After leaving corporate careers to pursue a passion for horticulture, the co-founders of Eco-Chic Gardens discuss why they took the leap.

Ann Laughlin (left) and Kimberly Lock (right), owners of Eco-Chic Gardens

Kimberly Lock and Ann Laughlin had steady corporate jobs 13 years ago. Kim, as a collections manager and Ann as a systems analyst. But they both realized they weren’t fulfilled, so they enrolled in the horticulture program at Temple University. It was there that they met and realized their shared goal to open a business.

Leaving high-paying jobs to pursue a dream was a big financial risk, but Ann and Kim decided it was worth the reward and went out on a limb. Here are two tips for anyone considering following in their footsteps.

Tip #1: Embrace the fear of starting something new

Eco-Chic has since bloomed into a thriving landscaping company. Their lesson to new business owners? Embrace the fear of going out on your own. As Kim says, “I’ve grown the most, personally and professionally, when I did something a little scary.”

The key is to identify your passion and find a way to make it profitable. For Kim, it was a love of gardening that ran in her family. Her father was a gardener. His father was a gardener. And Kim’s great-grandfather was a master gardener in Ireland.

Ann, in contrast, was a city girl who discovered a love for nature later in life—but they both felt the same calling and pursued a business together based on shared values of an eco-conscious approach to landscaping.

“People often compare business relationships to a marriage,” Ann says, “and it’s true. There’s respect, there’s disagreements, but we both feel that the value system we built Eco-Chic on really keeps us grounded.”

Tip #2: Avoid the negativity

When you leave a place of relative safety to try something new and less certain, there will always be critics.

“There’s so many naysayers,” Kim says, “so many people who will say ‘why would you throw away your career?’ But if you don’t step up to the plate, you’re never going to know if you can succeed.”

In order to establish yourself in your niche Kim suggests, “back up your talent with some credentials, then back that up with real world experience.” Ann and Kim started out by working for others and soaking in the business aspect of landscaping.

Today, Eco-Chic has a vast business spanning landscaping, hardscaping, design, installation, maintenance, and plant healthcare. They’ve also expanded from originally being the only employees to now employing twelve people.

There will always be sacrifices to any decision. For Ann and Kim, they recognized this, but as Kim proudly protests, “I really believed this was the right thing for me. I followed my inner voice and, I have to be honest, I never looked back.”

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