5 Minutes with … Stephen Barlow
Could you share a little about your background?
My parents started our business when I was 10, so I’ve grown up in the industry my whole life. I started working when I was about 12. I went to Michigan State University to get a degree in horticulture, and then I went on to get a master’s in business from Monmouth University, and I’ve been working ever since.
What is your biggest goal for the next year?
To find a way to reinvent my business for the new economy [due to the coronavirus]. I think the economy is going to change tremendously, so [I need to] find a way to reinvent my business.
What do you love about your job?
I’ll give you three reasons: 1. Growing plants from start to finish. 2. I love working with the people I work with. 3. I really enjoy putting smiles on customers’ faces when they have a full cart of beautiful flowers.
What keeps you up at night?
I’m usually a pretty good sleeper. But mostly labor issues — trying to figure out how to get the job done in the springtime. How are we going to move all these plants in such a short period of time with the staff that we have?
What advice would you give to someone just starting out in horticulture?
First and foremost, people need to know if they want to be in this industry they have to work hard. You have to have a tremendous amount of work ethic if you’re going to succeed in the horticulture industry. It’s not a desk job. It’s a job. It’s a labor of love and you can have a really, really nice career and make a good buck for yourself, but you have to understand that it’s not a Monday-through-Friday job, it’s not a 9-to-5 job. You have to get some dirt under your fingernails. You will be successful if you work hard. If you work hard in this industry, I strongly feel you will be successful.
What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
Spending time with my family, by far. And coaching my kids’ basketball and baseball teams, and going to the beach with my family. We’re fortunate; we live about a mile from the ocean.
Favorite plant to grow? Why?
Primroses, because they’re the first sign of spring. We plant them in November and we watch them grow, and then all of a sudden come January they’re starting to show a pop of color. When the days are short and dark, you can walk into the primrose greenhouse and see they’re starting to pop their heads out.