On The Heels Of Success

Winners of the annual Greenhouse Grower Medal of Excellence for Marketing are chosen based on their contributions to the industry in developing and promoting new varieties. Frances Hopkins, president of Under A Foot Plant Co., is certainly a worthy winner. Her STEPABLES brand, which features more than 130 beautiful, low-growing varieties capable of handling foot traffic, keeps Hopkins on the constant hunt for new plants that fit the bill.

Last time Greenhouse Grower caught up with Hopkins (August 2004 cover story), she talked about branding being a “tricky thing – it’s marketing on steroids,” she said. “If we are to build a successful brand and be in the marketplace for the next 20 years, we must be correctly identifiable to the consumer. If we are not, the consumer’s attention and loyalty fade.”

Winning the Medal of Excellence affirms the STEPABLES brand is here to stay. Hopkins understands her market and knows how to make her brand both identifiable and in demand.

Before the awards presentation in July, she said, “We have clearly defined a path for our product. We merchandise our product. We support our product with helpful handouts and a dynamic Web site bursting with information to help the consumer’s creativity blossom. When the Good For Your Sole campaign was created, we put ourselves on the map with a signature phrase people can remember.”

Step By Step

Hopkins says her next step is to work on STEPABLES’ identity. Beginning in spring 2007, all the STEPABLES distributors will be selling the plants in purple pots. “This is truly the best step we can take on a national level to stand out,” Hopkins says.

Also in 2007, Hopkins plans to introduce seven new plants to the program, and even more in 2008.

“I can tell you to watch for STEPABLES to reach new heights in 2007 and 2008,” Hopkins says. “We have our new cross-promotional campaign called Creature Features with Green Piece Wire Art. The Creature Features campaign showcases adorable animal wire frames planted with our tough little plants. It is a fun and exciting new program. This gives the garden centers a new twist on topiaries, and it will certainly be great for year round sales in the garden center, as well as opening up a whole new area for holiday gift sales.”

Filling The Shoes

One of Hopkins’ concerns last time she spoke with GG was the lack of young people involved in the industry. Unfortunately, not much has changed since then, and Hopkins still worries about horticulture’s fate. She also notes the difficulty in becoming involved in the industry, saying she only realized it could become her profession when it “fell into (her) lap.”

“No horticulture schools came to my senior open house or college days. I had to find out about the horticultural field on my own,” she says. “I have seen many, many of my peers leaving this industry. I see very few young people coming up through the ranks to replace them. Until our industry takes up the charge to wear its heart on its sleeve, charge more for its product and be proud of it, and show the American public how much value we bring to their everyday landscapes, our numbers will continue to drop.”

Stepping Up

An advocate of programs like America In Bloom, Hopkins recommends getting involved in the community by donating plants, containers and labor to “spread the passion” of the industry.

“None of us are in this business because of the money. Horticulture is deep within in our souls. It seems to be the very essence of who we are. Getting out in the community to show what is in our hearts as an industry would change things,” she says. “You may motivate a young person for six months with money, but you will inspire him or her for a lifetime with passion.”

Hopkins says her children, now 13 and 10, love being involved in her work. Her son is especially drawn to the sales and marketing aspect of the business, while her daughter enjoys “nursery hopping.”

As for the future of STEPABLES, Hopkins says she will continue to pave the way to the future by knocking down old traditions. She plans to push for more kid gardening and create awareness about the industry and the beauty it creates. Inspiration is the key, and her goal is to inspire.

“I believe we have touched something within the consumer,” says Hopkins. “We have hit a chord deep inside that people can recognize and believe in. We are a good company. We put forth a good product and we reach out and touch consumers. We inspire them. We give our product heart. It is not lofty, or pretentious. Anyone can do this! When they have a victory, they share it with us online. When they have a problem, they give us a call. We are real to them. There is no big façade, no giant corporation with suits. We are just a small company willing to help them be great gardeners. I think that’s what keeps them coming back.”

Leave a Reply

Latest Stories
garden center plant yard The Farm at Green Village

February 12, 2016

How To Know If You Have Too Much Inventory

Knowing if you are stocking too many products is easier to gauge than you might think. Financial consultant Steve Bailey developed a simple formula that allows you to calculate how much stock you should have on hand based on your sales.

Read More

February 12, 2016

How To Hire The Right People For Spring (Solve My Probl…

How can you detect early on that you have hired the right person? Ned Wilson of Wilson's Garden Center share four tips that work for his retail business.

Read More

February 12, 2016

Managing Air Temperatures For Basil Growth And Develop…

Iowa State University researchers determine if increases in air temperatures can increase growth and shorten production times for basil.

Read More

February 12, 2016

AmericanHort Applauds USDA Announcement Of Almost $60 M…

The funding from the 2014 Farm Bill will be used to cover projects such as plant certification, clean stock for high-value crops, and invasive insects and diseases.

