first it was just her and her Nissan Altima, a few loyal friends to help out from time to time and a determined attitude. Her daughter kept her motivated.
“I think it really encouraged me to prove to her that she didn’t stop me from living a good life, to show her what's possible.”
Thomas’s first and foremost priority is her child’s well being. Her love runs incredibly deep as she holds so much strength for both of them. Her daughter is what drives her to be so passionate about her career. At first Thomas was very naive about the gardening industry. She had little experience except for while attending SUNY Adirondack helping out in the greenhouses.
“In the beginning years I was in the ‘Fake it’ part of ‘Fake it until you make it.’ I definitely had doubt. I had to learn to be confident.”
With the support of her family and friends she took a big leap of faith. Now, Daisies and Dahlias have exponentially grown. With an outstanding rapport in the community, they have both established and returning clients. In recent years she has hired a seasonal staff of employees.
“Honestly it feels really good to provide a job for people. A good job that pays well. I’ve had several people say it's the best job they've ever had because you're outside, you're being physical. It's the kind of work that inherently makes people happy.”
Although it is a demanding job it is fun and exciting. Employees learn something new every day and challenge their skills. No one project is the same. Daisies and Dahlias accommodates a wide span of budgets, expectations and standards. She says that everyone has their own idea of what a ‘nice garden’ is. When speaking with clients and giving quotes there is a psychology behind it which is something to be sensitive to. She has created a model approach that is intune with each individual's goals, budget comfort and timeline. This ensures her services are accessible to everyone. It is important to her that people don’t feel intimidated.
Daisies and Dahlias remains approachable and accessible. People can receive help with their garden and landscaping needs while working within their individual parameters. Her personal approach towards business keeps customers coming back. They can rely on her and trust her.
“Don't forget the human aspect of any business.”
People seek human connection. Even with the ever growing rise in technology. Without having a brick and mortar store everything is hands on and customers interact with employees face to face. Ideas are worked on together which creates a more meaningful relationship between Daisies and Dahlias and the customer. One of the long term successes of any business is defined by the people you know and the relationships you have. It provides a foundation and opens up opportunities for growth. Naturally, as her business expands she is continually working on an ever changing proactive structure that promotes fluidity and efficiency.
She still performs all the initial meetings with clients, invoicing, scheduling, all aspects. Even with the help of her seasonal employees it is a lot to manage, so she is finding ways to cope with this growth and create an even better company.
“I am my business. There is no external Daisies and Dahlias, it's me.”
As a young leader she holds an ambitious attitude. She loves what she does as it’s serving a need in her community. Given the rural nature of the Saratoga area, the landscaping industry is large and companies go back many generations, keeping much of the industry male dominated. Primarily the bigger landscaping companies are male run. There are a couple other small female run companies similar to Daisies and Dahlias such as Dirt and Decor and Phoenix Landscaping. There isn’t any cross over amongst companies, they work on their own but she feels the support. Thomas loves and takes pride that all of her flowers and plants come from local green houses. It’s fulfilling to give back. The way that the industry works naturally lends companies to support each other. Thomas says it's a symbiotic relationship that she is so thankful for. They all help each other out. Most of the energy for the business remains local. The product, the service and the customers are all in Saratoga.
“At the end of the day i'm a gardener, a mom, an artist and i'm still learning this business thing. It's worked out (Haha) but I'm still learning.”
Thomas has always pushed hard at everything she does, every aspect of her life. She feels super proud of what she has created and recognizes what hard work can do. The risks that she has taken for herself and her daughter are paying off. When asked if she has any advice for young mothers, she says,
“A challenge for young moms and new moms is forgetting who you are because the demands of motherhood are never ending. Remember that you're a person and it's important to show that to your kid. Be real, be honest, you're not this magical fairy godmother. It's ok to not know everything about the world and it's ok to not be perfect. It's important to show that to your kid. Then they wont have these unrealistic expectations of you or the world.
There are so many challenges of being an entrepreneur and managing a family. In order to be even remotely successful you need to set realistic expectations for yourself. Thomas recognizes the value in every move she makes and the significance it will have on their lives for the future. Life is full of unpredictable things, both good and bad. She is always working towards new goals, and strengthening her connections.
“You’ve got to do it all and you have to make sacrifices.”
Ever heard the quote, “Work hard and the rest will follow?” Thomas abides by this model. Somehow things have a way of working themselves out. It may not be how you pictured it but as long as you keep pushing and stay motivated something will happen.
“I feel like my life is...a lot of accidents and hard work.”
She says that it’s ok to struggle, it’s ok to suffer. Not everyday is awesome. You can work hard and still enjoy your life. Balance is important, it’s key to achieving success. Sometimes when you can have such a passion for something it is easy to lose sight of everything else.
“Remember why you're working hard because that can get lost sometimes.”
Maybe we all need to take a bit more advice from those magical summer gardens. Or we all need to take time to, ‘Stop and smell the Roses.’ A key to success is being adaptable. Understanding your environment and surroundings while working within those parameters. Rachelle Thomas has successfully recognized where her strengths and passions can be used and developed. She is providing for her family. From that first moment she got pregnant she never allowed once for it to be thought of as a burden. Her daughter brings her enormous joy and a heightened sense of achievement. Thomas is transcendent and still has so much more growth and nurture to share.
Q + A with Rachelle Thomas
Q: How do you wind down and/or stay healthy to keep your energy up?
A: “To be honest my daughter really helps. There are times I have to stop what I'm doing and spend time with her. She is the reason that I'm doing all of this.” Having her daughter forces her to take time away from work and enjoy the pleasures of life.
Q: Do you have any advice for young mothers?
A: "Make time for yourself, even if it's just 5 minutes. Don't forget who you are.”
Q: How would you like to see the industry change?
A: "If I could see the industry change, it would be to plant more flowers.” Basically meaning, to be more considerate of our surroundings and for everyone to think more sustainably.
Q: How does it feel to have business that is five years old?
A: “It feels pretty badass. All those long nights and days, they were worth it. I feel super proud and lucky. I know not everyone has these opportunities or capabilities.”
Q: How do you take your coffee?