Story and photos by Michelle Porizkova
Michelle Porizkova is visiting local businesses in Raleigh this semester for the Peace of Downtown feature, sharing their stories in text and images with an eye toward capturing how businesses are faring in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Amid foliage of succulents and ferns, a shop located in downtown Raleigh has been embraced by local plant lovers as well as those who are simply curious.
Megan George Cain, the owner of Zen Succulent, began her business back in 2012.
“It was a happy accident,” said Cain.
As a recent marketing graduate, Cain was told by many employers that her lack of experience was the reason she wasn’t being hired. Discouraged and lost, she realized that she may have an opportunity to bring her own brand to life through a site she discovered.
That site was Etsy.
“I wanted to get my foot in the door, and so I brought in my passion for plants and greenery and created The Zen Succulent,” said Cain.
One thing led to another, and as she grew her own plant business. The experience of building her own brand landed her a marketing job for another company.
This, however, did not fulfill her the way she thought it would.
“After many years of staying in that career, I actually had the opportunity to have a book deal, which allowed me to finally take the plunge and leave,” said Cain.
This big career move was calculated. By staying with her parents she was able to forgo paying rent and build her savings while working full-time in marketing. This allowed Cain to jump at the opportunity and write her own book, called Modern Terrarium Studio, published in 2015.
“The book really made me think outside the box,” said Cain. “It was a book of discovery; it allowed me to share my love for terrariums, all while showing people how to make them in new and innovative ways.”
Her first store opened in downtown Durham in 2016, and in 2018 she introduced a second shop to downtown Raleigh.
When the pandemic began, Cain was far along in her pregnancy. She was planning on shifting her focus from her first two storefronts to her personal life, leaving her staff to carry on the daily duties.
“At that point, we had a small team of seven employees, but my concern was with our resources,” says Cain. “When they started closing down the shipping ports I realized our glass and plants had no way of arriving.”
Cain simply stopped purchasing. She kept the inventory that she had, kept her plants living, and pivoted their shop’s model to accommodate other methods of shopping.
“We have to thank the testament of the community. There were so many people that wanted to help out small businesses and offer support where they could,” said Cain.
Cain also places an emphasis on the downtown Raleigh and downtown Durham store owners that were willing to help their neighbors navigate the pandemic.
“Many of us tried to help each other as much as we could, whenever we could,” said Cain.
Cain sees herself continuing to grow the community of plant people that are in the area.
“There are so many universities in the area, many of which have students that are looking to start their own businesses and give right back to the community,” said Cain.
She wants to have a deep footprint in both downtown communities, and offer more at her storefronts for people to get involved with.
The downtown Raleigh shop is set to have a DIY terrarium experience that allows customers to build their own plant homes.
“We are in the process of making the experience bigger, and allowing customers to come in and make what they want, how they want it,” said Cain.
Cain will be launching The Zen Succulent YouTube channel soon.
By sharing her love for all things plants, and showing people from far and wide how to customize their homes with the greenery, Cain’s devotion to plants and foliage is bound to make a lasting mark in the Triangle.
More Peace of Downtown
Michelle Porizkova is sharing stories and images from downtown businesses this semester for the Peace of Downtown feature.