By Mary Malik | Photo by Jean Schnell
Being outdoors and being her own boss were two important things to Sassafras Land Design owner Karlyn Green while she considered her career path. As a landscape design and horticulture major at Ohio State University, Green was on her way to guaranteeing the “outdoors” part of the plan but still had to nail down the “own boss” piece of the puzzle.
After graduating from OSU, Green began working as a horticulturist at a country club. After a few years, she was ready to start her own business.
“I left the club to start Sassafras Land Design, then turned around and gave that club a proposal from my new company. They became my first client,” Green says.
Upon starting the company, Green’s biggest mistake was trying to do everything herself.
“Don’t be afraid to ask people to help you,” Green says. “There are so many resources available. I started out doing my own bookkeeping and accounting, all things I wasn’t very good at.”
By hiring a CFO who specialized in small business, Green discovered it was worth it to pay someone to do his or her job so she could do hers. “Finding someone to handle the finances was also a timesaver,” Green says. “And being a single mother and running a business, having more time with my son was important.”
In fact, all of Green’s relationships are important to her, certainly those with her clients, and especially relationships with her employees.
“My employees are always at the forefront of my mind,” Green says. “We are a team. We work together to achieve goals for our clients. A happy team results in success for the clients. My goal has been to create a business that people want to work for and with.”
And being aware of the specific needs of one client is what opened the door to Green’s second company, Sassafras Property Maintenance. When a client was having a having a hard time finding maintenance people, Green saw an opportunity.
“I said, ‘We can do that for you,’” Green says. “Now I have a flourishing property maintenance branch of the business. We do building/apartment repairs, suite turns, painting, and housekeeping. We also do the planting, floral installations, and care as needed.”
When you think about it, it makes perfect sense. At least it does to Green.
“We were already doing the outside work,” Green says. “It made sense to move indoors. We’ve found out that it’s actually a pretty novel idea. We presented it at the Northeast Ohio Apartment Association trade show and received great feedback.”
Green has faced certain negative reactions to the fact that she is a woman but hasn’t let that hold her back.
“I get some surprised looks, but I can back up a truck and trailer better than most guys,” Green says. “I’m very capable. I never linger in self-doubt. I just push on.”
And pushing on is just what Green is doing. One aspect of her landscape design business is creating edible landscapes and promoting sustainability. Incorporating fruitbearing trees and shrubs, herb gardens, and salad greens creates an interactive environment.
“There’s something to be said for gathering a meal or snack from the things planted in your yard.” Green says.
Tapped as the decorator for the main Christmas tree at the Cleveland Botanical Garden this year, Green was able to showcase not only her design talents but also her passion for sustainability with unique ornaments and thistle harvested from areas along local roads. She enjoys giving back to the community.
As busy as she is, Green knows the importance of taking care of herself.
“I love yoga and meditation,” Green says. “Being a centered person is critical to being a leader who people follow and respect. Recently earning my yoga teaching certification, I hope to incorporate teaching into my life soon. My goal is to be of maximum service to my family, staff, clients, and the greater community.”
For more info: sassafraslanddesign.com
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