It takes more than a green thumb to create a beautiful floral arrangement. An eye for design, a passion for plants, and a willingness to put in hard labor are all critical to Brian Robinson’s success as the owner of Certified LGBTBE® Earth Gardens. We spoke with Brian about his journey from starting at Earth Gardens to securing a contract with the Macy’s Flower Show in New York City.
Earth Gardens in the Spotlight
- Name of business: Universal Earth Gardens, Inc. DBA Earth Gardens
- Name of founders: Earth Gardens was founded by Michael Iannacone. The business was set up to transfer accounts from a similar business owned by Mr. Iannacone’s ailing lover who later passed away from AIDS related illness. In 2005, Mr. Iannacone passed away naturally and left the business to Brian Robinson.
- Date founded: July, 1995
- Date certified: December, 2018
- Location of business: New York, NY
- Number of employees: Earth Gardens has four permanent employees and expands staff on a project by project basis. For the largest project I hire
- over forty – five people for a three week long event.
1. What is Earth Gardens?
Earth Gardens began as a company mainly supplying service to the corporate sector: weekly cut flower arrangements, interior plant design and maintenance, and floral design for events. Over the past several years, the focus has shifted to large corporate activations and events. I design environments, provide plants and flowers for events, and retain several private clients.
2. What were you doing before you founded your Earth Gardens?
I started working part time for a company as a plant maintenance technician and assistant floral designer. I come from a visual arts background and was able to transfer my design training to cut flower arranging. Basically, I fell into this industry.
3. What is one thing people might be surprised to know about floral design?
Floral design can be physical and dirty. Often, people say that it must be so rewarding working with flowers. I understand where they are coming from, however, until one works with flowers one does not realize what it is like to schlep heavy boxes around, carry buckets full of sloshing water, lift bales of eight foot long branches onto your shoulder, or live for two weeks with a barely visible and painful rose thorn under the skin of your finger. Much of the floral design I do is large, on site, and after business hours. I must bring staff and supplies to protect the area where we work. There was a weekly account I had for years which was in a huge lobby of a NYC office building. There were three matching arrangements on three six foot marble stands. The arrangements themselves were over six feet tall and it proved easiest to arrange them while standing on a ladder.
4. What business achievement are you most proud of?
I am most proud of securing the contract to design and install the Macy’s Flower Show at Herald Square, 2017-2019. It is a project I had been involved with for over two decades in a minor capacity: first, as an employee of the company sub contracted to design three specialty areas of the flowers show and later as the owner of Earth Gardens. In 2015, I decided to bid on the contract for the show. It was stressful and actually scary. As a small business, I did not possess many of the things other vendors who normally bid on this project did (large staff, vehicles, space). But, what I did have was the experience with this particular event and a proven track record of well-received design. My approach to this big project was that there are no problems, only solutions. I continue with this approach and am pleased to have secured the contract for another three years from 2020-2023!
5. What are your goals for your business? Where do you hope to see your business in one, five, ten years?
My goal is to have Earth Gardens be recognized (and hired) for design. This may or may not involve flowers and plants. I would like to grow larger and provide permanent employment for some of the very talented people that I currently can only hire on a per project basis.
6. How has being a Certified LGBTBE® through NGLCC impacted your business?
I am a very new member of NGLCC and await to see the benefits of being certified. I do know that being certified expands the number of jobs I can bid on.
7. What advice would you give to an LGBT person starting a business?
Do something that feeds your soul and get ready to be committed and work a lot. Starting a business is exciting, but, in order to sustain a business, you need to do things that may not seem like so much fun. Also, I would suggest enlisting the help of professionals to do tasks like bookkeeping, payroll, and accounting so that you may focus on building your business. And most importantly, be yourself.