Being a seasonal business in Nebraska doesn't mean you're doomed to zero cash flow in the off-season. It's all about careful planning and creating a strategy to keep the business going through the slower months. That is exactly what Vickie Lea accomplished with Vickie Lea Designs, a custom landscape and design business in Omaha. “I wanted to combine what I loved the most, plants and design,” Vickie Lea stated. “In order to keep myself and employees busy year round, working with these two loves, I had to come up with something that worked in every season.” Building upon her design abilities and vast artistic experience, Vickie Lea created a five-season program for creating elegant planters for client’s homes and businesses. The program included installation five times per year and the storage of plants when seasonal varieties would not survive in the harsh Nebraska climate.
"I wanted to use my talent, which was design and the knowledge of plants, to make the client enjoy their own yard, to get them out into nature."
As the business grew, professional green-house space was needed. She and her husband bought land near Valley and built greenhouses. This allowed them the opportunity to grow annuals, perennials and to bring in tropical plants year-round. This also allowed her to store tropical plants for clients during the winter months. Vickie Lea was among the first in Omaha to combine beautiful tropical plants and annuals in planters. Becoming a specialist in tropical plants in Nebraska set her apart from the competition. Having the ability to grow her own plants and flowers, as well as the storage of seasonal plants in the greenhouses, provided income through the winter months and sales throughout the year.
While Vickie was designing planters in front of client’s houses, she saw a need that was not being fulfilled. “When working in yards creating planters, I would see other needs to improve my clients’ landscapes,” observed Vickie Lea. “Once I started landscaping for people, their yards would look very different from other yards because of designs intended to enhance their architecture. Neighbors regularly knocked on doors to find out who had landscaped their home.” Very rapidly, by word of mouth, her landscaping design business expanded.
With a solid system in place, Vickie Lea extended her services to include floral arrangements and interior plantscapes with year-round maintenance. She also began designing indoors with beautiful holiday decorations and exterior holiday light installations. The take-down and storage of holiday decorations then provided an additional revenue stream. “When it was cold outside you could be inside maintaining buildings, decorating a staircase, mantels and so forth.” Vickie Lea emphasized.
Business owners are constantly looking for new ways to incentivize their customers to spend during the slow seasons to help their bottom line. Vickie Lea accomplished this by looking at her clients’ needs in each month of the year and filling those needs. By attracting the same kinds of customers through the same products and services that were normally considered “seasonal”, Vickie Lea brought the beauty of the outdoors inside her client’s homes and businesses. “Customers are in need of something year-round, and that diversifies you automatically,” said Vickie Lea. Planter designs are what built the company, providing additional services maintains its success. “I came up with something that would take me through each month, every season, and you can’t just do that with just landscaping,” Vickie Lea added.
Vickie Lea Designs was sold in 2018 to Shawn Kolterman, but you can still see her yellow trucks driving all around town. Now, as a consultant and designer, Vickie Lea is continuing to design for clients every day. “The most important thing was to use my talent to make my clients enjoy their yards and bring them out into nature,” explained Vickie Lea. “Seeing my clients enjoy creation was always the motivation for my work.”
Vickie Lea Designs continues to provide superior award-winning exterior landscaping and maintenance and has nationally recognized interior plantscapes and designs for all seasons. This year-round landscape and design business services everything from seasonal planter change-outs to complete yard designs. Additional services include consulting, holiday decorating, maintenance and floral designs. Vickie Lea owes her success to the wonderful clients that she has come to know and serve. She looks forward to the continuation of those many personal relationships throughout the coming years.