It's hard not to be inspired by the artists and makers of the Cleveland Flea. Brilliant, talented, creative. They're tough as bleepin' nails on their ways to making their dreams come true. We began The Maker Series to take a look — behind the scenes, beyond the booth — to see what drives our makers and creative business owners to do what they love and love what they do.
Q + A with Dan Gifford of Lakewood Plant Co.
Lakewood Plant Company carries an enormous variety of healthy and exotic indoor plants from all over the world that range from classic to the most unique. They are partnered with Peace by Piece Cleveland to provide job opportunities for people in the community with disabilities. Their vocational staff works on-site to care for their plants that are sold in the store.
Cleveland Flea: What are your roles in the business?
Dan Gifford: As the operator of LPC, my most important role is to provide all of the people who have made this possible with the freedom and tools to do what they do best. Our team is made up of a wildly talented people so it’s important to know when to get out of their way. I also water a lot of plants.
CF: Why do you love what you do?
DG: I love what I do because I believe in it. I believe in the multiple ways indoor plants positively impact an environment, which is now scientifically proven. And, I’m very happy knowing that we are doing something everyday that helps our community through partnering with Peace By Piece Cleveland and giving some of our residents an opportunity that they normally would not have had without this partnership. We have worked hard to create a unique space with a focus on design and art, carrying work by local artists with whom we love collaborating with. Creating a fun environment to host gatherings of all kinda is important to us.
CF: Why does Cleveland need a business like this?
DG: We believe we can be useful in Cleveland by supporting the community through our vocational program. We also beautify and detoxify our indoor spaces of which we spend half of year in because of our seasons!
CF: What's the best / most difficult part of running your own business?
DG: The best aspect of running this business is being able to be around the people and things I love on a daily basis. The most difficult aspect, which is probably similar to most small businesses, is being able to prioritize and figure out where and what is in need of attention.
CF: What are your goals for the business this year?
DG: Being a young company, our main goal for this year is to try to let people know who we are and what we do. We don’t only sell badass plants, but also host parties, events, and classes at our location and of course run a vocational program.
CF: How do you manage during events where weather is an issue, like our May Flea?
DG: The May Flea was definitely an adventure! I think it’s representative of setting out to start a business, some days you’re going to get wet and knocked over. Luckily for us the rain only helps our inventory and only lost a few accessories due to wind because we were able to take the canopy off of our tent.
CF: Did you see yourself growing up to run your own business?
DG: I always pictured myself becoming an entrepreneur as a little kid “so I could do whatever I want”. After realizing how absurd that notion was, I still wanted to try becoming a business owner for the purpose of doing something you love.
CF: What's the first big moment where you knew you were headed in the right direction with your business?
DG: I don’t think we had a first single big moment or victory but rather the accumulation of all of the positive feedback. We have had an overwhelming positive reaction to what we are trying to do and that has been the source of motivation and confidence to keep doing what we are.
CF: Who inspires you?
DG: From day one, my Parents who have been nothing but encouraging and supportive have been the biggest inspiration for me. The members of our vocational program have also been a huge source of inspiration. I have learned a great deal of resilience by having the opportunity to be involved with our program.
CF: Have you learned anything about your business by participating in Cleveland Flea?
DG: By participating in our first Cleveland Flea, we learned how much the flea is loved and supported by Clevelanders. Dealing with just about the worst weather you will see in May, there were many people who came out asked questions and supported the Flea. The drinks helped as well.
CF: What's your biggest struggle from a business standpoint?
Our biggest struggle from a business standpoint is managing the day-to- day operations/struggles that come with starting a small business. Currently, we’re dealing with the muffler falling off our ‘96 club wagon plant mobile.
CF: What's your favorite piece of advice as it relates to your business?
DG: The best piece of advice I’ve received is to do the right thing. Which I believe translates into doing what’s right for the long term and being collaborative with customers, staff, and the team. Also, that I should not be white or blue collar but green collar!
CF: What's one thing people would be surprised to learn about your business?
DG: People would be surprised to know that I only recently moved back to Cleveland after being a teacher in Austin, TX and Central America.
CF: How would you hope Lakewood Plant Co. be described by your Dream Customers?
DG: Our customers are the best! We hope they would describe us as being unique and supportive with the best quality products and service.
CF: What's your favorite plant?
DG: I have so many favorite plants! The King Sago Palm is my current favorite because of its tropical vibe, which reminds me that it’s summer!
CF: Are you surrounded by a lot of plants at home?
DG: We currently have 22 plants in our house! It’s like a MF’n jungle!
CF: Why do you love selling at The Flea?
DG: The Cleveland Flea has an abundant of obvious great attributes such as bringing people out in the community, creating a positive environment, and exposing local businesses. An aspect which I loved was the opportunity to meet and connect with customers and other small businesses to create relationships I wouldn’t have otherwise had the opportunity to do.