Hi, it’s me, Liz. Remember me?
We’ve been together for a solid 10 years (OMFG), and yet where have I been the past month and a bit? Not on the blog, that’s more than obvious.
Have I been taking a well-deserved break? A little social media detox? Took a depression nap for all of October? Gotten pregnant and eloped with Giulio? Launched a new business venture in the middle of a global pandemic?
Winner winner chicken dinner, as my kiwi friends like to say!
Yes, in a sense, I’ve had a baby, but not of the human variety. I’ve
birthed created a brand spanking new business in my new-ish hometown of Lyttelton, New Zealand. Blog readers, I’m pleased to introduce you to NODE Lyttelton: a place for people who love houseplants.
I’d love to share a side of me that perhaps you might not know about. I’ve had a budding love for growing thin for the past couple of years, especially houseplants (pun always intended).
In contrast to the very hectic and very public life I was leading all over the world, I would come home to New Zealand, disconnect, sink my fingers into the earth and work with my growing indoor jungle. Plants for me are incredibly therapeutic; seeing a new leaf unfurl or watching roots emerge from a cutting brings me a simple joy that’s hard to articulate.
To put it simply, plants make me happy. Plants make a lot of people happy.
My houseplant collection started when I was in Wanaka. It began with succulents and orchids, two of the cheapest and easiest to find houseplants in New Zealand. I had the cutest little apartment overlooking the lake. With little natural light, my plant collection there was somewhat limited.
I can still remember getting my very first monstera deliciosa, the “it” plant of indoor plants, a few years ago. I had no idea what it was, I just saw it sitting on the floor in a corner while I was at Mitre 10 (NZ’s big hardware store chain) and thought to myself, wow, that’s a funky looking plant was hesitant with a $60 price tag, but I ended up bringing him home, and that’s really when my love for indoor plants grew. I still have him too, and he’s enormous!
When I moved to Lyttelton last year (fell in love with Giulio, blah blah blah), I went from my little flat to a massive house, with two storey windows that was very much empty.
The combination of me detesting empty space (screw minimalism) and being next to a city with heaps of plant shops mixed with a relaxing summer off as I recovered from a decade of being burnt out meant that I nested HARD. Deep down I think I was looking to create a safe, cozy space that was all mine. A place I could retreat to and feel at peace, to have silence and clean air after a lifetime of chaos.
My houseplant collection grew to probably a solid 200+ plants in a year. I was chopping, growing, propagating, potting, and trading plants like you wouldn’t believe.
My knowledge of botany and horticulture skyrocketed, as I spent countless hours upskilling in turning my home into a healthy indoor jungle. I can talk your ear off about soil pH and the best tricks for getting rid of a mealybug infestation and whinge with the best about why the variegated plant craze kind of dumb. It’s also when I became thoroughly addicted to collecting rare houseplants.
Confession: I have spent more than $1,000 on a single plant. But more on that in a minute.
In short, I have a love for things that grow. As my mind and heart were healing from a decade of self-destructive behavior, an inability to set boundaries with my work, some not so great addictions, and a lifestyle that was anything BUT healthy, I found therapy in nature. Nurturing something to grow is powerful. Green spaces make us happy. I spend a lot of time in the wilderness here in New Zealand, but I found I also wanted to bring nature inside too.
I know I’m not the only one. Plants are good for your mental health – as the studies show. The booming houseplant trend is crazy!
My love of design, of nice things, of feeling cozy and collecting stylish plants really manifested around my collection of houseplants, but I found there wasn’t really a plant place around Lyttelton where I felt drawn to spend time around indoor plants. We’ve got garden centers and plant nurseries and the odd plant place, but most felt, well, dated and old.
There was no life, no style, no vibes, and above all, NOTHING INSTAGRAMMABLE. Houseplants are seriously the most millennial trend ever, why are there no plant places for people just like me?
Fine, I make my own then!
NODE was conceived.
When the chance to take the lease of my partner’s old restaurant Roots appeared, with Giulio’s encouragement to do something “with your plants,” in a blinding leap of faith I took it! In a blur of pure optimism and hope, I signed a lease in July, and then promptly had a panic attack and freaked out for a week. What have I done?
Have I ever owned a shop? No. Have I run a physical business before? Not really. Do I have experience in retail? Well, does working part-time at Bath and Body Works in high school count? Far out, the last time I had a retail job people still wrote checks. I’m the world’s biggest introvert, did I just create a business where I have to talk to people, like, all the time?
I could so easily say why I was totally unqualified for this, but then again, whoever is?
My mind was full of the big, scary “what ifs,” how could it not be? But then I would take a big breath, lean into the fear, and fucking get to work.
Then when COVID19 hit, I realized I had a real opportunity with pivoting my work. Could I create a life for myself that’s more stable, where I still have the freedom to travel but also be able to build a community of people just like me here? Was this the universe handing me the chance to be brave, to vault off down a path I had never imagined?
