Best Cities Entrepreneurs

Putting Down Roots

When tony and Michelle Avent started their mail order plant company, Plant Delights Nursery, in 1989, they didn't have to look any further than their own backyard.

"We've been here [in Raleigh] all our lives," says Michelle, 39. But things in Raleigh have changed since the Avents met in high school.

"The influx of people from up north has changed the face of the whole Triangle area," says Tony, 38.

But the transformation has been good for the Avents' business. "People up North are much more sophisticated horticulturally than people in the South," says Tony.

The Avents' move into a mail order nursery was a natural: Tony was formerly director of landscaping for the North Carolina State Fairgrounds in Raleigh, while Michelle's job as an order processing supervisor taught her plenty about order fulfillment and shipping. Since 1994, they have been devoted full time to their growing business, publishing two catalogs a year and shipping plants to collectors, landscapers and consumers around the world to the tune of $500,000 in 1996.

Raleigh has been fertile ground for the North Carolina couple-and not just for business reasons.

"It's a perfect-sized community," says Tony. "It has all the attributes of a larger city without all the hassles."

"We have lots of different things in Raleigh," agrees Michelle. "There are better restaurants, professional theater and a lot of entertainment here." Apparently, Raleigh is one place where the grass isn't greener somewhere else.

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This article was originally published in the October 1996 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Best Cities Entrepreneurs.

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