Paul Kawoczka and Dan Nichols are still involved in the day-to-day operations of their business, even as their leadership positions change as franchisors.
When Paul Kawoczka and Dan Nichols first founded Enliven Planters, they set out on one simple mission: make high end gardening and design available to the masses.
The friends turned business partners first met while they were studying together at Pennsylvania State University. While Nichols worked as an urban planner and designer after graduation, Kawoczka broke into the high-end segment of residential landscape design as an estate garden designer. But the two realized that there was a widening gap in the industry—top quality landscaping services were only available to consumers who were willing to pay top dollar. So through creating Enliven Planters, they planned to bring green and growing environments to a more mainstream audience.
To say that they’ve been successful would be an understatement—Enliven Planters is innovating in the garden and landscape space. By acting as a subscription service similar to Blue Apron or Hello Fresh that provides its customers with seasonal planters every quarter, the brand is tapping into a new generation of renters and homeowners who are interested in creating outdoor living spaces. And now that the brand is expanding through franchising, Kawoczka and Nichols have realized that in order to ensure nationwide success down the line, they need to create a positive environment and culture that spreads from the top down.
“Before launching Enliven Planters, I was fortunate enough to work for a few great bosses who showed me what it means to run a great company. That’s where I learned that the boss’ tone ultimately sets the tone and dictates the feel for the rest of a brand’s employees—people mold themselves after leaders,” said Kawoczka. “At the end of the day, a company is only as strong as its team. It’s crucial for Dan and I to create a positive environment as the founders and leaders behind Enliven Planters, especially since we’re a young company that’s still experiencing growing pains.”
By building a strong team of employees who share their passion for the Enliven Planters brand, Kawoczka and Nichols have been able to build a strong reputation among consumers. That’s a trend that’s expected to continue as other entrepreneurs sign on to bring the brand to their own local communities.
“Being a subscription service, we pride ourselves on having an incredibly high rate of client retention. But our proudest moments have all involved our team of rock star employees,” said Kawoczka. “We have one gardener, for example, who started working for us without any experience in the industry. But within two weeks, he was designing planters that were just as good as ours. That moment proved to us that we created a system that could be replicated by other owners, and ultimately continues to inspire us as we expand through franchising.”
Even though launching a successful franchise concept isn’t an easy task, Kawoczka and Nichols are confident in the system that they’ve created. And by continuing to trust their guts while still taking the opinions of their team members—and franchisees—into consideration, the business partners are anticipating growth in the year ahead.
According to Kawoczka, that balance between decisiveness and collaboration is what makes all leaders and concepts successful.
“I honestly don’t claim to be an expert when it comes to leading a brand. I firmly believe that I should be learning every single day from the people who are around me,” said Kawoczka. “In order to drive a business forward, you need to listen to everyone on your team and be empathetic towards their situations. But at the same time, you have to stay away from the paralysis by consensus. You’re never going to make everybody happy, which is why it’s ultimately up to a leader to be decisive.”
As the leaders behind an emerging concept, it’s clear that Kawoczka and Nichols’ approach to moving a brand forward is working. And while they realize that there’s no shortage of ways to run a business, they’re planning to keep one foot in Enliven Planters’ daily operations, even as their roles shift as franchisors.
“There are a lot of different ways to start a business and build a concept from the ground up. But no matter what position you hold within a system, you can’t be afraid to get your hands dirty. That’s something that we take literally here at Enliven Planters,” said Kawoczka. “When Dan and I first started out, we did everything from answering phones to planting ourselves. That’s really helped us learn the ins and outs of our business across all levels, and I think it’s helping us evolve. As a leader, you can’t be too proud to do the smaller tasks. Instead, embrace your brand and show your employees that you’re willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done.”