An interview with Adriana Marroquin, owner of Wilding Flora
This week I’m featuring my interview with Adriana Marroquin – owner of Wilding Flora. Adriana sells indoor pots and plants, and has a range of plant-based services, including styling your home or office, gifts and party centerpieces, and more! Learn about how she grew her pandemic-hobby into a thriving side-hustle.
More Small Business Interviews
Looking to start and grow your own business? Well, there’s a ton of inspiration right here. Read more small business interviews to hear stories of why they started, how they overcome obstacles and unexpected challenges, how they fuel their creativity, and much more.
I’ve always loved plants. Sure, they add beauty to any space, but at a deeper level, I find such stillness in them. Really, and I mean this sincerely, you should pause to consider the next plant you see at a chemical and biological level – they’re astounding.
Plants are part of how I grew up – at my parent’s house they curated the shrubs, trees, and flowers in their backyard like it was an arboretum. There were dozens of different species, creating a rich tapestry of colors, shapes, and scents. Inside the house, we would often have vases filled with fresh flowers, the living room had several indoor potted plants, and you could see a well-pruned tree through every window.
Today, I’ve tried – and failed (several times) – to replicate that vibe with house plants.
To be blunt, my wife and I have killed every plant we’ve ever tried to take care of indoors. I so want to crack the code and be the kind of person who takes care of a small indoor jungle, but we’re just not there yet.
However, when I’m ready, I know exactly who to call: Adriana Marroquin.
Adriana is the owner of Wilding Flora. While her side-business might be a little green, she’s quickly grown her expertise and cultivated a community of proud plant parents. She’s kind of a plant-matchmaker, but I’ll leaf that for later.
FYI, yes, there will be several plant puns in this article. You’ve been warned.
PLANTING SEEDS 🌿
Like so many of the business owners I’ve met, Andriana got her start during Covid.
“I was just doing my nine to five, hanging out with friends, and then Covid hit. I figured I needed an outlet to do something different that wasn’t just work related.”
After a long, energy-draining work day during the height of the pandemic, she was looking for something restorative. Some people baked bread, Adriana fell in love with plants.
“I really found it meditative to garden. Sometimes, I would go to local nurseries and just walk around and hang out there – the staff knew me. I wouldn’t buy anything. I would just hang out and see the plants. That was really my outlet to balance my stressful work.”
As of this writing, she still works full-time at a non-profit as a project manager, but Wilding Flora has become a very active side-hustle.
Were you a natural plant parent from the start?
“I started with succulents, and I killed a few, and then I thought, ‘I’m going to get this right.’ So, I kept buying plants, and then I got past the succulents. I started doing indoor house plants, and all of a sudden, my house was just thriving with plants. They were growing – they were doing their thing. Eventually, they would have pups and I could propagate them and make multiple plants. I started gifting them to my friends.”
How did it go from a hobby to a side-business?
“Actually, I realized I was spending a lot of money on plants and I wasn’t being responsible. So, I started selling them to offset the cost. When I could propagate a plant, I would sell it, and then save that money as a little stash for new plants. And, then that was my budget. Then I could buy whatever I wanted. It got to the point where I had saved up a few hundred dollars and I thought, ‘wow, I can sell plants to make money?’ ”
So, now she sells potted plants from her living room, at local pop-up shops and markets all over town, and even on DoorDash.
It was a happy accident that bloomed into something exciting.
GROWING EXPERTISE 🪴
Over time, Adriana turned passion into expertise. She’s cultivated a green thumb and a strategic sense for how to help her customers.
What are some of the common questions you get from people who are plant-curious?
“A lot of people ask for guidance, actually. It’s almost like my frequently asked questions are what determine the services that I offer. Plants are beautiful, but they still require care. People often forget that they have to water them or do other things to help them survive. So, whenever I’m asked for a plant recommendation, I always ask: ‘Okay, well, how often are you home? How good are you about being on a schedule or watering your plants?’ That’s how I recommend – based on people’s habits and their environment, thinking through what would or wouldn’t thrive there. The worst thing is that people buy a plant from you and then it dies. But, it wasn’t because they’re terrible plant parents. It’s just that they didn’t get a plant that was suitable for them.”
