From Concrete Walls to the Heart Behind It All. | What I Learned from the Founder of Glass Earth Inc.
I sat down with Cynthia Booth, the founder of Glass Earth Inc, and it revolutionized the way I see other people’s businesses and establishments. So often we just see the building and the finished product. I used to always get very intimidated because of how shiny things seem from the outside. Like it’s all put together and successful and all is going well. But what’s the story before all of this came to be? What’s the story behind it? What was the journey like? What brought you here today and what keeps you going?
Everything changed when I learned her story. From concrete and glass walls, I saw the heart behind it all. The heart that’s still continuously learning and overcoming challenges.
At first Cynthia also talked about how she thinks her story is “boring” but as I sat there, I thought I could listen to her for hours. I always love listening to people talk about the things they love and it is so amazing how a customer points to a plant and Cynthia knows EVERYTHING about it. Amazing. And it has taught me a lot about interviewing other people. I would always get nervous before stepping in, trying to be prepared with the right questions, but as I do it over and over I learn that all I really have to do is be there to listen fully and make the other person feel heard and understood.
It is such a privilege to be able to do this— interview different business women and founders in different stages of their journey. Some want the spotlight, but I want to BE the spotlight. I want to shine the light through me on to others and use the platform Ive been given to share their story.
So here’s the story behind Glass Earth Inc..
// the following is a transcript from an audio recording interview with Cynthia. A FEW parts are omitted and rephrased to be brief and to make it easier to understand in writing.
I’m a horticulturist and I worked in the field for years and years. I actually was out of a job about two years ago and I needed a job really bad so I was just thinking “what can I do?” Because I’m a horticulturist, Im a plant lover. And so I just decided Im gonna open a plant store.
But it kind of evolved. At first it was just the terrariums. So we had a location in Southgate mall for a little while and it went pretty good but I also was in Saint Albert. The problem was when my supplies came to me I had to have them delivered at home and then I have to build it at home, run to Southgate, run to Saint Albert, and what I learned about Saint Albert is during the winter time, nobody goes downtown. So it was really a bad location but still I had to pay someone to be there. But meanwhile I was running back and forth and survived in 4-5 hours of sleep a night. After Christmas I pulled out of everything and I said “Okay it’s just gonna be an online store now.” and then a magazine came along and then wrote an article about Glass Earth. Kingsway Mall got a hold of it and they asked me if I would come in here last year for Christmas as a pop-up and I wasnt really sure but in the end “Okay, Im gonna do it!” and then here we are a year later.
For the first little while, I was so stressed out. I was so scared that it wasn’t gonna work. But after a couple of months, you know you can see the pattern. I guess the thing that really made me relax is,
I always wanted to do this. I always wanted my own store and I did it. If it fails, at least I can always say that I did it. You know? And so I kind of ride on that. It’s not whether you succeed you or not, it’s when you step out and try.
I dont wanna be one of those people laying on their death bed having a ton of regrets that I didnt live, that I didnt do all these things I wanted to do, so sometimes when it’s really really scary that’s when you need to step out and tackle it and try.
So my husband ended up with a really bad hip and couldn’t walk, couldn’t work. So it ended up, I’m the only person in the family working right now. It’s scary because all the money that I have went into this. Everything. It’s scary that I’m not young anymore, so if it didn’t work, what was my next step? What was I gonna do next? So that was the really big stress is -- don’t walk away penniless?
And really from the very first day, I don’t remember exactly how much I made in sales but I remember being so surprised that people wanted my product. So it was a good feeling that way. It’s not like a day goes by where you make zero sales. At least there’s always something. If you had days where you had zero in sales then yeah, it would be really stressful. But the people come in and say “it’s so beautiful. I love coming here now” I wanted to create an experience, not just a store. So that even if you never thought much about plants, when you walked in here then you would be enthralled by plants and realise what a big part they make in your life, or could make in your life.
Everyday, I have people come in and say really positive things and that makes me think, “Okay, I worked 365 days this year. I could work a couple more.”
I want them to appreciate plants. I want them to realise how important plants are. You need plants in your life not just aesthetically, but for your health, you mental well being, your physical well being. And you need that skill of knowing how to grow plants because if anything happens to our society, if you can’t grow a seed you’re in trouble.