Read More
The beneficial parasitoid Encarsia formosa feeding on greenhouse whitefly

February 12, 2016

Biological Pest Control Starts With Accounting For Pe…

When pest pressure is high, biological controls alone may not be enough to take care of the problem. Make sure that any pesticides you use won’t harm the beneficials hard at work in your greenhouse.

Read More

February 11, 2016

Succulents: A Mainstay Of The Green Revolution

Succulents offer many options for growers to provide waterwise, low-maintenance plants that work well for green infrastructure and other environmentally focused projects.

Read More

February 10, 2016

Poinsettia Production On The Decline

Poinsettia production is on the decline in several of the top 15 poinsettia-producing states.

Read More
GrowIt! Logo

February 9, 2016

GrowIt! And MasterTag Partner To Enhance Plant Care Inf…

The partnership allows MasterTag to provide plant care instructions to the wide catalog of plants available on GrowIt!, which helps consumers find plants in their area.

Read More
Wally and Delores Steinhauser FEATURE

February 9, 2016

To Reflect Changes In Customer Buying, Wingard’s …

Owner Wally Steinhauser explains why he decided to re-brand his store and how his customers' lifestyles changed what type of products they wanted to buy.

Read More
Heather combo with a birds nest at Minter Country Gardens

February 8, 2016

Winter Combo Garden Ideas From Minter Country Gardens […

On a recent visit to Minter Country Gardens outside of Vancouver, British Columbia, we spied several combo gardens filled with cool-weather plants with a strong winter appeal.

Read More
Bob's Garden Center roadside sign

February 8, 2016

Roadside Signs: Research Shows What Works Best

If zoning laws for roadside signs seem random to you, there’s a fair chance you’re right. Until 2011, zoning boards did not have solid research to rely on when developing their rules. That has finally changed, thanks to a report from USSC Foundation.

Read More
Pot Mum Combos (Syngenta Flowers)

February 8, 2016

Syngenta Has A New Buyer, Will Not Divest Flower Seeds …

Syngenta has announced that it will likely approve an offer from ChemChina to acquire the company, which means it no longer plans to divest its flower seed business.

Read More
Suzanne Wainwright-Evans

February 8, 2016

Register Now For Biocontrols USA 2016 Workshop

Biocontrol is becoming a mainstream part of growing plants commercially. Every good program starts with quality products and a good supply chain. Register now to join us from 1:00-4:00 p.m. on March 4, following the conclusion of the education program at the Biocontrols USA 2016 Conference & Expo in Monterey, CA for a special event that will help you improve your biocontrols program. In this informative, real-world workshop led by biocontrols expert Suzanne Wainwright-Evans, owner of Buglady Consulting, you’ll learn: The key players that are producing beneficials How to check product quality once you get them The latest trends and practices growers are using to implement beneficials into their programs Important pitfalls to avoid. A roundup of the current biocontrol research that can help you be more successful in your production practices this season. Wainwright-Evans, a pest management specialist, has been involved in the green industry for more than two […]

Read More
Gotham Greens Queens

February 8, 2016

Gotham Greens Opens Newest Greenhouse In Queens, NY

The new facility, which was partially funded by grants based on reduced energy consumption, nearly triples Gotham Greens’ overall production capacity in New York.

Read More
Dr Allan Armitage

February 8, 2016

Why Succulents Have Become The Hippest Plants On The Ma…

Allan Armitage says succulents used to be relegated to the far end of the display bench, but their adaptability, decorative value, and low maintenance requirements have now made them a staple.

Read More
Travis Higginbotham

February 8, 2016

Biocontrols And Next-Generation Production

Biocontrols are becoming much more established in greenhouse production. In some cases, it’s the next generation of growers that’s helping to support the adoption of this next generation of pest control. Travis Higginbotham, R&D Manager for Battlefield Farms, in Rapidan, VA, is a great example. Brought on in 2014, he is helping Battlefield take the next step in product development, as well as become more efficient as a business and adapt to new technologies and demands from their customers with a more proactive approach. Higginbotham will share information on Battlefield’s nematode program at the Biocontrols USA 2016 Conference and Expo, March 3-4, 2016 in Monterey, CA. We asked him about the details involved with building a new biocontrols program, as well as the future of sustainability in greenhouse production. Q: What are the differences in costs involved in using biocontrols? What costs should growers consider, aside from the hard costs […]

Read More
Jim Zablocki, Plant Prod

February 5, 2016

Sign Up For A Webinar On Using Plant Nutrition To Impro…

The webinar takes place March 2, and covers how leading growers are using plant nutrition to minimize costs, reduce the number of factors they need to worry about, and lessen environmental impacts.

Read More
Biocontrols Conference and Expo 2016

February 4, 2016

Biocontrols 2016 Conference Offers Insights And Learnin…

The Biocontrols 2016 Conference & Expo, which takes place March 3-4, 2016, in Monterey, CA, brings together growers, pest control advisers, suppliers, researchers, and other segments of the industry to share the latest information on biochemicals, microbial pesticides, and beneficials, and help you put biocontrols to work in your operation.

Read More
[gravityform id="35" title="false" description="false"]