Owners and managers complete intensive two-year business program

Posted On 05 Feb 2014
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GCU CLogoWASHINGTON, DC: Columbus, Ohio – AmericanHort’s Garden Center University (GCU) Class of 2014 graduated Saturday on the sandy beach of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. The graduating class comprised of owners and top-level managers from garden retail operations throughout the U.S. and Canada.

Graduate Brianna Griffin of Living Waters in Westminster, Maryland summed up the last semester of the program as “a fantastic escape to sunny Florida to meet with my peers. This meeting offered a great collaboration of minds over many critical points including communication skills, hiring key players, and executing a business plan for future projects. All important information that is crucial for a successful business.”

Since its inception in 2002 over 200 owners and managers have completed the program. The 2014 GCU graduates include the following:

• Elisa Bangura, Johnson’s Florist/Garden Centers, Kensington, MD

• Brian Burghardt, Rockaway Garden Center, Jacksonville Beach, FL

• Greg Burghurdt, Rockaway Garden Center, Jacksonville Beach, FL

• Pat Calnan, Southwood Landscape & Nursery, Tulsa, OK

• Sara Cimbalik, Franz Witte Landscape Contracting Inc, Boise, ID

• David Flack, Bountiful Acres, Holicong, PA

• Rob Gemmell, Gemmell’s Garden Centre, Smiths Falls, ON

• Brianna Griffin, Living Waters Garden Center, Westminster, MD

• Kelly Grimes, Good Earth Garden Market, Potomac, MD

• Alison Hamby, Stauffers Of Kissel Hill, Lititz, PA

• Andy Hanna, Hanna’s Garden Shop, Birmingham, AL

• Steve Hanna, Hanna’s Garden Shop, Birmingham, AL

• Marsha Hildebrand, Regan Nursery, Fremont, CA

• Jared Hughes, Foertmeyer & Sons Greenhouse, Delaware, OH

• Seneca Hull, Franz Witte Landscape Contracting Inc, Boise, ID

• Steve Kendall, The Design Works Inc, Woodbine, MD

• Jaclyn Koch, Hawthorn Gardens, Hawthorne Woods, IL

• Dianne Lanteigne, Bloom Greenhouse & Garden Center, Hammonds Plains, NS

• Jim Luby, Highlander Garden Center, Stillwater, OK

• Sara Melton, The Barn Nursery, Chattanooga, TN

• Neil Sheridan, BlueGrass Lawn & Landscape Inc, Mason, MI

• Tori Sickles, Sickles Market LLC, Little Silver, NJ

• Natale Siclare, Sickles Market LLC, Little Silver, NJ

• Matt Smith, BlueGrass Lawn & Landscape Inc., Mason, MI

• John Snyder, Stauffers Of Kissel Hill, Lititz, PA

• Misti Warner-Anderson, Warner’s Nursery & Landscape, Flagstaff, AZ

• Cindy Webster, The Barn Nursery, Chattanooga, TN

The GCU program spans two years and five “semesters.” The focus of the program is on:

• Financial management

• Use and cost of space and inventory management

• Marketing and merchandising

• Customer interaction and sales

• Employee recruitment, retention, and management

“GCU provided a wealth of information to use every day in my garden center. The end result is happier customers and employees and more profit,” said graduate Marsha Hildebrand of Regan Nursery located in Fremont, California.

In addition to classroom learning, AmericanHort’s GCU program incorporates problem solving, interactive learning, and tours to retail operations with GCU principles in action. The networking within the group of graduates was invaluable according to Dianne Lanteigne of Bloom Greenhouse & Garden Centre in Hammonds Plains, Nova Scotia. “There is great value in the sharing of similar experiences regardless of where in the U.S. or Canada the garden center is located. GCU provides an effective curriculum that focuses on independent garden centers,” said Lanteigne.

Garden Center University, an AmericanHort Experience, is an intensive deep-dive for retailers who want to move their business forward through increased margins, improved employee relations, and effective marketing and sales. With over 30 years of experience in the garden retail business, lead facilitator “professor” Ian Baldwin brings invaluable insight and examples from operations in North America and Europe. “GCU is the only program that provides a ‘mini-MBA’ for owners and managers in the industry. Connecting and sharing information is critical for success in the garden retail industry. The relationships formed in class are life-long and beneficial at having a peer group you can always turn to with ideas and be a ‘sounding board’ to help you grow creatively and financially,” said Baldwin.

As the largest trade association for garden retailers, AmericanHort offers GCU as part of its comprehensive effort to support these businesses, including the New Vision Forum, Garden Center Live!, trade shows, online programs, and small business advocacy in Washington, DC. For more information on Garden Center University visit AmericanHort.org/GCU.

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