On Oct. 6, 2020, business owner Lauren Tuell won the Bangor Big Gig Pitch in a live virtual competition. As the creator and owner of Mainely Succulents in downtown Orono, Tuell’s business now gets the chance to further develop and continue expanding.
Tuell and her husband got married at the Penobscot Valley Country Club in 2015, which is when her dream of creating Mainely Succulents started. Mainely Succulents was officially created in 2017 when Tuell started providing succulents as favors for weddings, craft fairs and workshops. She opened the retail location, located on Mill Street in Orono, in November of 2019.
“I gave out succulents as wedding favors and used them as primary decor for centerpieces and boutonnieres/corsages etc. It was such a huge hit and it inspired me to create lots of arrangements and learn to propagate and grow my succulent knowledge,” Tuell said. “As an entrepreneur, I saw the opportunity as succulents were just starting to be trendy all over Pinterest.”
The Bangor Big Gig competition provided a chance for Tuell to receive money to grow and expand her business, while also allowing her to connect with other entrepreneurs. Tuell first heard about the competition from a friend she met during the Master Gardener course that was offered through the University of Maine’s Cooperative Extension.
Before Tuell was able to qualify for the Big Gig competition, she first had to enter in the Bangor Little Gig competition. This competition took place at UpStart Maine in Orono, and involved owners creating a business pitch and presenting their ideas to the judges. In order to move on to the next round, contestants needed to make it to the final three.
The Bangor Big Gig was held at Geaghan’s Tasting Room in Brewer, Maine, and was one of three Big Gig competitions that are held throughout the year. Although Tuell did not win at the tasting room competition, she was picked for a bonus entry into the Big Gig finale. Fans and supporters were able to vote for their favorite contestants on social media and Tuell received the most votes.
“Because of everything going on in 2020, after the competition I was a part of in February, there was a hold on things and the finale was postponed,” Tuell said. “Thankfully UpStart Maine is innovative and figured out how to host the Big Gig Finale on Zoom. We pitched our ideas live on Oct. 6 and found out the winner immediately after.”
Tuell is currently using the $5,000 she won to hire more staff and continue creating the plant buying experience that is unique to Mainely Succulents.
“I am so excited to be hiring some University of Maine students! As I am a homeschooling mom of three, I can only be open at the plant shop Friday and Saturdays so I look forward to being open more days and stocking the plant shop all winter,” Tuell said.
Tuell hopes to continue to stock her retail location as well as her online website where locals can order plants for curbside pick up and delivery, and soon attend virtual seasonal online workshops. She also plans to add succulent kits for the holidays and be able to eventually ship them.
“It’s been difficult as a small business owner during a pandemic to get ahead enough to hire help. As headmaster gardener, marketing manager, accountant and more I have been doing it all alone,” Tuell said. “I can only imagine how much more effective my business will run with some motivated staff by my side. I can’t wait to be able to offer jobs to students and local plant lovers.”
Mainely Succulents’ retail location is home to a wide array of succulents and arrangements to choose from, as well as macrame plant hangers, wall art and nature-inspired home decor. They also have plants, pots and a “create your own arrangement” option to plant your own succulents.
“At Mainely Succulents we create an experience. We want to set you up for success and educate you to be a successful plant parent!” Tuell said. “We even support local artists to help us stock the shop with one of a kind crafts like plant identification stickers and plant care tip cards and lava rock/essential oil jewelry. We love to support fellow entrepreneurs. We believe working with other business owners helps us all during these hard times.”
Tuell’s business also works with other local businesses in the area to host workshops, create educational events and plan parties. Some businesses she has collaborated with include The Willie Wags in downtown Bangor, Sprague’s Nursery and Orono Brewing Company.
“It is our goal at Mainely Succulents that every customer leaves feeling inspired and confident that they received the proper plant and that they will have success caring for it,” Tuell said. “We also always offer ongoing advice. Unlike many places you can buy plants, you can even bring your plants back if you need assistance as it grows.”