Miracle Grow

How this gardening entrepreneur got started and got successful
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This story appears in the September 2000 issue of Startups. Subscribe »
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After five years of designing custom ceramics, housewares and promotional products for various companies, Daleet Zighelboim found all fingers pointing toward disillusionment. This quandary prompted her to enroll in a University of California, Los Angeles, night class for entrepreneurs in which she stopped and assessed what she really loved to do. She found her answer in a therapeutic pastime-gardening-and, through additional research, found that the hobby was swiftly becoming an appealing activity among many a young urbanite.

OneThingLeadsTo Another: Being a city dweller herself, Zighelboim's plan was to redefine the traditional garden. Intent on creating a line of affordable gardening products geared toward city gardens-that is, the windowsills and soilbeds that line apartment complexes and the desktops of cubicle denizens-Zighelboim began City Yard, a Los Angeles company that sells gardening items, including a line of flower pots, a grass-growing tin called Canned Land and her currently ubiquitous flower petal pushpins.

"I wanted to change the stereotype that gardening was for grandmas," says Zighelboim, 28. "There's something hip about gardening, and I thought maybe I could access this untapped market of 18-to-35-year-old urban dwellers who don't even realize that it's a really cool pastime."

TricksOfTheTrade: Handling everything from packaging and shipping the first orders to designing her Web site (www.cityyard.com), catalog and labels, Zighelboim, along with some generous contacts, was able to get City Yard up and running by May 1999 with $20,000 in personal resources.

After researching suppliers to manufacture the designs, Zighelboim took her definitive next step in July 1999 and signed up for the Los Angeles Convention Center trade show, where she received loads of orders and press. Realizing she had a legitimate concept, Zighelboim patented her products, expanded her line and focused on moving from home office to warehouse facility.

SeeingGreen: Now in a Culver City, California, facility with a full complement of eight employees, City Yard has finished its second round of gift shows, adding such accounts as Nordstrom and Urban Outfitters. Although she's afforded yard-void folks the ability to care for their own symbolic patch of agricultural bliss, Zighelboim's own garden, unlike her business, has sadly gone to pot. And with this year's sales projected at well over $350,000 and plans to create a line of hip and affordable outdoor furniture and funky gardening wearables, it's no wonder she hasn't got time for weeding.

Edition: June 2017

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