Meet Julia aka Toronto Plant Girl, whose passion for plants sprouted into a successful business.

This post is sponsored by Interac

When Julia Rago’s father was diagnosed with cancer in 2018, she realized she wanted to spend time making their home a more inviting space. Inspired by a YouTube video on plant care, she filled her bedroom with plants, and by late 2019, she was posting as Toronto Plant Girl on Instagram. A conversation with a business owner who was looking for plant help sowed the seed of a business idea, and Julia transformed her passion into a thriving business providing plant care services for residential and corporate clients.

CFIB sat down with Julia to learn more about how she uses social media to grow her business, her van, ‘Vanny DeVito’, and her favourite plant to recommend to clients.

As Toronto Plant Girl, you have a huge following on Instagram. How do you balance running your business and your social media?

In my first two years in business, I was spending up to 10 hours per week creating content for social, posting three or four days a week, 30 to 40 stories a day. Now it’s changed a lot; my content creation hours, compared to my actual business hours, are very small.

Being able to interact with your community and promote yourself on a free platform or app is something every business should take advantage of. Used in the right way, social media is an amazing tool to help you grow your business and increase your revenue.

I'm grateful to have my platform and I enjoy it, but trying to produce content all the time can take a toll. At the end of the day, it should be a fun, creative outlet. So, taking breaks is key. Give yourself a break and revisit it when you want to revisit it.

As a home-based business, how do you connect with other business owners in your community?

I love to go walking on streets like Queen Street or Ossington in Toronto; I’ll pop my head into different places that interest me and talk with the business owners, give them my business card. I love that connection, but a big part of meeting other business owners in my community is through Instagram. They may not be in my physical community, but they’re in my virtual community, which I think is just as strong and as important.

Four images of Julia, aka Toronto Plant Girl

What has been your business’s most significant milestone?

Getting my work vehicle, my cargo van, Vanny! My followers actually named it Vanny DeVito. First, I was looking at SUVs. I thought, at least if I buy an SUV and this doesn’t work out, I still have an SUV and it’s normal, whereas if I buy a cargo van, it’s a cargo van. I had to shut those voices out, sit back and evaluate all the things I accomplished in a short period of time, and take the plunge.

Getting the van wrapped with my logo and information on it gives me an opportunity to talk about my business. People take a photo or scan the QR codes on the back of the van for my website or my booking links.

Have you had to overcome any challenges?

When you’re the owner of the business, people always want to be dealing with you. They want you to go to their space and take care of their plants or have a meeting with them. You have to wear many hats but also, you have to be in five different places at once. Letting that go and giving responsibility to my employees was hard. I have an amazing team, but that was a big hurdle for me because I had to detach myself to allow them to do their work.

What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs?

I’m a strong believer you should never stop learning. Even if you think you're the expert in your field, there's always room for improvement. I'll go back to the books that I learned from or talk to horticultural professors and pick their brain. There are new technologies, new developments, new concepts. If you're not educating yourself, you're losing out on opportunities.

How would you describe the plant community in Toronto?

It's a warm, inviting, and accepting space. If I know in advance that there are plant events, sales, or pop-ups, I always try to go. I’ve hosted events at garden centres where I’ve met a lot of followers. I've made many true friendships through the plant community, globally and in Toronto.

Finally, we must know, what is your favourite plant?

My favourite plant in my collection is probably my Monstera Thai Constellation, which is a rarer plant and a little on the expensive side. I bought it back in 2019 when it was very small and now it's a lot bigger, so it's been great to see it grow. One of my favourite plants to recommend to clients is the Dracena Reflexa. It's just a great plant, very easy to care for and tolerant of low light in spaces with no direct sunlight. It also goes with different decor; whether you have a more organic modern decor or a wabi-sabi decor, it goes with everything.

Learn more about Julia's small business

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