At Home With: Jen Semmler
Jen Semmler. Photo by Emily Hart
Somewhere between going to college to be a math teacher, dabbling in wedding photography and buying an Airstream in hopes to start a business that would allow her to travel the country, Jen Semmler put her roots down in Oklahoma City and opened The Plant Shoppe. We're so glad she did because it's one of our favorite local businesses. In addition to being a top destination in town for sending beautiful plants to loved ones, The Plant Shoppe hosts incredible events that bring families together.
She's lived in her 1920s central Oklahoma City home six years. She shares the home with her partner, Chad Grubbs, their son Memphis (who will be 1 in May) and Chad's 7-year-old daughter, Peyton when she's in town. Other residents include their three dogs: 14-year-old Ozzie, 7-year-old Murphee and 1-year-old Blu.
MFM: Tell me what led you to open The Plant Shoppe.
JS: I was just in the right place at the right time to open this business. I'm a hippie at heart and Chad and I were in the San Diego area a few years ago and we just fell in love with the plant life and the nomadic lifestyle. I had just started dabbling in arranging succulents when Chad decided he wanted to start a custom furniture and woodworking company with a friend. He was going to rent a space and needed additional income so it just made sense for me to manage the space and sell my plants there. That was in 2013 and it just evolved from there.
About 75 percent of my business is custom orders and deliveries and the other 25 percent is hosting classes, workshops and events and a little retail.
MFM: Tell me about your family.
JS: I was told I would not be able to have kids, so when I met Chad five years ago and he had a daughter who was 2 and a half, it was like it was just meant to be. She lives in San Diego but she's on a trimester schedule so she gets to be with us for three weeks at Christmas, two weeks at spring break and two months for summer. I absolutely adore Peyton and being a step-mom has taught me so, so much about life, love and what really matters in life. She will always be treated as my own!
Before Memphis came, I went through two miscarriages. So when I got pregnant the third time, it was pretty scary for me. Everything was great until the third trimester. I developed severe pre-eclampsia which led to Memphis' early arrival at just 30 weeks. But, here we are. