Planting the First Seeds
Growing up, Jessie had always been interested in all things pertaining to food. Her dad was an amateur chef and avid traveler, cooking Jessie’s family international cuisines with ingredients from all over the world. Jessie knew early on that she wanted a food-related career, she just didn’t know what. Not so long after graduating college, Jessie’s friend approached her about starting a gardening business together. Jessie had just finished reading the book the Omnivore’s Dilemma, which had awakened her to the challenges of America’s food systems and inspired her to participate in resolving them. Realizing this was the perfect way to utilize her passion for food, Jessie agreed, and Green City Growers was started in 2008.
Getting the business off the ground raised many inevitable challenges. “Starting a small business is really hard. There are so many unknowns.” One of Jessie’s primary challenges was raising capital. Jessie found out about Accion through a business advisor and with the first loan she received, she was able to have a marketing budget, something they previously couldn’t afford. Jessie used her second loan, which she received in 2017, to cover the costs of everything from operational expenses, such as buying to equipment, to research and development. Jessie felt motivated not only by the financial support, but by the feeling of being valued. “I appreciate that you all really appreciate your customers more than any other lender I’ve worked with.”
One of Jessie’s favorite parts of running her business is the unanimously positive reactions she sees from her customers and the general public. “People really appreciate the hard work we do and that’s a really great feeling.” Jessie’s business is not solely about building gardens, but allowing individuals an opportunity to further understand and engage in food production. Jessie’s team works with the YMCA and the Boys and Girls Club to install gardens at schools and youth centers and give children the memorable experience of growing their own food. Jessie is also passionate about creating a positive workplace where each staff member is heard. As the manager of 25 employees, Jessie has also developed personally to meet the needs of her ever expanding office. “You end up in a position where you can make decisions that are respectful of other human beings, which is a lot of responsibility, but it feels good when you’re able to do that.”
With plans to expand not just beyond the greater Boston area, but outside of the Northeast, the potential seems limitless for what’s in store for Green City Growers. Above all, Jessie intends to continue sharing her passion of growing healthy, sustainable food by finding new and innovative ways to connect individuals to the gardens in their communities.