One of my goals in 2022 is to share my voice. To share about running a small business and inspiration for how to add bits of botanical beauty to your life. Because though this has been a challenging couple of years, I still have a love affair with all things botanical. I believe plants and flowers are tangible forms of self care. They increase our connection to nature and add beauty to our daily lives. They bring more life into our homes and viscerally affect us. I want to show up to share more of that.
So, expect to hear botanical tidbits from me in 2022, day to day on Instagram and monthly in your inbox (not on our newsletter? check out the form right). For now, here's a catch up on what I've been up to in Leelee's Garden over the last year plus....
Part 1: Events, pivots & how we weathered the pandemic
The word of the year for me in 2021 was: growth. Over the last year I personally hosted or flowered 100 events, double what I’ve ever done before in my business. While I’m grateful for this growth during such a challenging time for the world, it was not a foregone conclusion, as an all-in person events company in the beginning of 2020.
In March that year, I lost all my business I had booked in one day. I got a cascade of cancellations I both expected and knew needed to happen, but still felt the panic rise.
I remember calling my dad in tears after grocery shopping and seeing all the shelves cleared. The fear I felt, of illness for myself and everyone I loved, the shock of everything closing and life as we knew it turning upside down, and the financial impact for my business was intense.
Those first weeks of March 2020 and the last 2 years of continued pandemic hit all of us differently. I am so grateful to say (and I know this was not the case for many people, their loved ones and small businesses) thus far, I’ve made it through. In the early days, I got some help from family and the government. And, most fortunately, in April, I got a request for a virtual event working with the Wounded Warrior Project.
I had never hosted a virtual event, never shipped a single box for my business. But, with nothing else on the horizon to make income, I packed and shipped our first event kits for vertical gardens. They went to what’s now one of my favorite groups to work with, veterans and veteran families. From there, my Zoom adventure began! I hosted all kinds of events:
Some with plants...
Picking up and packing up herbs for a large corporate planting workshop
Some with flowers...
The team packing kits for floral events in our tiny Avondale studio
Some in person...
And we flowered a few beautiful weddings...
Above: Planning-Fierce Productions, Venue-The Joinery, Photographer-Allison Williams Photography
Since spring 2020, I hosted over 150 virtual events. I am beyond grateful that those requests kept coming in, that I got to keep connecting to people, do what I love – teaching and working with plants, and was able to grow my business during such a hard time. Thank you from the bottom of my heart to everyone who booked us for a workshop, joined us for a workshop, or cheered us on from afar over the last 2 years.
We are continuing to book private events this year, now both in person and virtually. If you’d like more details and pricing, send me an email at leelee(at)leeleesgarden.com.
Part 2: The other side of growth (and the pandemic)...burnout
I think it's important in our world of highlight reels and success stories to tell the other half of a behind-the-scenes story. While the last couple years’ growth and reach of this little business have been amazing and kept me going financially, I’ve also struggled with burnout.
It seems everyone is burned out right now. Navigating the many waves of variants, safety and ethical judgment calls everyday, childcare, and endless zoom meetings, let alone grief, loss and those working day to day in hospitals, ambulances and other essential jobs, has left us wiped out.
My burnout feels relatively trivial. I run a business I love, one that grew in the middle of a pandemic. I don't have kids yet. My primary relationship deepened in quarantine. I was spared a lot of direct loss the last two years.
That said, with 100 events on my plate this year, doing everything from event planning, customer service, purchasing, often packing or wrapping bouquets myself, making sure they arrive on time, hiring and moving into a studio, working through a rough case of plantar fasciitis and the resulting months in a foot boot, the challenges of running my own business this year have sometimes been daunting.
For the creative business owner, burnout has its unique challenges because one, if you check out, you make no income and, two, you are doing what you “love,” so why the heck are you burned out in the first place?
The thing is, you can still burnout following a passion. It’s a common side dish to growth, a stage I think most business owners reach at some point. I'm trying to make space for burnout, acknowledge it, and move forward too.
How am I moving through burnout? I took some longer breaks in 2021 to visit family and reset. This year, instead of shutting down the business for extended periods, I’m working with a not-so-sexy word: moderation.
What does that look like? For the time being, I’m taking on a couple events a week (some weeks in 2021, I had 6 or more). I’m filling my days with little joys: baths, coming home for a warm lunch, reading guilty pleasure books. I’m writing again and trying new creative projects. I am learning to delegate more. Mostly, I’m learning to make more space for myself in my life and still make a living at the same time.
If you’re in this place too, of burnout and trying to find your way, what works for you? What brings you back home to yourself? Let me know in a comment or drop me a note. We're all in this together.
It's been a wild couple years. I'm still processing, and I think we all will be for a long time. This new year feels like a much needed reset. Wishing you a happy, healthy 2022. Thank you for being here. More to come.