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Life and Work with Abby Rupsa

Today we’d like to introduce you to Abby Rupsa.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Abby. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
I was a stay-at-home mom to three kids and was trying to figure out what I wanted to do for a career. I owned an artificial floral design business for ten years but was wanting to expand my horizons. I knew I wanted to do something creative and I had always had a love of design. I had initially thought about interior design, but after naming almost every plant on a nursery trip with my mother-in-law, she suggested that I consider pursuing a landscape design career. “It was just a hobby for me, something I had a knack for, but I didn’t really think people would actually pay me to come design their yard!”, I said. After a bit of consideration, I figured it would be a nice blend of hardscape and planting design and that would fulfill my creative desires. I was nervous about potentially not liking it, but I enrolled back in school at Front Range Community College in their Landscape Design certificate program. What should’ve taken just two short semesters took me four long years, chipping away one class at a time. I absolutely fell in love with the program, the instructors, and the curriculum and devoured everything I learned. I couldn’t believe I was going to actually be a designer, something I had always dreamed of being.

After just one class, I started freelancing for smaller landscape companies, but I felt I was always at the mercy of what they paid. After gaining more experience, I decided to start my own business, Botanical Living. I would be the one deciding my worth and referring contractors to my clients, not the other way around. I have since become a staple in my community by creating designs that reflect homeowners’ style and increase their usable living space. I service about 50-60 clients per year and not only design for residential properties, but neighborhood parks, HOA’s and condominiums/townhomes. I work with several reputable landscape design/build installers and love that I get to beautify Colorado one yard at a time.

Ironically, I was offered a part-time teaching position at Front FRCC this Fall. I’ll be teaching the Landscape Graphics class and paying my education forward to 18 new students! Funny how life comes full circle sometimes!

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Going back to school was not easy. Juggling family, school and trying to start a business makes for a bumpy ride, but the struggle makes the success that much sweeter! I decided that working for myself was the best option for me. Graduating from the program, I thought the only options were to run an install crew or be a designer working for a firm, but neither of those seemed like a good fit for me. My design business is very simple, in that I have no overhead, no inventory, and very limited liability. It’s a win for my lifestyle.

The one downside to working independently is that it can feel quite isolating, so I try to participate in networking events and collaborate with other designers whenever I can. I also have a great support system of friends in the home services industry and we talk freely about our ambition, dreams, and financial goals. We are each other’s cheerleaders and love passing client referrals back and forth to each other. As one of the women says, “Why compete? There’s enough pie for everyone!”

Please tell us about Botanical Living.
I often get asked, “What is the benefit of hiring an independent designer instead of just getting multiple bids from a couple of different contractors?” I tell clients that it is beneficial to have a separate, uniform plan so that they can secure multiple bids on one clear design instead of three different prices on three separate visions. It allows them to clearly see the value in the different contractor bids. I also present a digital look book of all plantings and hardscape inspiration images to help homeowners envision the materials being used.

Clients often discuss phasing their project due to budgetary constraints, and having a cohesive overall plan allows them to realize the yard of their dreams over time and confidently know it will all feel homogenous. Clients will hire me directly and we will walk their yard and discuss their project. I pride myself on really listening to clients so that I know how they will use/live in the space and I try to deliver a design that will fit with the neighborhood aesthetic and fit their lifestyle. I also try to be as sustainable as possible using the right plant for the right place, reducing turf whenever possible to cut back on water usage, and calling for plants that are good for pollinators such as birds and insects.

My fee is based per design and the client owns it once it is presented. Homeowners may also hire me back on an hourly consulting basis if they need me present during contractor meetings or if they’d like me to place plants once the project is under construction.

Landscaping is probably the most expensive thing people will invest in, aside from their actual home, so clients feel that I give them excellent care throughout the process and help them achieve the yard they’ve always wanted.

Often it feels as if the media, by and large, is only focused on the obstacles faced by women, but we feel it’s important to also look for the opportunities. In your view, are there opportunities that you see that women are particularly well-positioned for?
The landscaping industry is primarily male-dominated industry, but I have never felt that I lacked any of the abilities that I needed to succeed in this field. I am a great judge of character and try to surround myself with professionals that are eager to help so that we can all succeed together. With the influx of people coming to Colorado, there is a ton of business to be shared!

Contact Info:

  • Website: botanicallivingdesigns.com
  • Phone: 949-230-9929
  • Email: abbyrupsa@hotmail.com
  • Instagram: botanical.living
  • Facebook: Botanical Living, LLC


Image Credit:
Profile Photo: Melissa Shanley Photography, Landscape Photos: Tonja Sjerven Photography

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