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Business Spotlight

Beauty in Unexpected Places

In 2017, after working for years at her county job, Stefani Heffner had reached a breaking point. Sick of being chained to an office and tired of spending so much time away from her two sons, Stefani walked into her boss’ office and quit. “I have never done anything spontaneous like that before,” said Stefani. “My boss thought it came from left field because I liked my job and the team that I worked with, but I was just tired of being in an office and my boys needed me.” Stefani always dreamed of owning her own business after watching her immigrant parents be successful entrepreneurs and business owners themselves. “That inspired me from a very young age.” Now was her chance.
Stefani’s first venture was opening a photo booth business. “I bought all of this equipment and two photo booths; however, I quickly realized that I did not like being out at night. I was not the party type and didn’t want to be in that environment,” said Stefani. After investing her time, money, and hope into an idea that didn’t pan out, Stefani felt defeated. “I got kind of depressed and started spending a lot of time at my mom’s house. She has always had a succulent garden, so I started taking clippings and making arrangements for fun. It was like therapy for me.” Stefani discovered a new passion that she was quite talented at. People began showing interest in buying her arrangements, so Stefani started selling at local farmers markets. “Before I knew it, I was committed to seven markets and was creating 150 arrangements per market,” said Stefani. “I was incredibly busy. When I wasn’t at a market, I was at home building arrangements. Seventy percent of what I brought to the markets was selling each week.” At that point, Stefani’s husband Tom decided that he was tired of the hustle and bustle of his career and was also seeking a change. So, he followed in Stefani’s footsteps and quit his job, joining his wife at the farmers markets.
Once Stefani and Tom’s clientele grew, they were approached by a couple of their customers about landscaping their gardens, something they had never done before. “My husband and I took on the challenge, and the owners loved it,” said Stefani. “Then ten of their friends approached us to do the same, and before we knew it, we had landscaped probably 100 gardens in the area.” The act of creating arrangements had become tedious, so Stefani and Tom switched to solely selling succulent plants. “We found a common ground and both became really passionate about it.” Their succulent business took off faster than they ever anticipated, and Secret Garden Designs (a name inspired by Stefani’s mother’s garden) officially began in 2018.
Since Secret Garden Designs quickly outgrew its home origin, Stefani knew she needed to open a brick-and-mortar location. “We had a soft opening at our Brentwood Boulevard location last year and are hoping to officially open on March 20, the first day of Spring,” said Stefani. The store has become a family affair with everyone having an important role to play, including her sons Jordan (18) and Nathan (16). “I love Brentwood and the warm community feeling here. I feel so loved by our customers.” Stefani and Tom have both studied and learned all there is to know about plants so that they can always be equipped to give customers the correct advice. “I don’t ever want to give someone the wrong advice,” said Stefani. “I want to be knowledgeable about what I’m selling. I had wanted to launch house plants a year and a half ago but didn’t because I didn’t own that many. So, we went out and bought a few of every variety and made sure we could keep them all alive.” It was important to Stefani to be able to speak from experience with her customers so that their plants have the best chance to thrive.
Stefani and her husband have huge dreams. It doesn’t stop with opening the doors of Secret Garden Designs. They hope to one day purchase land to be able to grow their own food, love on animals, and build greenhouses to grow their own plants in order to eliminate the middle man. “We have huge dreams. Our life is plants. When I feel beat up by the world, I love knowing that I can go to my backyard, spend time around my plants, and leave feeling so much better again. I just want people to find that same happiness that I’ve found.”
7740-B Brentwood Boulevard

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