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

March 22, 2018

Proven Winners Launches New Line of Succulents

Proven Winners partnered exclusively with visionary succulent grower and collector Chris Hansen of Garden Solutions in debuting the new Coral Creations Succulents line.

Read More

March 22, 2018

Why Your Efforts to Sell Plants Fall Short and What You…

It’s time to look at outside industries for ideas and inspiration on what we can do to operate more efficiently in today’s economy.

Read More

March 21, 2018

New Lighting Series is Adaptable to Several Environment…

The NeoPAR series from Illumitex is designed to foster photosynthesis in all stages of plant development.

Read More
Bell Nursery Panorama Photo

March 20, 2018

Bell Nursery’s Gary Mangum Provides Insight on De…

In light of the March 14 announcement that Bell Nursery Holdings LLC had been acquired by Central Garden & Pet, Greenhouse Grower caught up with Bell Nursery CEO Gary Mangum to get the backstory on the deal. Here is our full interview with Mangum.

Read More

March 20, 2018

California Spring Trials 2018 Central Region Preview: B…

Check out this California Spring Trials 2018 Central Region preview of new varieties from Ball Horticultural Co., Dümmen Orange, PlantHaven International, and Suntory Flowers.

Read More
Bees on flowers

March 20, 2018

Walmart Files Patent for Pollination Drone

The drone would be capable of pollinating flowers and crops the same way a bee would, using cameras and sensors to identify pollen in flowers.

Read More

March 20, 2018

Survey Says: Poinsettia Prices, Sales, and Production I…

Traditional reds were still bestsellers, but interest continues to grow in white and novelty varieties. Greenhouse Grower’s annual survey provides an in-depth look at the holiday season.

Read More

March 20, 2018

Seed Your Future Dinner Celebrates Focus on New, Young …

During a Seed Your Future Leadership Meeting Fundraiser dinner at Longwood Gardens, Pennsylvania's Ag Secretary thanked the Seed Your Future initiative for its efforts to create awareness of horticulture and careers in horticulture.

Read More
Green Fuse Lupine Staircase Pink

March 19, 2018

Green Fuse Botanicals Expanding Distribution Network

The company’s expanded product line has created an opportunity to broaden its reach to the grower community through a wider range of brokers.

Read More

March 19, 2018

Bug Your Customer About Biocontrols

Getting customers educated about your biocontrol use and using it to build your brand is all about telling your story in way that attracts attention.

Read More

March 18, 2018

New Soil Amendment From Kemin Promotes More Efficient N…

Valena, a soil amendment sourced from a proprietary strain of Euglena gracilis (algae) rich in beta-glucan, is designed to support the growth of healthy and strong plants.

Read More

March 17, 2018

National Garden Bureau Once Again Bringing Garden Write…

The National Garden Bureau is again hitting the road for California Spring Trials (CAST) with influential garden communicators, with the goal of connecting breeders and brokers with consumers via these influencers with large followings.

Read More

March 16, 2018

Knock Out Rose Family Has New Website

Star Roses and Plants recently launched the new Knock Out Roses website, which features how-to tips, gardening inspiration, and more.

Read More
John Sorenson

March 15, 2018

Vestaron CEO John Sorenson Dies at Age 68

Sorenson, a long-time crop protection specialist in the horticulture industry, was a key figure in Vestaron’s launch of new and innovative biological products.

Read More
Dramm TracFOG Nozzle Extension

March 14, 2018

Dramm Offering New Video Chat Option for Service Issues…

The Dramm Corporation recently introduced two new resources for its greenhouse grower customers to deal with indoor growing conditions.

Read More
Gary Mangum

March 14, 2018

Bell Nursery Acquired by Central Garden & Pet

Greenhouse Grower just learned that Bell Nursery, headquartered in Elkridge, MD, has been acquired by Central Garden & Pet Company, a leading innovator, producer, and distributor of branded and private label products for the lawn and garden and pet supplies markets.

Read More

March 13, 2018

Greenhouse Biocontrol Goes Mainstream

Biological control has moved into the mainstream for greenhouse growers. And the timing couldn’t be better, as consumer demands for more sustainable production methods for the plants they buy are moving back upstream.

Read More

March 13, 2018

California Spring Trials 2018 Northern Region Preview: …

Check out this California Spring Trials 2018 Northern Region preview of new varieties from Benary, Thompson & Morgan, American Takii, Sakata Seed, Beekenkamp, and Plug Connection.

Read More