Mark and Jolly Krautmann, co-owners of Heritage Seedling & Liners Inc., are widely recognized for their experience in the nursery industry since 1982. The Oregon Association of Nurseries inducted the Krautmanns into their Hall of Fame in 2019.
Mark and Jolly offer their advice to anyone aspiring to get started in the nursery industry.
“You’ve got to love plants. There’s so much more to it than management. There’s artistry involved in growing plants. They’re living, animate. And there’s a relationship between people and plants. People put them on their desks. People give them away as gifts. People wear them in weddings. It’s that relationship that drove my interest. I think you’ve just got love plants in this line of work.” — Mark
Be consistent—but not predictable.
“We keep our brand consistent so people remember us and come back. We’ve never really changed. That doesn’t mean we always have the same plants. We grew unusual species when we started, and we still do. We’re consistent in always having fresh varieties, and people love it. Consistent but fresh.” — Jolly
“You have to budget both your time and your money. Look at sales and profitability. One of the weaknesses of our trade is that we tend to be deluded by sales rather than looking at profit.” — Mark
Accept the commitment.
“If I hadn’t quit my computer programming job to enter the nursery industry, I could have retired by now. But this is our life. I’m attached to this business. We do travel a lot. We spend time with our grandkids. But this business takes up almost all my time. I wish I’d known that.” — Jolly
Mentor younger generations.
“Take mentorship seriously. Help people find a niche and hone their craft. And it’s contagious. If you find a person in their mid-20s who’s passionate about plants, it affects everyone in the job.” — Mark
“Having an interracial marriage has helped us to understand people better. When we married, a Chinese-American relationship was unusual. And there’s so much diversity in the nursery industry, so that has helped us. It’s actually been a key competitive advantage for us. You learn to put yourself in the shoes and life experiences of your workers and your clients.” — Mark
“When Mark and I take a walk, we still talk about business. It’s difficult to separate work from life. It’s not a 9-to-5 job. It’s partly good because we’re so efficient. I love this work. The nursery industry has made me happy. I just wish I made more time to rest.” — Jolly
“Don’t just expand. Market well. We doubled in size each year for a while. Now we feel chastened that we have to be more careful and strategic. We have to prove that our plants have value to people at retail.” — Mark
Be ready for great things.
“Be persistent, have a good sense of yourself and be committed to doing what you really love. Then stand back, because great things will happen.” — Mark