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Hinesburg Nursery Blossoms

Julie Rubaud, Red Wagon PlantsIn 2005 a professional gardener was having trouble coming up with a name for the small business she was starting. Nothing seemed to excite her or capture her imagination. But one day while in a movie theater, her then eight-year-old daughter Louissa noticed the film’s production company was Red Wagon Entertainment. She said asked her mother “Why don’t we name it that?” Julie Rubaud loved the idea and named her startup Red Wagon Plants.  Her daughter went home and drew the first version of the logo of a little girl pulling a wagon full of plants. For 14 years the nursery on Shelburne Falls Road in Hinesburg has been growing and selling a variety of plants and flowers year-round.

Rubaud grew up in a home with vegetable gardens and a greenhouse, so it was natural to pursue gardening as a career. When the business launched, it started small and only operated from April to June. The business consisted of three small greenhouses selling wholesale to a select clientele. One of her first high-value clients was Healthy Living Market and Café in South Burlington. Healthy Living is an independently owned natural foods market.

“We always want to sell what we consider the best, and Red Wagon is just that,” said Katy Lesser, owner and founder of Healthy Living. “It’s been a joy and honor to work closely with Julie over the years. I consider her a trusted partner.”

Today Healthy Living is one of 35 locations Red Wagon Plants sells too. Rubaud’s edible plants (herbs, tomatoes, vegetables) can be found at City Market, Gardeners’ Supply and many other hardware stores, grocery stores and garden centers.

“This is a small business with a big impact. It’s an example of a business that turns consumers into producers. What is purchased grows into something of even greater value. As an example, a $4 tomato plant can turn into $40 worth of tomatoes.  And your customers develop a feeling of pride and accomplishment,” said Rubaud.

It was in 2007 when she started retailing and the business took off. Her annual sales have increased by an average of 14 percent each year since. Today the business has 25 seasonal employees, nine greenhouses and sells year round. Rubaud believes she is fortunate in that many of her employees return to Red Wagon Plants year after year, a trait not commonly associated with seasonal work.

For her continued growth, Rubaud’s nursery is being recognized by the Small Business Administration, naming Red Wagon Plants the 2019 Vermont Woman-Owned Business of the Year.

During the selection process for the award, the SBA also approached Rubaud about applying for its annual Emerging Leaders Program. She applied and was accepted into the free seven-month program where she is developing a three-year strategic growth plan to grow her business.

Continuing education and community outreach have long been a part of Red Wagon Plants’ business model. She recently added a classroom, which is built inside one of the greenhouses to conduct numerous workshops, such as Planting for Summer Salads and Preserving the Tomato Harvest. Rubaud has held workshops for several years, but has seen an increase in demand as more and more people are choosing to grow their own herbs and vegetables. Throughout the years, the business has made significant financial and in kind contributions to a number of organizations, including the Shelburne Community School PTO, Vermont Community Garden Network and the Burlington Area Community Gardens. 

“Red Wagon is known as a place where people have a fun, family-like work environment. The mission of the business is to help people succeed in the garden and to help employees succeed in their work lives,” said Rubaud.

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