Adriana isn’t going to just sell you any old plant. She takes great care to ensure the plants you choose will fit your lifestyle. She wants you to be successful.
It’s a thoughtful approach. She has happy customers in the short term. And, strong relationships in the long term because people have confidence in their ability to actually take care of their new plant.
Her knowledge creates additional value beyond the retail value of the plant itself. That’s a strategic advantage over a big-box retailer who also sells plants. And, it’s a textbook example of how to capture market share from competitors.
Where should a novice plant-parent begin?
“The snake plants, I would say, are an easy, beginner tier. The ZZ plants, typically, any plant with a deeper shade of green foliage is going to do better in lower light. Anything with a lighter shade, like a light green or any pinks or purples in plants are going to require more sunlight.”
Reach out to Adriana to learn more about the specific plants that might best fit your lifestyle.
“We can all be great gardeners. We can all have thriving plants, but it’s a step by step process. So, I have my easy, beginner plants that you can kind of forget about in the corner. Then, for the more experienced plant parents, I would recommend some foliage that needs humidity and water – there’s a lot more care required than just a snake plant, for example.”
DEALING WITH OBSTACLES 😰
I’ve been able to meet so many impressive small business owners over the years – whether as clients or in interviews like these. They’ve told me stories about all kinds of challenges and roadblocks they’ve had to overcome. But, there are three, in particular, that keep coming up in various ways: overwhelm, distraction, and avoidance.
How do these obstacles resonate with you? You’re invited to share your experience in this brief survey.
How have these obstacles shown up in your story, Adriana?
“They’re all very relatable. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed because of competing priorities. Flora isn’t my main income. It’s really just play-money on the side. But, it takes time – it takes time to water the plants, to do workshops, to network, to do all of those things right. Then, there’s my social life – a lot of these markets I attend happen on the weekends, and I want to hang out with my friends or family. That’s how overwhelm shows up for me – how do I balance everything that I want to do?”
What else do you want to do?
“I have a lot of cool ideas that I want to implement and I just can’t seem to get them all done. I’ve been thinking about doing something like a loyalty card – buy ten plants, get one free type of thing – they’re easy to do, it just gets pushed down to the bottom of the list. For another example, a lot of people have been asking me for pet friendly plants, so I’m thinking about how to mark them so that, when people are shopping, they’re easy to identify. I also want to incorporate feng shui theory and so I’m studying that on the side. There’s just so many cool ideas that just don’t happen. So, I need to prioritize, right? There’s always a new shiny object.”
It’s true. There are a thousand different things you could be doing. But, with limited time and energy, you’ve got to make trade-offs. It’s not about shutting off the flow of exciting ideas, it’s just a matter of saying: not right now to some of them.
After all, your business might be an important domain of your life, but it doesn’t have to be the totality of who you are or take up more space than you want it to – it’s a spoke on the wheel, it’s not the hub.
However, in a world steeped in hustle-culture (in which we’re told to grind our way to achievement), prioritization can be its own form of vulnerability. You’re making a choice and putting it out there, revealing that you’re a human being with limits – a difficult thing indeed.
“I know I need to show up and be vulnerable but sometimes I’m also scared to show up and be vulnerable.”
What advice might you give to somebody who is in the grip of one of these obstacles?
“It’s easier said than done, but just do it. Whatever it is that you’re avoiding, prioritize and do it. I think you will be rewarded in ways that you could never have dreamed of. Allow yourself to be surprised by the world – people will respond in really cool ways.”
Courage isn’t the absence of fear. Courage is simply doing it scared – in spite of your fear. No, you can never know for certain how things will turn out when you take a leap, but you might know what life looks like if you remain where you are today.
The thing is, both of these choices – acting or not acting – reinforce patterns of behavior that eventually form habits. With repetition over time, you can become a person who listens and submits to fear, or a person who acknowledges it and thoughtfully sets it aside in service of your own personal growth.
Of course, none of that means you have to go it alone. When in doubt, ask for help. Then, to use Adriana’s words: “allow yourself to be surprised by the world.”
“I’ve been fortunate that people have shown up when I needed them to. For example, I needed an EIN number to file taxes. So, DoorDash had great support and they’re like, ‘well, this is how you do it.’ Now I have an EIN number. Then I had to open a bank account and the banker shared: ‘okay, this is what you need and this is how you do it.’ ”
STRONG SIDE-HUSTLE ROOTS 🌺
There are many skills you need in order to be a successful entrepreneur: perseverance to push forward, resilience to spring back from obstacles, and much more.
And, you also need the self-awareness to admit what you don’t know, a growth mindset to pick up new skills over time, and a pragmatic approach to solving problems. Adriana, of course, has those in spades (Get it? Like a shovel).
What do you wish you knew when you started?
“I don’t know that I would change my journey. I say this because if I knew how much of a headache taxes were, or how to keep my inventory running, or how to price my product – if I knew all of those things before I started, I probably would not have started. Sometimes you just have to let passion fuel you and just do it – meet the obstacles as they show up. I think if you wait until everything’s perfect, you’re never going to do it because it’s scary and daunting. You kind of have to jump in to keep going.”
Clarity comes with action. As I often share: thinking and planning can only get you so far – you need to start learning your way forward, a little at a time.
It sounds like you really embrace the process of growing this business as a learning opportunity, right?
“Absolutely. I would someday love to have a big community space that has a bar – I’m a beer drinker. So, I would have a bar in a big space with a front plant shop that showcases art that people can just come and hang out, but then they can also buy plants and art if they want to. And, then that space could be converted to a yoga studio at night. That bigger vision continues to be my dream. If I were to commit and do this full time, that’s what I would like for it to be. Doing these little pieces day-by-day gets me closer. I think it really is just a journey and that vision continues to adapt based on the people that I meet.”
To begin, you need vision. But, you need to quickly flip into pragmatism to succeed. Tend to the soil patiently, allowing seeds time to sprout. Don’t expect the whole plant to suddenly appear before you. Like all things, starting and growing a business takes work.
“Yeah, have a dream, allow it to evolve, and then hold on to that and see it to fruition.”
BUILD YOUR INDOOR JUNGLE WITH WILDING FLORA 🪴
Wilding Flora is open for business!
“I care for all of my plants until they find a home. It’s kind of like a foster system. I hand select everything that I sell, and I care for them. You get access to my knowledge when you buy plants from me, which is very different from buying plants at a big-box store.”
Be sure to follow Adriana on Instagram @wilding_flora for plant-care tips and news about where to find her at upcoming local events and markets. Send her a DM if you’re looking for a plant or two and want a recommendation. You can browse her plants on DoorDash. And, contact her about gifts and party favors.
If you live in Arizona, you can also find Adriana’s plants in Retail Therapy stores in Glendale and Westgate.
“The first time I set up my shelves inside Retail Therapy it was surreal! It was definitely a proud moment. I’ve worked retail jobs in the past where I set up shelves for other designers, when I set mine up I reflected on my journey until that moment. One of my favorite quotes from Steve Jobs is ‘you can never connect the dots looking forward you can only connect them looking back.’ I choose to believe that maybe life is just preparing us for a beautiful future! Being with Retail Therapy for more than a year now, it’s broadened the possibilities of maybe one day opening a brick and mortar of my own!”
A big thank you to Adriana for sharing her story and an excellent conversation.
By the way, if you’re a new or aspiring small business owner or looking to start your side-hustle, let’s talk. You can book a discovery call today. ⬇️
BOOK A DISCOVERY CALL WITH MICHAEL 🚀
Starting a business is exciting and ambiguous – and that’s the fun. It’s a time of possibility, experimentation, imagination, and showing the world what you can do.
But, it can also feel slow, frustrating, and full of traps and distractions, leaving potential entrepreneurs to question their self-worth and to wonder why they started in the first place.
I’ll help you create, cultivate, and capture an entrepreneur’s mindset, so you can start and grow your businesses with confidence and step boldly into the role of business owner.
Owner 321 Liftoff