I want to help people. Especially children. So quite often I have kids come in looking for the mimosa pudica plant, you touch it and the whole plant will fold down. I have the seed and I’ll sit them down at the bar here and have them plant the seed!
We have a couple things going on here, we have the terrarium bar, pricing on the glass includes plants, soil, moss, rocks, everything. So anytime you want, you can come in, choose your glass, come sit at the bar, put it together and someone’s always here to walk you through. So that was a neat idea that we came up with and it is so original. It gets used a lot. It’s a good date night and yeah, girls just hanging out. And when you buy a gift for somebody, you make it yourself, and isn’t that much more meaningful? We always have that open to the public.
The social media and online presence has been tough for me because I dont know that stuff, Ive learnt a lot over the last year but trying to get recognition and get the word out there that ‘hey we are are!’.. Yeah, it’s just being consistent. My daughters have been really good. They have kind of helped me especially with the online stuff.
I have a fascination for things and as a kid, I was outside all the time. And when I was still in highschool there were about probably ten years there where I didnt really have any direction. Actually it was my husband that said “you know, you’re really good with plants. Why dont you go back to school and become a horticulturist?” So I did.
And then it’s one of those things, and maybe you have it in your life too, where you learn a little bit about something, you just wanna know more and more. The thing with plants is, it never ends. There’s always something more to know. You’re on that train and you never get off.
And theyre fascinating! Even I used to always joke around about Saint John’s Wort. It’s a herb that they use for depression, not so much here but in Ontario. And we used to laugh about how people are walking all the way to the store stepping on Saint John’s Wort just to buy it! They dont know their plants! And so they’ll be stepping on the plant all the way to the store to buy it for medicinal reasons when they could’ve just picked it up from their door step.
I am very fortunate. I could go on about different types of plants. Like bamboo, bamboo can grow about 4 feet a day. It’s the fastest growing plant in the world. It’s stronger than steel! You know, we cut down our evergreens for wood but really we could be growing bamboo because it rejuvenates itself and it’s mature in 5 years. Whereas if you cut a Spruce tree down, it takes 50 years to grow it again. And there are many types of bamboo that we can grow here.
Sometimes I feel like, “Cynthia get it together. Just make a decision. Just make any decision.” But you get so hung up on, “I need to make the right decision.” So you end up with no decision or you delay it and then time passes and you lookand it’s too late now and I should have done it back here and I didn’t. Im more on the artistic side so I really have to struggle with the numbers.
I don’t have a lot to compare my business to. It is a good thing but it would be nice to draw on other people’s experiences too especially at the beginning, not so much now. But I wish there was somebody I could go to and ask, if I do this.. how should I do that, or what should I do next. But there was no one. So you come back to just winging it.
I have always been intimidated by people I perceive to be successful. After being here I realised.. Because I talked to the other store owners here and they’re all just the same. They’re scared people that are stepping out for various different reasons mostly because they believe in their product but they struggle, they worry, they lay awake at night asking “did I do the right thing?” and yea they’re all just human.
BUT it’s great because you can applaud each other as we go right? They have bad days, they have good days just like you do.
More important than plants are people. They’re number one and you just wanna wanna help them have a happy life. We’re all going down the same path, down the same road. Im grateful for so many things. Sometimes I just cant believe that I’ve had such a good life. I sit back and it’s like I don’t know why the gods smiled at me I don’t know why the gods treated me so well. And I am astounded. I mean there are people having horrible lives and I look at mine and I think, for what reason was I born here and I’ve never starved.. I mean we all have times in our lives where we struggle but Ive not to the extent of some child that is living in a dump somewhere trying to find food.
I think we’re giving what we can handle. Maybe sometimes a bit more than what we think we could handle but it builds us and in the end, we’re better for it.
But if you can everyday look at your life and ask yourself “what am i grateful for today?” Everyday after a while there’s so many things that youre grateful for no matter what you’ve gone through. Life becomes so much easier if you can walk through it with a happy heart.
Glass Earth Inc.
Located in Kingsway Mall - beside Aritzia on the main floor.
Thank you for reading!