The COVID-19 pandemic has taken so much from the world and left local communities more disconnected than before, but Mainely Succulents, a local Orono business is finding ways to connect the community through plants. Friends and family become distant, connections become more difficult, and the virtual world has becomes ever more important to maintaining pre-existing relationships. This period in history has presented challenges to everyone, especially small business owners. This however, hasn’t stopped some individuals from rising above these challenges, and coming out stronger than ever before.
Enter Lauren Tuell, founder of Mainely Succulents in Orono. Tucked away on 3 Mill Street, Mainely Succulents is Orono’s premier plant shop, offering friendly service, helpful tips, and of course, plants! Tuell is a mother of three, who found herself homeschooling her children at the beginning of lockdown while also trying to open a new business. She has been growing succulents for herself for a while –– even using her own for her wedding in 2015–– which then grew into a passion she wanted to take publicly.
Tuell opened her shop right before COVID-19 hit Maine in 2020. While Tuell had plans to get the business rolling, the pandemic, like it did for so many others, threw a wrench in those plans.
“We went full shutdown mode and needed to gain a more virtual presence. We created a website and downloaded a new POS (point of sale) system, Shopify, to go full online with sales and delivery. We update the website frequently, but we have a lot of plants that can’t ship. I was also the only employee for a while,” Tuell said.
In October of 2020, Tuell participated in the Bangor Big Gig, a contest where small businesses compete to win money to help their business grow. With her prize of $5,000, she was able to hire two more employees, and put them through a master gardener course, furthering her initiative to “cultivate the community” as well as plants.
While Tuell does hope to bring more plants into the community, establishing lasting relations and helping bring people together mean more to her.
“I pride myself in calling our shop the plant doctors. We aren’t in this for competition. We are here for plant consulting, and setting people up to learn,” Tuell said. “I was a teacher before all of this and I don’t think business and marketing was my view for a long term job, but through exploring my passions, we are making it work.”
Sure enough, Tuell is working to bring the community together with her work. She has helped with interior design in other local businesses such as Tacorita and Margarita’s. To keep community spirits up, Tuell holds local garden parties and does monthly giveaways on her website. When Mainely Succulents holds live events, the company makes sure to only get food catered from local restaurants, creating a cycle of community uplift.
COVID-19 has led people to reevaluate their daily lives and find creative solutions and opportunities. Mainely Succulents provides good for the community through plants, and helps to serve as a bridge to the Orono community, uplifting local businesses and community members through tough times. Thanks to Lauren Tuell’s tireless work ethic and dedication, the positive effects of COVID-19 have only just begun.