With my Travel Bootcamp buddies Lauren and Georgia on one shoulder and my life and business coach Kait Rich on the other, I took all the lessons, failures, and stories from the past decade and decided why not make my own plant place. Once you have the right headspace around trying something new, you’re unstoppable.
At the end of the day, we all have the same fears when doing just about anything new.
What’s the worst that could happen? What have I got to lose? Some money? My name? In the end, does any of that really matter?
As I began to envision what NODE Lyttelton would be, I realized I wanted to make an aspirational lifestyle space, maybe even something that doesn’t really exist. It’s not a shop or a venue, rather it’s a mix of all the things that inform the lives we want to be leading. Design and nature meet here creating a space that makes you feel happy and welcomed.
Fluid and versatile, just like we have to be during this ratbag of a year, NODE Lyttelton will always be changing, growing, evolving and putting on something different.
So in addition to matching designer houseplants with their parents, I see other like-minded creatives and entrepreneurs using NODE as a hub for events, pop-ups, and workshops. Giulio now has Mapu, a test kitchen in the back of the building (separate but attached). Together we’ll put on events and dinners both at Mapu and in NODE and out in the sprawling secret garden hidden behind the building.
Did I mention the building is 150 years old? It’s the most complicated, cobbled-together quirky space I’ve ever been in? Nothing is straight, nothing makes sense, and I couldn’t love it more!
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I can’t wait to tell you all of the crazy stories that have happened over the past month. I’ve not been on here because I’ve been pouring my blood, sweat, and tears (oh god, so many tears) into bringing NODE Lyttelton to life.
I’ll preface this and say it’s been by far one of the hardest things I’ve ever undertaken, and I definitely question my choice pretty much on the daily. Looking back, I thought it was going to be so easy, that it would be like a nice little side hustle. I can safely say how naive I was, and I grossly underestimated the work involved in executing NODE Lyttelton to the level at which I can be happy.
I also had no idea how lonely it feels to create your own business from scratch. It’s very lonely.
Do I cry myself to sleep every night? Maybe. Are my hands calloused and my nails ripped, ruined, and constantly caked with soil? Yes. Do I find dirt everywhere no matter how much I clean? Yes. Even in my ears! Have I invested every single cent I’ve saved and then some into building this place, forgoing anything but my rent, food, and coffee for the foreseeable future? Yes, someone please god give me pity highlights, because this is the longest I’ve gone without getting my hair done AND I found my first white hair. FUCK!
Ok, my first world white girl pity party is over. Starting a business is hard. It’s like having a baby. If you don’t nurture and care for it, no one else will and it will die.
And nobody wants to see a dead
What am I babbling on about? Good question.
Well, for me, it’s important for those who come to NODE Lyttelton to know how much of my heart went into this.
I don’t know how to ask for help, so I stubbornly carried on doing so much until some of my friends (new and old) jumped in to save me. I want people to know that I painted the floors. I spent weeks painting the walls, building the shelves, cleaning, cleaning, and more cleaning, I’ve picked out the plants myself, begged on my knees for wholesale nurseries to sell to me and, driven across the whole country pick up plants to bring back to Lyttelton. Repotted them all myself, nurture and grow them. Built the online brand and community, and started conversations. I figured out how to make $100 last for weeks, to live on nothing again. To sell things I love to make this place a reality. Everything I did myself.
I’m there til midnight many nights, watching and learning how I can make each day better and better.
I could have outsourced this but I didn’t. I could have had investors but I didn’t. It had to be me. I’m the beating heart of NODE, and I am proud of that, in my own way.
As the world evolves and we face uncertainty and stressful times, my dream to bring to life a creative space for those just like me seeking simple joys is finally realized.
I’m terrified but joyful. Even when I think I’ll die of exhaustion, I remember something I want to do at NODE Lyttelton, and my eyes sparkle again. Perhaps if I had to choose one specific thought I’d like to leave you with around this venture, it’s this.
Passion is everything and passion can carry you no matter how exhausted you feel. What drives you? What is your equivalent passion for houseplants? Life is uncertain, COVID has shown us that. Doing something unfamiliar is always scary. Don’t ignore the fear, acknowledge it, and carry on past it. True joy comes in those limbo moments where nothing is certain. The only control we have is over our attitude. Attitude is a choice. I chose to be brave and open and positive. I believe in myself and this project, and I can’t wait to see what’s in store next!
If you feel so inclined, you can follow my adventures at NODE on Instagram (where I post a lot) as well as by subscribing to my newsletter here on the NODE website. And of course, if you’re in New Zealand, please come by and say hello! We’re at 8 London Street in Lyttelton, and I’m generally open on Thursdays – Sundays and for events and workshops. Thank you!
Have you ever started a business? Have you been out to see me at NODE Lyttelton? Share. Are you a houseplant collector too? Tell me everything!
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