What all started by accident is now a very successful business called Green Wallscapes. A couple of years ago Lindsay Scherr Burgess saw a piece out of Europe and thought, “I can make that”. One “very terrible” moss wall later, she already had friends asking her to make them one.
After graduating in 2004, Lindsay worked in different fields always in a sales and marketing capacity. In 2009, she moved to Florida from the Midwest, and today she owns Green Wallscapes, a business that sells preserved moss walls all over the United States and Canada. She started her business as a side-hustle until her day job came to an end. When she went full time, she started saying yes to hundreds of projects across the country and since then, Green Wallscapes has taken off.
Having had quite the ride to being the entrepreneur she is today, Lindsay Scherr Burgess shares with us her path to success, the obstacles she’s faced, and more specifically, how she’s been navigating through the pandemic.
Honne: Can you tell us about yourself and your background?
Lindsay Scherr Burgess: I grew up in Washington, DC, and always loved being artistic and creative, while very academically rigorous. I’ve worked in commercial real estate, construction/engineering, and management consulting, as well as organic food CSA. I moved from Chicago to South Florida, with no friends, no job, and no money (commercial real estate took a huge hit and me with it), and I figured I had nothing to lose. Ten years later, I’m married, own a house, and have a business. I truly believe that it would have been a very different experience had I stayed in the Midwest. For anyone who is struggling right now, these kinds of crises are amazing opportunities to pivot your life and make choices.
Why did you decide to start a business?
LSB: Honestly, I didn’t want to work at any of the jobs that were available at the time that I was between jobs. More seriously, my husband encouraged me to try and was willing to take on the financial burden initially to let this grow while I wasn’t bringing in much income. It’s still below what I would be making for someone else, but I am having a ton of fun! I like that I get to build something and invent from scratch. It’s magic when it works. I love the process of invention; I get bored if things are too repetitive. I’m also someone who has an extremely high-risk tolerance and is okay with fixing issues as they arise.
What does a typical day look like for you?
LSB: I wake up and I meditate, scroll social media, and my emails. Then I head to work around 10-10:30. I like a leisurely morning so I head to work between 10 and 11. It takes me time to get going in the AM. If something urgent comes up, I will address it before then, but most of the time, moss emergencies can be dealt with quite easily during the day. I check in with my team as soon as I get to the studio to see if there is any help they need. Then I handle whatever sales calls or proposals need to be handled. My superpower is sales and marketing, so I am always thinking about how we can make that better as well as engage with potential clients.
I also try to take 2 to 3 days a month where I have “strategic planning” days and can really think about the business operationally with new marketing initiatives, financial planning or otherwise.
Specifically, as a female entrepreneur, have you faced any obstacles since starting Green Wallscapes?
LSB: I think that as a woman and product of the last recession, I’ve had to overcome some seriously conservative and limited thinking in terms of investing in my company and my team. I have to really focus when it comes to areas that I am not as comfortable with– such as project management, construction, and finance – and that are typically male-dominated.
On the flip side, being a female is a huge benefit. First of all, women are amazing at building consensus and have incredible customer service and attention to detail. We also try to anticipate and control problems before they happen. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve been told that our installation was the smoothest part of a job or that our customer service was the best they’ve ever dealt with. It’s because we try very hard to make sure we hyper-communicate with our team and plan ahead.
I can imagine demand has been lower since the beginning of the pandemic. How has COVID-19 impacted you and your business?
LSB: There was a very scary 6-week period where everything slowed or stopped. By this summer, things started to pick back up as construction is considered an essential business and by October we were pretty much overwhelmed with work that had been pushed into the fourth quarter. We lost a ton of revenue for a few months but made some wonderful gains towards the end of the year. I am very proud that I was able to retain all my employees, hire new ones, and only furloughed my team for 2 days during this entire pandemic.
What were some of the biggest difficulties you faced this year?
LSB: What isn’t hard for a startup when the world is upside down? Before the pandemic, we were dealing with a lot of burn-out in my team from lack of planning and frankly being understaffed. During the pandemic, the biggest difficulty was mostly dealing with fear and lack of income, and now it’s dealing with pandemic fatigue. My team is really bored of not being able to go out over the weekends. Virtual gatherings are not the same as in-person but there are only so many times I can say, please be careful on the weekends. The uncertainty of the near future makes decision-making more difficult as well.
What mindset have you had since the beginning of the pandemic? Has it changed throughout the year?
LSB: When the pandemic hit in March, my mindset was “keep everyone afloat”. I had to have some really tough talks with my team. My only goal was to keep them employed. It’s been horrible for 20 somethings, and I know that feeling because I went through it. My only goal was to shield them from it. Since May, I would say I’m cautiously optimistic. We had our biggest month ever in October. People are craving a connection to green now that they are stuck indoors.
Has the pandemic changed your outlook on your business and your approach to your job? How?
LSB: I think it’s given me a lot of perspective. Most things can be fixed, and nothing is worth getting overwhelmed by. It’s just moss! I also appreciate my team even more. They have been so diligent, so responsible, and kept showing up. I would do anything for them. I have also looked at my own lifestyle and had to make some different choices to respect my own physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing. It’s not perfect, but a work in progress. I’m also much pickier about who and where I spend my time.
What has helped you get through this past year and a half?
LSB: My husband, my family, my team, my friends, meditation, yoga, peloton, jet skiing, Instagram, vodka, and Netflix/Hulu/Bravo (because, balance!). Also, I know that the work we do is very important for helping people feel better. When they see our work, they relax. I know that if I can make someone’s day just a little better, it’s totally worth it!
Has anything good come out of these hard times?
LSB: So many good things. I think I have created some really important boundaries on who and what I am around. I don’t just do things to do them anymore. I’ve enjoyed the grounding nature of traveling less, eating out less, networking less, and going to parties with people I don’t really like, less. I also have had more time for meditation and being in nature. I think I’ve gotten perspective on a lot of what is really important to me. I cannot wait to travel again. I am going to ease back into networking as things start to normalize.
What does the future look like for Green Wallscapes? Any plans?
LSB: So many! I hope to hire a few more team members to help us with marketing, administration, and production in this upcoming year. I am hoping to launch a line of products and if we have time, pursue some more creative ventures with my artists that can elevate the material more and more. Our core business is always going to be custom commissions, but I would like to do flash sales and other things to appeal to a broader audience that is less custom and can be purchased right away. We just don’t have a lot of extra bandwidth for those types of projects now, but I am hoping to increase our capacity this year.
What advice would you give to someone looking to become an entrepreneur?
LSB: Don’t. Just kidding. Ask yourself, do I have thick skin? Do I already know people that could become customers? There are so few barriers to entry now when starting a business with the internet, you can do a lot on the weekends and nights until you have enough income to drop your day job. Business is just finding a need and becoming exceptional at filling that need over and over and over again. It is a process, and you have to be really patient, but I wouldn’t trade it.