Her love for plants as a child led her to pursue her passion and bring greenery into urban life
"I get a lot of satisfaction out of being able to show someone something new that they didn’t know before...For me, that’s teaching people to be confident about caring for plants."
Getting her hands dirty in the garden was a common sight for Jen ever since she fell in love with gardening at a young age. With a special spot in her mother's vegetable garden specially designated for her, Jen started growing veggies, flowers and all greens growable. Her strong passion for planting and growing eventually led her to take the next step in life, where she went on to study Environmental Sciences in college and was even involved in several non-profit projects like farmland preservation and urban food production.
And it's not just about all things green for Jen - running her own business has always been on the back of her mind as well. With her inner DIY-er and entrepreneur self, a successful shop on Etsy selling star-shaped lanterns was launched. Not long after, Jen proceeded to take on a management role in a wholesale garden supply company. Though it was a valuable opportunity, something about the office life was just not for Jen. This realization became a turning point for Jen as she decided to quit her job, and pursue her true passion for plants and running her own business!
With this goal deeply rooted in mind and months of hard work, Jen launched a successful fundraising campaign and realized her dream of making peoples' lives greener in her very own shop. Keep reading to learn about Jen's story of how her passion led her to build a career around what she loves in her classes today!
Hi Jen, can you introduce yourself and tell us more about the experiences that you offer through Verlocal?
My name is Jen. I’m the owner of Urban Sprouts in downtown Renton! Urban Sprouts is a combination of all the things I love: organic gardening, crafts, plants, community, and hand-made treasures. My mission is to make it easy and fun for people to bring greenery and DIY into urban life. It can be difficult to know how to care for and incorporate plants into our small busy urban lifestyles and the benefits of having them around are boundless!
We offer fun hands-on classes, post-care support and oodles of fun and easy ways to display and care for plants; and 3 - 4 classes a week on a variety of topics meant to be fun and inspiring! Our most popular are living succulent frames, terrarium building, soap making, bonsai, kokedama, and our yoga, mimosas and terrariums class. We love being a part of the Verlocal community to not only help our customers find other great experiences offered by other hosts in our area but for others to find us as well.
Tell us about your background: When did you first become inspired to do what you love?
Ever since I was a little kid I’ve loved being in the garden. Up to my elbows in dirt whenever I was able, my mom always gave me a spot in the garden that was mine to do with as I please. I grew everything and anything I could get my hands on. Flower, veggies, shrubs, you name it. This is where I found my love for plants and gardening.
In college, I studied Environmental Sciences and focused my studies on urban agriculture and sustainable resource use. I did numbers of internships where I worked with non-profit organizations on projects such as farmland preservation, wetland conservation, urban food production and more. These in combination with playing key roles in small businesses in nearly every employment position I ever held gave me the background and the tools to inspire me to start something of my very own.
I fell in love with small business as a hard-working kid around 8 years old. Babysitting, dog walking and house cleaning turned into supervising landscaping and house painting crews, being the assistant manager of a gift shop, and then running my own side business making and selling star-shaped paper lanterns in a fairly successful shop on Etsy and being featured in shops around town and doing private installations for weddings, nurseries, parties, and making custom light fixtures. The cherry that topped it off was being hired as an operations manager to run a wholesale garden supply company.
In 2015 after leaving my position as operations manager and being inspired to create something that I could get behind and that would benefit others, Urban Sprouts was born in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle, Washington (then under a different name). After 8 months the building the store called home was surprisingly announced to be torn down to make way for new development and we re-opened in the bigger more centralized location we now call home in downtown Renton.
What does your passion mean to you?
My passion is for helping others bring plants and handmade craft into their lives. Plants bring life, air quality, and joy into our concrete landscapes.
What made you want to pursue your passion and become a host?
At its formation, Urban Sprouts didn’t offer any classes. This came along a few months later when I decided it might be a good way to bring people into the store. But I’ve always loved teaching people and soon after starting to offer classes at the shop it became a major part of what we do!
I get a lot of satisfaction out of being able to show someone something new that they didn’t know before and to increase their confidence on a topic they may not have been very knowledgeable in. For me, that’s teaching people to be confident about caring for plants.
How would you describe the link between your classes and the community around you?
One of my very favorite parts of offering these classes is the community it builds around my business and in my town! Our location in Downtown Renton is an up and coming area and it's really amazing to be a hub in this community for people to get together and learn and make new connections.
We offer a place for people to get together and learn something new and be creative while getting expert hands on help. We also host private events and we’ve had some amazing birthday parties, baby showers, team building events, bachelorette parties and even parent-child events!
How long have you been living in Seattle? What would you recommend to someone who just moved to this city?
I’ve lived in Seattle my whole life. I was raised in Wallingford and have lived in a number of neighborhoods all over the area. Seattle is a great place is you love to explore and adventure. My best advice for someone who just moved here is to just get out and try some of the great things the city has to offer!
No matter what day of the week or month there’s always something fun to do. There’s amazing hikes, parks, museums, classes, shopping, dining, games.. you name it. Even just hanging out in a coffee shop and doing some people watching is a good time and you’ll learn a lot - maybe meet some great new friends!
Tell us about your favorite moment/ biggest achievement since you started teaching your classes.
I’ve really loved working hard and watching the size of our classes grow. Over time we’ve expanded our topics offered, brought in new instructors and really perfected our craft. I really love it when we get repeats. I am so in awe of the fact that we regularly get people who loved the first class they took with us so much that they take another and another. That’s been a really proud moment for me as both the business owner and one of the instructors.
What is your favorite piece of work & story behind it?
Every piece I make with plants has its own story. I love creating landscapes that emit different moods. But my favorite piece of work is the store itself. It's a place where I hope people feel at ease and happy and like they can learn and enjoy the aesthetics.
If you had unlimited materials/time, what would you create?
If I had all the time and resources in the world I would create a huge space that is a hybrid classroom, retail shop, and beautifully landscaped atrium! I love creating an experience for people who come into my store and being able to create a breathtaking space to learn, be inspired, create and building a community would be my ultimate goal!
What are your goals for the future?
Right now Urban Sprouts is still pretty new so everyone works really hard. I’d love to be able to compensate everyone for the tremendous amount of support and hard work we’ve put into making this become a reality. Soon we are expanding to have more of an online presence, offering more inspiration and even kits that mimic our classes for those living outside of our area. I also hope to open a second location eventually - I’m guessing that will take me about 5-6 years.
What does Verlocal mean to you?
Verlocal is a great platform for connecting people to great experiences! Verlocal has been a wonderful partner in making it easy for people to find our classes - and I love that it makes it possible for my customers to discover other wonderful topics to explore that are outside of my arena of expertise. I’m all about building community and I think Verlocal has been a great part of making that happen.
Do you have a quote that resonates with you the most? Share it with us and tell us what it means to you!
I don’t have a direct quote per say but I try to live by the motto that life is what you make of it. So every day I work to build the life I want to live and create a space that inspires me and others.
If you are a host on Verlocal and would love to feature on host spotlight, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org with a short paragraph about why you want to be featured!