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Hidden Gems: Meet Jose Harvey of Urban Pothos Houseplant Shop

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jose Harvey.

Hi Jose, we’re thrilled to have a chance to learn your story today. So, before we get into specifics, maybe you can briefly walk us through how you got to where you are today?
I will start at the very beginning because people always seem to be interested in what inspired my love of plants. When I was a child, I lived in the middle of nowhere and I would often head into the woods and find interesting plants which I would proceed to dig up and replant at my home. It was fun to try and keep them alive and see what would come of it.

Then in undergrad, I began to manage Less-McRae College’s Peace Garden. I realized how much I truly enjoy plants and gardening. After I graduated from undergrad, I went on to graduate school and earned a Master’s in Nonprofit Agricultural Development. Through my studies, I was given many opportunities to work with plants including playing an important managing role in the development of the NC State Agroecology Education Farm. During graduate school, I also became a board member for a nonprofit based in Ecuador called Third Millennium Alliance which focuses on preserving the last remnants of Pacific Equatorial cloud forests.

Eventually, my life transitioned and I became a travel writer. I ran a travel blog called My Normal Gay Life for five years. During those five years, I began to dabble in the idea of opening a houseplant shop that would be totally different from anything else found in Raleigh or the Triangle. With this bigger goal in mind, I traveled the world making sure to visit any plant shop I could find as well as visiting farms and nurseries where houseplants are grown.

Once the Covid pandemic began, travel came to a halt. I actually became very sick with the disease and I took that as a sign that it was time to move on with my life. So, I spent the entire year 2020 writing a comprehensive business plan and invested in order to gain the funds needed to actually start the business. Fast forward to the year 2021 and we’ve opened the business. It’s been a dream for three years in the making but we are hoping for all the best.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
It has not been a smooth road at all. I’m sure no business owner would claim opening a new business takes place down a smooth road. To start… while I knew I wanted to open a houseplant shop at some point, I didn’t really expect to be doing this now. I had a career that I loved very much but I was sort of forced to stop that by the pandemic. Dealing with that in 2020 really put my mind in a dark place and I struggled to come out of it.

When I finally did come out of it, I began to write my business plan. That in itself was quite the struggle because I had no idea what I was doing. It took quite a lot of research and consulting in order to write a well hashed-out business plan. In fact, I really didn’t think I needed one when I was writing it. However, I am so thankful to have written it because now I know every single little detail of my business.

Another struggle was/is finances. Managing a start-up budget is far more of a juggling act then I expected. It can be nerve-racking to watch your bank account go from a high quantity to next to nothing and then back up to a high quantity again. Coming face to face with all the small details that cost money yet no one thinks of is not a fun reality. Those costs add up and unfortunately have to be dealt with.

Lastly, I am a one-person company. I don’t currently have the budget to hire the employees I need and so every single aspect of the business sits on my shoulders. I am responsible for product procurement, marketing, accounting, day-to-day operations, etc. Eventually, this will be ameliorated with the hiring of employees but for now, it’s quite a stressful situation.

Thanks – so what else should our readers know about Urban Pothos Houseplant Shop?
Urban Pothos Houseplant Shop is a small boutique selling houseplants and houseplant accessories. We do not sell a single item for outdoor gardens. Interior plants is the name of our game. We opened in June 12, 2021. Since opening, we’ve already become well known for carrying beautiful, unique, and rare houseplants that are not found in most other shops. When starting the business, we made a commitment to providing high-quality products and plants.

Urban Pothos is set up as a sophisticated, modern houseplant shopping experience. During my travels, I visited many houseplant shops in cities both large and small. I realized Raleigh did not have anything like the shops I was seeing in other cities. Since Raleigh is growing, we need more retail and I wanted to make sure I offered a shopping experience on par with other modern cities. However, we are certainly unique compared to other places in the Triangle that sell plants.

I am most proud of our commitment to being a fair and equitable company. The reason we cannot hire employees yet is because Urban Pothos is committed to providing a living wage and health insurance to all employees. If we cannot offer this then we shouldn’t hire until we can. We are dedicated to the cause of diversity and inclusion. As a Latinx and LGBT-owned business these values are the core of everything we do.

What do you like and dislike about the city?
There is so much to love about Raleigh. I love how relaxed and laid back the city is yet it has that air of modern sophistication. Attitudes in Raleigh are fairly liberal which makes living here so much better. I also love the number of amazing restaurants we have and how active and vibrant the city is.

Something I think the city lacks is retail downtown. Most modern cities offer a number of shopping experiences in their downtown area. However, Raleigh is totally lacking in this regard. We keep allowing restaurant after restaurant opens up but there is no incentive for retail businesses to open. In fact, I believe the restaurant industry drives up the prices of rents making it very difficult to open local retail businesses. I think the city needs to place focus on encouraging and helping retail businesses open. This will only add to the vibrance of our city and create a more dynamic living experience.

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