Hey! My name is Marcus Kirby and I am the creator of The Succulent City, a latinx-owned plant shop located in Chicago's Humboldt Park neighborhood. The shop specializes in uncommon succulents and cacti, as well as tropicals and aroids. With your help, I hope to move my online shop to a physical space that is community driven, inclusive, accessible, and uplifting.
HOW YOU CAN HELP:
After seven years of sacrificing + saving for a storefront, I was finally able to secure a space in April of 2020. Unfortunately, I later learned that the storefront was not properly zoned, and had a serious black mold infestation that was affecting my asthma. In October of 2020, I moved to a wonderful space in Bucktown, but was later notified that I could no longer access the storage space below. This was a huge setback, because I had invested thousands of dollars into opening by spring of 2021. After a few weeks of frantically searching, I found the perfect storefront - a beautiful 2,400 square foot unit with additional basement - ideal for storage, and use as a grow space.
To secure the space, I was forced to sell a portion of my personal plant collection, as well as personal belongings. Beyond that, these three major moves + renovations in less than a year have left me in a lot of debt. I do not have outside financial support, and my business is not established enough for traditional financing, nor eligible for PPP loans. Everything is self-financed. I am a very resourceful and independent person, and hate asking for help, but I can’t move forward without it.
Funding will go towards:
- Construction: building a register area, fabricating and installing shelving, lighting/electric, paint, plumbing, and general labor costs.
- Functional items: POS system, barcode scanner + label maker, speaker system.
- Licensing / Permit fees.
- Inventory: Although I have a good amount of plants + ceramics on hand, many of the suppliers I work with require CoD, and do not offer Net 30/60/90 options. To guarantee enough inventory for the first month of operations, I need to purchase approximately 4-5x more than my usual monthly order.
- Interior Architect/Designer: @DesignbyKava.
- Mural/artwork: TBD.
- Note: I am intentionally choosing to prioritize local artists/designers/craftspeople from the BIPOC+ LGBTQIA communities. I believe that it's necessary to provide opportunities and adequate compensation.
More than anything, my hope is that The Succulent City goes beyond being just a plant shop. Given the general social, political, and economic anxiety that we collectively experience, particularly those in the BIPOC + LGBTQIA communities, it's absolutely necessary to create and provide spaces of refuge. Even if just for a few moments, I want the space to transport someone to a new environment, to help them breathe. Additionally, by providing healthy and price-accessible plants, I hope that others can experience the confidence that comes from nurturing and caring for another living thing. As someone who has suffered from mental health and substance abuse issues, I sincerely believe that plants saved my life, and I want to share that opportunity with others. I also hope that in some way, my story encourages others to find and pursue their own passion.
HOW IT ALL STARTED:
In 2014, I was struggling with undiagnosed bipolar disorder, adhd, alcoholism, and general life instability. For years, I had bounced from job to job, never feeling satisfied or invested in what I was doing. I knew that I needed to work for myself, partly because my mental health made a normal schedule impossible, but also because I wanted to be "successful" on my own terms.
In April of that year, I read an article discussing the benefits of plants on mental health. After a few unsuccessful attempts at caring for tropicals, I tried succulents. It turned out that my neglectfulness was perfect for them, and my collection quickly grew. In the summer of 2015, I applied for a dream job at a succulent nursery in Austin, TX and was hired to work in their greenhouses. It was an amazing experience/time, but my mental health continued to decline, and was wreaking havoc on my relationships and job performance. I came back to Chicago in 2016, to focus on finding a therapist/psychiatrist, and developing a plan for my future. From 2016 to 2019, I sold plants + arrangements online, and wherever else I could: sidewalks, alleys, garages, backyards, parking lots, bars, festivals, etc. You name it, I was probably selling plants there. In February of 2020, I finally caught a break, and was gifted an unused community garden by my alderman. Then...Covid-19 Happened.
In February, the city went into lockdown. I lost use of the community garden, and the restaurant where I worked was forced to temporarily shut down. With no other option, I invested what little savings I had into a business license + batch of plants. I went the unconventional route, and sold them directly on Facebook/Instagram. My huge risk paid off, and in April, I had enough saved to put down a deposit for a storefront.
Thank you for taking the time to read and share.
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