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
Laura Drotleff

December 6, 2016

Are You Driving Young Growers Away? [Opinion]

In a time when the industry is facing a critical shortage of both labor and skilled, educated growers, it's important that grower operations don't unwittingly turn candidates off to a career at their business or in the industry in general. Take a closer look at your hiring practices to ensure you are being inclusive and not breaking any laws.

Read More

December 6, 2016

America In Bloom Moves Forward With New Management Comp…

Effective Jan. 1, 2017, management of America In Bloom will transition from AmericanHort to Second Wind Management, which is owned by long-time AIB Executive Director Laura Kunkle.

Read More
bailey-nurseries-team-feature

December 5, 2016

How Bailey Nurseries Has Found Solutions To The Labor S…

A changing seasonal workforce led this Minnesota-based company to explore new labor sources through the H-2A program and refugee organizations, and it’s working out for the better.

Read More
mycoapply-from-mycorrhizal-applications-feature

December 5, 2016

New Growing Media Advancements Giving Growers More Opti…

With innovative, sustainable growing media components, growers will be able to improve plant health, achieve consistency among crops, save money, and reduce inputs, while saving space on storage.

Read More

December 5, 2016

Benary’s Jennifer Calhoun: How We Can Make Plants…

I see one main issue facing our industry in getting more people to buy plants — we assume that the way we used to sell plants is the way millennials will want to buy them. Nothing could be further from the truth. We sell plants in small packs that you plant in a hole in your garden, with a generic label that says “blooms all season.” Millennials don’t have gardens, so they want a plant they can put on their fourth floor apartment balcony, or better yet on a shelf in their living room near a window.  We give them too little information to help them be successful under those circumstances. But what we don’t realize is that if the plant dies, they feel personally responsible for killing another living thing which is so painful that they would prefer not to take the chance a second time. If we sold […]

Read More

December 5, 2016

A Visual Guide To Garden Retail Merchandising

Antje Verstl, a German visual merchandiser who has worked with many high level garden retailers in Europe, has a lot of practical, and inspirational advice on how to transform your plant yard into an exciting place to shop. Take a look at this gallery, and enjoy a visual guide from Verstl. Her book, “Eagle & Frog!,” is now available for purchase by an American market through her website.

Read More
mikaela-hermstedt-penn-state-university

December 4, 2016

Shinoda Foundation Names Penn State Horticulture Major …

Mikaela Hermstedt, a 21-year-old senior from Lincoln, DE, plans to pursue a career in commercial greenhouse production of flowering plants.

Read More
all-america-selections-new-website-home-page

December 3, 2016

New Mobile Responsive Website From All-America Selectio…

All-America Selections has launched a newly redesigned and revamped mobile-responsive website that includes a more attractive design, enhanced search tools, and easier and simpler navigation.

Read More
Sea Breeze Catharanthus combo

December 2, 2016

Four Mixed Container Trends To Watch

Mixed containers are still one of the best-selling SKUs at retail. Pay attention to these four trends that are making their mark on multi-liner mixes and combination containers.

Read More
kelly-norris

December 2, 2016

Kelly Norris: How The “Me Too” Philosophy Affects Plant…

When you’re selling the exact same thing as everyone else, it’s unrealistic to expect customers to buy only from you.

Read More
mcconkey-plastic-shelves-feature

December 1, 2016

How Color Point Is Stopping Cart Theft With Plastic She…

Plastic shelving on carts acts as a deterrent to theft, and employees enjoy the benefits of being able to handle the racks without difficulty or injuries.

Read More
oasis-water-valve-feature

November 30, 2016

How You Can Water Plants Based On Basket Weight

The Oasis from Control Dekk is designed to reduce water use by giving baskets the exact amount of water they need.

Read More

November 29, 2016

How Changes In Plant Patent Law Could Affect Your Varie…

There is an ongoing discussion happening among plant genetics companies about the current laws and ethics of plant breeding, and what the future holds for the improved lawful protection of genetics.

Read More
foxglove-aphid

November 29, 2016

How Greenhouse Growers Can Manage The Foxglove Aphid

Recent research is shedding new light on the foxglove aphid. Understanding host plants, identification, and biology will help growers deal with this pest.

Read More
endless-summer

November 29, 2016

Endless Summer Hydrangeas Will Soon Feature New Identit…

Bailey Nurseries, which first introduced the reblooming hydrangea a decade ago, says the new identity will feature a more contemporary look to appeal to current and future gardeners.

Read More
Trays move on an overhead conveyor to the end of the production line, where workers carefully pack the cleaned, sized, graded, counted and sorted Calla tubers

November 29, 2016

Texas Judge Halts Overtime Rule; Here’s What It Means F…

According to Craig Regelbrugge at AmericanHort, the injunction against the overtime rule is welcome news for horticulture.

Read More

November 29, 2016

How The Industry Is Ensuring Consumer Success With Plan…

Greenhouse Grower RETAILING reached out to growers and suppliers for their ideas on how to attract and keep new plant customers. Here's what they had to say about ensuring gardening success.

Read More

November 29, 2016

Heroes To Hives Seeks Veterans For Beekeeping Training

Michigan State University is bringing together two great causes of our times — supporting vets and boosting pollinators — in its new program aimed at teaching professional beekeeping to former soldiers.

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