Photo by: Alex Bandoni
I saw a disparity, so I wanted to bridge the gap.
I first moved to NYC 2 years ago after graduating from undergrad in Washington D.C. There, I attended a graduate program to become a teacher. I’m the first in my family to graduate from college, so in some ways, I had no idea what I was doing post-graduation. All I knew was go to school, graduate, get a good job, happy life.
I moved to NY and didn’t know a soul. New York was rough. The city felt grey and full of concrete. I grew up in a suburb outside of Tokyo so I immediately felt the stark differences between the two big cities. In New York, it seems like greenery is only valued in local community gardens and Central Park. Thus, I put all of my effort and energy into cultivating a space that valued greenery while also giving myself something to do in between classes. At this lonely time in my life, watering plants, visiting local nurseries, and reading up on plant care filled a large bulk of my time in between studying.
Being a broke college student and having a growing plant addiction started to backfire. I found myself spending my last $35 on an exotic plant because it “felt good” to have it in my space. I found that I was traveling to the trendier & more developed parts of Manhattan and Brooklyn to purchase exotic plants for my space. I also found myself calling my mom every two weeks to ask if I could borrow that same $35 to pay my Con Edison bill. That’s when it hit me: New York has a large disparity of access to affordable plants. Why is it that i’m traveling into the most gentrified neighborhoods and paying triple the price for something so natural? Why is greenery so “trendy” all of a sudden? And why on earth are some of my plants dying every time I bring a new one home?
With these questions in mind, it was in the Summer of 2018 that I launched Greene Piece. I launched with the belief that “everyone is entitled to an affordable functional green space.” Greene Piece aims to eliminate the myth of “The Green Thumb”. The belief that “you’re either good at caring for plants or you’re not”, couldn’t be farther from the truth. My mission is to focus on and match 3 things:
1. The right plants for right spaces: Considering sunlight and temperatures.
2. The right plants for the right person: considering work schedule, time, travel habits, and upkeep.
3. The right price for the right budget: Preventing consumers from falling for inflated prices while also highlighting local small businesses or companies doing a bit of good for our planet.
Greene Piece is now 13 months old and I can’t help but envision what my next steps are. In August of 2019 I had the incredible opportunity of sharing some “PLANT 101”, on Good Morning America. Since then, the green(e) business has been booming and I’m finding that the inaccessibility to affordable plants is now coming to light. Strong, successful, and smart women of all colors are asking, “Why am I paying $50 for an item that I have no idea how to care for?” Every two weeks, I’m answering randomly submitted plant questions in a column called “Bad at Plants” for The Cut. The former elementary school teacher in me is thrilled to continue educating and enlightening consumers on the best greenery for their spaces while also boosting the confidence of the modern day “plant parent”.
Since partnering with the LIVELY community, I’ve begun to value the ideas of what makes women feel smart, healthy, active, and outgoing. Coming home or going to a work space that’s surrounded by affordable and functional greenery makes me invision a world that values access and strength in communities. As a one-woman show and entrepreneur, nothing makes me feel more confident than knowing I’m matching others with the right greenery for their spaces. Having plants is not only about watching them grow, but also about watching yourself grow.
My long term goal? Well, right now, I just want to graduate from grad school. Sometimes I wish I would have reconsidered pursuing a graduate degree, but I’m too close to graduating to just quit. If I can start and maintain a business while attending school full time, I’m pretty sure I can do anything. But beyond grad school, I’m hoping to create a self sustaining plant education business that will allow my momma to quit her job and live in a greenhouse with me. We are the Greene Family, after all.