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Business Owners & Managers

Women in the Industry: Pam Dooley

"Roles and labels only exist if we choose to make them true. Surround yourself with positive people who have your best interest at heart and I believe you’ll be successful!"

Our "Women In The Industry" series continues to share inspiring stories of female professionals across North America. Today we bring you Pam Dooley, the owner of Plants Creative Landscapes in Georgia. The voice of this company can only be described as "caring" - the customer is in the center at all times. Social media is full of employees’ photos, charity work and stunning landscaping designs with the hashtag #PuttingYouInYourLandscape. Need we say more? Let’s hear from Pam herself:

1. Pam, you entered the green industry at a very early age and have built such a successful company since! Your lifelong passion is a great example for our readers. What was your inspiration to get into this industry?

My first job was at 13 working in cornfields. From there I progressed to working with my grandfather at our local family-owned garden center, and also mowed our local cemetery in summer.

During college, I was fortunate enough to work at the 1996 Olympic Games in a landscape capacity and continued to work in various positions until starting Plants Creative in 2005. So, I don’t think there is one single point of inspiration that has influenced my journey, but a lot of different opportunities that have led me to where I am.

2. What one thing was the most challenging on your path of building a company?

Financially, it would be losing my SBA funding for our new shop during the 2008 recession. The bank who funded the loan collapsed and we had to go back through the lending process twice. While I was in the middle of it, it really didn’t seem like a huge deal. But, as I look back, it was pretty difficult and we ended up using a decent amount of cash from the business to finish the build out.

3. As an owner of Plants Creative Landscapes, what part of your job do you enjoy the most?

Two things: People building and brand building. I have always believed that two of the biggest drivers of success are the development of the right people on your team, as well as making decisions every day that align with your brand, thereby creating trust.

Obviously, I also enjoy landscaping and having the opportunity to improve people’s quality of lives. It is inspiring to see the work our team does every day that positively impacts the communities we serve. But my passion is in building and developing our team, our culture and our brand, as I believe doing these things well will allow us to be successful.

4. Did you experience any bias against women landscapers when you were starting?

I get this question a lot so I’ve taken the time to reflect on it and my answer continues to be no. I really don’t believe that being a woman has created biases in my career but I can understand how other women could feel negatively impacted. I think it’s in perspective and intentionally choosing not to make it "a thing".

Also, the key is surrounding myself with people, men, and women, who share similar values. A great example of this is my peer group: there are 10 men and two women (me and one other woman). Those guys are my support, my friends, and some of my biggest success partners, they truly have my back.

I am sure there are men out there who have biases against me but they’re not a part of my circle, I don’t know them.

5. We notice that a lot of women entrepreneurs choose to grow business with their loved ones. Is your partner involved in your business?

I think it depends on how you define "involved!" She was free labor on my first-weekend installation job (I was still working my regular job and she was early into her career as a social worker). We deposited that check on a Sunday evening and she immediately announced her retirement from Plants Creative… :)

As anyone who owns a business knows, it’s a non-stop grind and having support around you means everything. While she has retired her shovel, she continues to be involved through being my trusted adviser, my biggest cheerleader, my psychologist, and she also holds me accountable for maintaining a balance between my personal and professional hours.

6. Tell us a bit about balancing business and personal life. How do you manage to do it all?

The truth is that my business and personal life are blended. There are times when my work and commitment to the business is heavy. It requires working some evenings after dinner, working occasional weekends to be better prepared for the following week and I am good with that. I think this level of commitment is true for companies and people who desire growth.

But there are also times, mostly during the summer and early fall, when I shut it down and head to the mountains early on Friday and don’t work a minute of the weekend. Mountain sunsets and lake swims refresh me and I’ve done really well at making this a priority.

7. Your company actively supports many initiatives in your community. What is your approach to charitable work?

Investing in the communities in which we work is embedded in our culture and reflected by two of our company values: relationships and gratitude. We take our responsibility to those we serve, and who support us in various ways, very seriously through the giving of time and financial resources.

We sponsor the local school and community events, donate services, and secure reduced product pricing from trade partners to support environmental sustainability efforts. We also give to local animal rescue groups.

Additionally, 19 members of our team just committed a ½ day of service in honor of MLK Day by cleaning out overgrown landscapes.

I think the quote by Gandhi really sums up my beliefs on charitable work: "Find yourself in the service of others."

8. Do you think the culture of women empowering movements of the last few years has had an impact on the landscaping industry?

I think the conversations that are taking place about women’s role in society definitely has a positive impact on our industry. Roles and labels only exist if we choose to make them true and I think any conversations geared around these beliefs are very healthy.

I believe women have to find the confidence and courage within ourselves to get past the fear of believing we’re any less capable.

There are qualities that women are generally stronger in, such as communication skills, a collaborative/empowering approach to building teams, excellent observers of situations (more intuitive) and we also have tremendous resilience. These qualities serve us well in the green industry.

9. What advice would you give women who are interested in entering the landscaping industry?

Build meaningful connections and relationships. Ask a lot of questions and listen well. Hire people who have strengths different than your own. Seek out the support of a peer group and attend as many local and national educational events as your schedule and budget will allow.

Surround yourself with positive people who have your best interest at heart and I believe you’ll be successful!

About Pam: Pam is the owner of Plants Creative Landscapes, offering residential landscape design, construction, and maintenance in Atlanta, Georgia. You can see more from Pam and Plants Creative on Instagram, YouTube, and Facebook.

Are you (or do you know) a woman professional in the lawn care and landscaping industry, or know a women-owned business? We’d love to hear your story - you can share it with us by using the "Tell Us Your Story" section at the bottom of our home page.