CEA Services Winner: Succulent Hobby Grows Into Business

By Cece Nunn, posted May 5, 2023
SERVICES | THE COASTAL SUCCULENT | Thurston Pope & Brandon McKeown, Founders | Year Founded: 2013 | Employees: 5 (Photo by Madeline Gray)
For Brandon McKeown and Thurston Pope, what started as a hobby selling succulent plants a decade ago blossomed into a full-fledged business.

Before The Coastal Succulent + Design began, “we were visiting friends in Los Angeles, where succulents are prevalent. We didn’t know much about succulent plants at all, but we learned about it there, came back here and said, ‘How do we want to do this as a business?’” Pope said during an interview at the firm’s storefront and studio off Oleander Drive.

Pope takes care of The Coastal Succulent’s business affairs while McKeown is the creative director. Both are graduates of the University of North Carolina Wilmington who previously held jobs in different fields.

“It started off very simple, almost like a craft-type situation, and from there it just kind of organically grew into where we are today,” McKeown said. “At our first actual craft show we sold out in the first day basically. So we were like, ‘Wait a minute – people like this.’”

In the beginning, they planted individual succulent plants in Ball jars and small pots.

“Then Whole Foods Market approached us about selling with them. Clients were coming to us and wanted us to do larger arrangements, and it just snowballed from there,” Pope said. “Interior designers came to us wanting help with live and faux arrangements for their new installs.”

Pope and McKeown wanted space outside of McKeown’s Wilmington home to continue to grow their business, so they opened a studio and storefront last year at 3528 Adirondack Way, Unit 130, in a retail space in the Hawthorne at Oleander apartment complex. The store, which is within walking distance of the Tidal Creek grocery store-anchored shopping center, has a relaxing atmosphere that offers a space for Pope and McKeown to meet with clients and for customers to buy real or faux plants, candles and other gifts.

“It’s nice for people to come shop retail. They can pick whatever pot they want off the shelf, we can run in the back and plant it or they can even buy pre-made, pre-potted arrangements,” Pope said. 

Their operations manager, Baylee Shane, also works out of the storefront, overseeing project management “building client relationships and executing the shared vision for a space,” the firm’s website states.

Sharing an example of one of the firm’s projects, the founders said The Coastal Succulent + Design created and installed 6-by-4-foot moss frames for Wilmington-based company MegaCorp Logistics.

As the business has evolved, so has its philosophy.

Sharing the firm’s formal description, Pope said, “We are a curated plant design studio, specializing in high-end botanical installations with a focus on extremely realistic artificial/permanent designs, and we partner with interior design firms and individual clients to customize designs for their residences and commercial space.”

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