One of my favorite things about the work I do with VisitWoodland is hearing people’s stories. Mostly, I’m hearing their business story, but each is unique and there is always a takeaway for me. Sometimes it’s a person’s heart that shows through their words, or maybe it’s their grittiness and perseverance. My talk with Erin Fullerton, owner of Boxwood Nursery and Gifts, was no different.
I had previously met Erin at a Halloween party, just over a year ago, and she was hilariously fun and let’s just say, memorable…in the best way possible! Yet, our talk showed me another side of her that is equally amazing. Despite having zero business experience Erin has created a successful family business. She has the right combination of competitive spirit, tough as nails work ethic, and creativity that is sure to provide Boxwood Nursery and Gifts an amazing future.
I’m a firm believer that everyone has good attributes, so plugging into what that employee is really good at is important. – Erin Fullerton
Here is my conversation with Erin Fullerton.
Introduce yourself and your business.
My name is Erin Fullerton and my business is Boxwood Nursery and Gifts, located at 617 West Street.
How long have you owned Boxwood?
We’ve been open for almost three years. We already had a separate business and we were looking for something else to do. My husband Ryan went back to business school to get his MBA and we were going to venture out, maybe do something outside of town, really looking to change gears. The opportunity came up to open Boxwood and we decided to stay in town and work on this as a family business. We were nervous because we didn’t have a background in this industry, but a lot of pieces fell into place; A lot of the existing employees stayed, my dad has vast knowledge in the plant industry and he continues to help us, Ryan had the business knowledge and I had the creative energy to make changes.
What did you do before Boxwood?
I was a kindergarten teacher at Woodland Christain School. It was very difficult to leave there to do this work! Before that, I was a substitute in both Woodland and Esparto. Ryan owned a business called Fullerton Restoration, which was an automotive reconditioning company for commercial accounts.
How did you learn this business was available? (It was previously Youngmark Nursery)
Youngmark had been on the market for some time and I never really thought about it until we started discussing what we, as a family, were going to do. Were we going to move or stay here in Woodland? It wasn’t until a friend of ours told us about Youngmark that we looked at it seriously…we just went for it. I got the keys and ran with it.
Running a nursery and gift store is a huge change from being a kindergarten teacher! How did you make that transition, and how has it changed over the three years since you’ve been open?
It was a steep learning curve. The previous owner didn’t stay on, so it was literally, “here are the keys. Go for it.” We had to figure everything out. Once you grasp the business components, you can then tweak processes and find what works best for you. For me, having a good employee base was key to making the business work. I’m a firm believer that everyone has good attributes, so plugging into what that employee is really good at is important. Once you get your people in place things start to fall into place and the evolution begins. It changes even today, there are no two days that are the same. We run landscape crews, the gift store, and the nursery. We are essentially running three businesses.
To give you an idea of how far we’ve come, I didn’t even know where to order our stuff (as in any of it!). That’s how blind we were coming into this. But with a lot of hard work and sleepless nights it has worked out.
Tell me the steps you took from the moment your friend suggested this as a business to taking over the keys?
A lot of our process was getting the finances in order. We had saved our ‘nest egg’ and we were willing to take the gamble. It’s a big leap of faith, in yourself, knowing that no matter what problems come up we are going to problem solve and failing is not an option. If you have that confidence and that motivation, plus a really good work ethic, I really feel you can overcome any obstacle. Before we opened we applied for our business license. We worked with the previous owners on things you should have completed before you open your doors, like changing over the phones, etc. But we actually never shut down, we continued to operate. We didn’t get to shut down for six months and revamp the space. It was like, “here are the keys, hit the ground running!” I didn’t even know how to work the cash register on our first day….we are still here three years later. I feel like we are getting better at what we do too.
WOW! You’ve taken over three businesses that you had no experience in and you’ve turned it around to be successful. I think that is amazing. I have to go back a bit, did you have any business background…at all?
No. Going from teaching to this, I see some similarities. There’s creativity, changing of the seasons, and the competitive nature of teaching lends well with this business. With teaching, you get these little kindergarteners who can’t read, some of them don’t know the alphabet yet. My job was to get them reading by December! It was a challenge and a competitive thing for me. To me, business has those parallels.
Tell me about the gift shop, what’s the style?
I like to focus on unique items, I have over a dozen product lines that are made in the United States. I like to have a wide price range of options, so if someone does come in and spends $100 on a silver platter for a wedding, we have it. As well as items that cost $14, I like to make sure there is variety and appeal to a broad audience. I’m constantly thinking about the gift shop. I take field trips out of town to check out other stores for ideas. It’s always so refreshing to see what others are doing and I come back with renewed ideas and passion.
What services does Boxwood provide?
We have a full landscape crew that does anything from “mow and blow” to full landscaping. We work with landscape designers to install new landscape and can even rip it out if needed. We also have a floral department; We can provide a bouquet of roses to planting plants in a pot. We also have a small online shop. It works really well for people who don’t live here, or sometimes people just like to get an idea of what we have but then come in to purchase. And there is the nursery, which is really the main reason customers come in. We are working on changing product out there depending on the season and what might be unique. We put a lot of thought into what we order, we listen to what the community wants and make sure to have it here. Recently, we partnered with another company and purchased Dumars. It’s called BLC, Boxwood Landscape and Construction. This facet of the business is more construction, concrete is a specialty. They do a lot of commercial work and sell material in bulk.
What do you want Woodland to know?
This business has been here since 1934, we are the third family to own it. I want to really reach out to the residents on the east side of town to know we are here. We really strive to care for our customers and deeply care about our business.