From Wedding Bells to Cacti – how one horticulturist turned a personal crisis into an eco friendly business opportunity

Karen Fleming
When our levels of resilience are high, our ability to adapt and to adjust improves too. In the latest Guest Blog, Jo tells us how she overcame a personal setback to develop new skills and launch an eco-friendly business.

At the start of the Pandemic, my partner and I  had been watching the growing scale of Covid19 with trepidation as the final preparations for our wedding day were being put into place.  Eight days before we were due to get married and the Prime Minister announced that all gatherings of groups of people were to be cancelled.  This included weddings.  We switched off the news, we had heard all that we needed to hear.  I haven’t watched the news again since then.  The next day we decided on a new date and moved everything forward 11 months.

Taking the positives away

There were positives of the cancellation, such as the fact it was all paid for now and that hopefully all of our loved ones would now be able to make it.  The next few days were hard as we spoke to friends and family about the cancelation. It was a mixed feeling for everyone I think.  One of disappointment and relief.  Everyone was excited about our upcoming wedding, but as we had a number of guests traveling from different parts of the UK and Europe, many had already had to let us know that they couldn’t make it as flights were cancelled and countries entered a state of lockdown.  Those who had family members that were shielding were relieved that they weren’t going to have to make a horrible choice between attending our wedding or maintaining the protection of their loved ones.

What next? I had a living room full of boxes and bags marked up with different items that we needed for the wedding day.  Well, one thing was clear, I couldn’t live like this for the next 11 months!  I ordered some boxes online and duly packed everything away and placed it in the garage until later in the year when I needed to get my wedding head on again.  But for now, I just needed to clear some space, both physically and mentally.  The boxing of the items was extremely cathartic. It helped me to process in my mind how I was going to get through the next 11 months. 

Routine and purpose

My day job is a horticulturalist working with endangered plants and whilst my role may not be thought of initially as one of a key worker, if I didn’t go to work, the plants I cared for would soon die. My shift pattern changed to allow for social distancing at work, but still keep the important living collections of plants alive during this unprecedented time.

I guess what I’m telling you is, although part of my world came crashing down, for the most part my routine of getting up and going to work stayed the same. I had a little extra time at home and I didn’t spend it sitting around watching box sets or moping about not getting married or not jetting off to Chile for our honeymoon.  I have never been one to dwell on the past so I moved right on to my next big thing.  My fiancé and I had discussed in the past the notion of building a business growing and selling plants. It’s something where I could utilise my knowledge and experience, but also feel challenged. Everywhere may have been locked down, but the challenge for me to set up my business during this time was on and one I accepted it with excitement and enthusiasm.

Learning new skills

I started my business social media pages and I joined a challenge on Facebook called the ‘21-day Rise Up World Challenge’, it contained 21 continuous days of business training.  During this time, I learnt how to market myself and my business.  How to engage with my clients and to gain outlets for me and my product. I took part in mindset training to help me to ensure that I remained positive and forward looking, I received hints and tips for positive routines and so much more worthwhile business advice. Those 21 days propelled my business forward faster than ever as I showed up daily to the online training

I worked out a new working routine whilst I was at home and spent my mornings creating a website as well as marketing the plants I had available on Facebook and eBay. I made some sales and got some really positive feedback. I offered my horticultural advice to friends and family on Facebook and had lots of interesting conversations about gardens and plants. I spent countless hours with my head in various plant books learning and developing myself.  I offered some plants I had grown to local people for free. I then delivered those to loved ones from those who missed seeing them but couldn’t due to lock down.

Website building was a totally new skill that I had to learn as I was doing it. Creating the site myself has been so fulfilling and made me feel so proud of myself, it has definitely boosted my confidence. I now know I can do anything if I put my mind to it.

A growing success!

The greenhouse finally arrived in the midst of a complete lock down. I went from website designer to project manager, from social media manager to carpenter, from horticulturalist to an accountant and the list goes on…!

We had been growing plants since last November with the hope of attending a plant fair in 2020 to sell them, but as the months passed by it was looking less and less likely that plant fairs would even happen this year. I contacted all of the plastic free shops that I knew and asked if they wanted to take a batch at a special rate. I secured one sale and as my social media following grew it wasn’t too long before I was approached by another plastic free shop wanting to take some of my Cheshire grown plastic free plants.
2020 was always planned to be a year for us to grow and learn, carry out market research and business development. When I look back and realise that it was only 6 months ago that I really started to get my teeth into growing this business, I am thrilled at how quickly it has moved forward and just how much I have achieved!  

Adapt and adjust

If Covid19 taught me anything, it is that I have the ability to readjust and reinvent myself every day.  In that respect, I feel like Madonna (at last) and to be honest, I think that in today’s volatile life it is vital that we all learn to pivot and change, do our best not to stay stuck or expect life to stay the same.  We don’t know what the next big crisis will be for any of us, but if we are ready to adapt quickly, we can ensure that we stay in control and make the most out of the opportunities arising.

Jo’s Top Tips

•    My advice to anyone right now who is experiencing major upheaval in their life, is to surround yourself with positive information.  Find something that lights your fire and then surround yourself with things that will feed the flames.  Reach out to those that care for you. Cry and acknowledge your pain with them, but never lose sight of the light at the end of the tunnel.

•    I’m a true believer in self development and that you should never stop learning. At every bump in my life I have recreated myself and expanded my skills and knowledge. I would highly recommend listening to podcasts and following inspirational people on your social media feeds. 

•    Remove those things from your life that don’t serve you and bring you down.

•    Stop watching or engaging in politics and the news if they frustrate and anger you. Be mindful of the people who influence you in life and on social media.

•    You are a product of the 5 people you surround yourself with most.  Take a step back and decide if that is the person you want to be, if not, change it!  You don’t have to stop being friends with those people, just don’t let them influence your life and your decisions too much.

•    Most importantly however, believe in yourself! You can achieve anything. Life doesn’t always work out as planned, but if you aim for nothing, you can guarantee that you will achieve nothing. Raise that bar and aim high!
I am hoping to keep up the momentum I have created and propel DJA Plants into 2021 with a better understanding of our business and customer needs. When we attend our first plant fair next year, we will have confidence and professionalism that we want to convey to our customers and really take our business up to the next level. Hopefully as Mr and Mrs DJA by then …

Our Business

Founded and owned by Jo Adderley


We grow plants without plastic from our greenhouses in Cheshire.  We grow a wide variety of plants from Cactus and Succulents to Garden plants for wildlife.