We always hear people say, “Follow your passion,” or “Follow your dreams.” I saw a video by Mike Rowe recently in which he questioned that, and I totally get it. See the video here.
If you watched the video, you heard him say lots of people have “passion” about something, but no talent for it. There are lots of people whose pursuit of their passion or dream failed, because they had not talent (or skills or knowledge).
My favorite part of the video is when he says, “Your happiness on the job has very little to do with the work itself.” And he’s correct. I really believe we can find happiness in places we never believed we could. I’m a big fan of “Love the one you’re with,” which I interpret as “find the good where you are.” I have a friend I’ve heard say, “Bloom where you’re planted,” which basically means the same thing to me.
Happiness is not always where we expect it. Haven’t we all firmly believed we wanted something, and when we got it, we realized it was all wrong? (“Be careful what you wish for.”) On the other hand, sometimes, we find ourselves somewhere we think isn’t a good fit…maybe a college or a position on a team…in reality, we often find it’s the best thing for us. Maybe we should, as Mike Rowe says, “Follow the opportunity.”
There are some people who possess passion, talent, knowledge, drive, plans, and more passion for what they want to do, and some of them can turn that into income.
As a child, in Spanish Fort, Alabama, I had a sweet, smart, adorable friend named Michelle Prouty. (She is now Michelle Prouty Johns.)
Unbeknownst to me at the time, she was immensely talented.
Michelle’s mother is a prolific gardener, and Michelle shares the same love of plants and gardening.
Michelle tells me she doesn’t remember a time that she wasn’t interested in gardening, “so it must have started at a very early age.”
Her dad owned a manufacturers’ rep agency in Mobile but decided, when Michelle was five, that he also wanted to be a part-time farmer. Purchasing ten acres, he moved the family, and started his vegetable farm. Her mother had flower beds and containers on the back deck, and Michelle helped with all of it. Michelle says they never had trouble getting her to help. Her exact words: “It wasn’t a chore to me.”
And there you have it. A passion was born.
Her mother taught her to plant seeds and propagate plants, and when the family left the farm and moved to my neighborhood, Spanish Fort Estates, her dad built a greenhouse, which she considered her “own private play house.” She says she loved going in there during the winter. “There was nothing better than being in there in the winter when it was full of my Mom’s plants, many of which bloomed through the winter.”
I remember going back to a community festival at Spanish Fort School in spring of 1978. There was Michelle, a fifth grader, with her own booth at the festival, selling her plants. It made quite an impression on me. She was tending that booth all day while other kids were doing whatever they wanted. But she was doing what she wanted…taking care of her plants, talking with folks about gardening, and selling the fruits of her labor.
Looking at all that hands-on gardening experience she had, one might think she would have pursued a Horticulture degree when she attended Auburn University, but she didn’t. She says, “I questioned my father many years ago on why they did not push me to look at horticulture as a career, and he said they didn’t know anyone who worked in the field, so it wasn’t really on their radar.” But…sometimes things work out the way they’re supposed to. She went on to get her Marketing and Statistics degrees, which have been helpful…as she pursues her dream.
And this is where it gets really good.
After working with her dad and working in outside sales for a company in Tampa, one year ago, Michelle opened her own retail garden center in Fairhope, Alabama. The perfect piece of land came available, and she seized the opportunity. She is the proud owner of Corner Copia Gardens Nursery and Garden Shoppe. You can see the Corner Copia Gardens Facebook page here and their Instagram page here. She opened the gardens in 2015 and opened the retail garden center in March 2017. Corner Copia Gardens Nursery and Garden Shoppe just celebrated its first anniversary.
Michelle says her business goal is to carry a “unique variety” of plants that are difficult to find in “big box stores” and will do well in the area. She also wants to offer advice to local gardeners and is offering educational classes. Follow the Facebook page for Corner Copia Gardens to see which classes are being offered and when. (Again, the facebook page can be found here.)
Michelle named her business after some gift shops her mother had called The Corner Copia. According to Michelle, “While she did not sell plants, she carried many garden-themed gifts in her shops.” Michelle got her mother’s permission to use the name, adding “Gardens” and slightly modifying the logo.
Corner Copia Gardens is the realization of a dream.
Michelle says it has been her dream for at least 25 years…since soon after college.
It has not been without challenges. A particularly cold winter in Fairhope has been tougher than expected, but she says she has learned what it takes “to keep them (two 24′ x 100′ greenhouses) heated with 20 nights below freezing and down into the teens.”
Another challenge has been the fact that business is seasonal, but Michelle made adjustments. Because business is seasonal, she needed to find a way to keep income flowing so her employees could work all year, so she added a small gift shop and is growing her live plant floral business, with hopes to begin making deliveries this spring. I’ve seen pictures on the facebook page of some of the gift shop offerings, and it’s exciting!
The greatest thing about this, to me, is that Michelle found a way to channel all her life experiences into pursuing her dream. She knew it was something she wanted to do, but she did other things that gave her the ability and lots of valuable knowledge when the opportunity came along. She takes everything she has learned along the way from her parents, her career in business, her education, and her life as a mom (she and her husband have five children between them)…channeling it into her business, sharing her knowledge and passion along the way.
So, while Mike Rowe questions whether folks should follow their dreams, I know some should do just that…even if they have to get there by following opportunity first. Maybe I should say, “Follow opportunity to get to your dreams/passion.” That’s what Michelle did, and it’s working. She has always had a kind, engaging way about her, so I’m sure people love visiting her gardens and shop, and they love attending her classes. I can hardly wait to visit when I’m in Baldwin County!
If you are in Baldwin County, Alabama, stop in at Corner Copia Gardens. If you live in the area, stop in and see her…maybe take one of her classes. You’ll be glad you did. She would enjoy seeing you. She says her greatest joy is when customers come in and tell her how well their plants are doing or when someone sends her photos of arrangements they have made. As she says, “For me, it really isn’t work at all!”
Now, if only I could find a way to make money by remembering birthdays, talking, connecting people, or harassing people into volunteering for stuff…
FOR MORE INFORMATION ON CORNER COPIA GARDENS:
Corner Copia Gardens
11983 E State Hwy 104
Fairhope, AL 36532
Thank you for sharing Kelly! Fairhope is one of my favorite places to visit! I look forward to visiting Michelle’s shop! Love this story!
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Debe! You definitely need to go visit Michelle! She is adorable…you will love her.
Kelly, I know I will love her! I might go down this weekend! ❤️💜
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She would love you too! Tell her you are my friend!
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