Craig Nelson (a.k.a. Lil' Craig), Director of Operations at Topiarius, shares what it means to #LBO:
To experience beauty in anything, there has to be a something not so beautiful to compare it to. For me, in order to experience the beauty outdoors, I welcome the not so beautiful, though it’s not always by choice. I’m going to use the phrase “welcome discomfort” as a means of making my point. (By the way, I kind of stole/modified the phrase from a YouTube channel whose motto it is to seek discomfort.) I like to welcome discomfort, because that makes even the small things outdoors beautiful. I’ll give some examples below.
Plant care and landscape – Though I am no designer, I still have fun constantly transplanting or planting rescued plants around my house. It can be messy work, but it’s so rewarding to work with living things and experience their recovery, growth, and beauty.
Making any ol’ thing – I can’t help but want to make something myself that I’ve seen or thought up. Under the July sun this summer I built a pretty large bench with cushions, a big poured concrete coffee table with a wood fire pit in the middle, a little countertop/sink, and a stand-up bar area. I suffered sweat, sunburn, bruises, and experienced my first sciatica pains, but now I have a beautiful and comfortable place to sit and enjoy my yard with my family! What I didn’t anticipate, was how easy of a place it is to fall asleep at night. No joke, whether by choice or drifting off after a few drinks, I’ve slept outside on that bench about 50 percent of time since I built it.
Running around in the woods – I do a lot of running and have done so on and off since high school. It wasn’t until the last few years that I realized I don’t have to stick to a sidewalk or bike path. I first discovered the horse paths by me, then unmaintained single track trails, and even deer trails. Hell, if a trail disappears, well I just fight through whatever wilderness is in front of me and find the next one. For a real fun factor, I do it in the dark with a flashlight. I feel like a little kid again, even though I can’t brush off the injuries and elements like I could as a kid. There are all kinds of ways to experience discomfort while running outside year-round, but the payoffs are worth it! The wildlife, insects, flowers, trees, rivers, and how the seasons affect them all are just a few to list.
My point is this, to me, living beautifully outdoors to me means I like to welcome getting soaked in the rain to appreciate an umbrella. I welcome a rock as a seat to appreciate a cushioned bench. I welcome a sunburn to appreciate the shade from a tree. I welcome dirty hands to appreciate a sink. I welcome the cold to appreciate a fire. I welcome discomfort to know comfort.
P.S. Try going outside naked!
At our house we have Taco Tuesdays on Mondays.
Why? Because sometimes we just have to do it our own way.
Craig and I created Topiarius 18 years ago and every day since then we’ve honestly done it our own way.
Let me explain.
Here’s a checklist of solid things needed in order to start a business:
- An education or a degree in business
- An education or a degree in your business specialty
- A formal business plan
- Investor money
- A mentor
- A banker, a lawyer, and an accountant all lined up on standby
- A mission statement
- A website . . .or now a social media presence
When we started, NONE of these boxes were checked.
You see . . . Craig’s B.A. is Christian theology and my B.A. is in English Literature with a minor in Swedish. (My Master’s is in Christian education.)
Both our work backgrounds ranged from working at camps and churches to planning events to social work to some landscaping for Craig.
Our business plan contained the most logical first step ever(!): Craig determined our business name and then we paid for a VERY expense logo (all while living in eastern Massachusetts – not even the state we wanted to be working in!) We eventually bought some how to write a business plan books . . . but they only collected dust.
No real cash reserve. Craig did flip a house while in MA and earned $10k. Once back in Chicago, I took a full-time job working in Human Resources so I could pay the bills and have insurance until I could work full-time at Topiarius.
We happened to “know a few guys” to get started with with legal and financial guidance, but no one on retainer (i.e. we we’re going this alone)!
Mission statement: Only to work for ourselves. (We nailed it, right?)
Website . . . well . . . we needed some photos of our work first. So after about 6-12 months we got our site up and going. Social media? What was that? Our first mode of advertising was an ad in the Chicago Tribune.
But because we like to do it our own way none of this really bothered us.
All we knew was that we wanted Topiarius to be our own and if we could make it successful then so be it.
We did have 3 guiding philosophies to live by:
- Because we were working (hard) for every penny, we were only going to spend it on something damn good and important. So . . . we knew if clients were going to invest, then we really had to deliver on our services and end product.
- Because we weren’t formally trained, we couldn’t get stuck nor constrained by traditional methodologies of design. Of course, we would choose the best materials and plants for the correct locations, but just because so and so did it one way, it was NO reason for us to do it that way too!
- We always wanted to make our clients fall in love with their outdoors spaces and in love with the plants that surrounded them. We believed (and still do) nature is balm for the soul and it’s something we should all have more of daily.
18 years has taught us a lot. We are not who we were then and we definitely have grown as business owners and partners. BUT what guided us when we started, still holds true today.
Topiarius is not your everyday landscape company. We are all about creating unique, inspired designs and landscapes for our clients. Matter fact . . .
We are on a mission to design, create, and maintain luxurious outdoor sanctuaries because people (You!) deserve to live beautifully outdoors. [YAASSSS . . . we finally got ourselves mission statement we love!]
So if you’re looking for a team that doesn’t like to do things like everyone else, that will provide you significant value for your investment, and help you have your own oasis . . . then contact us today.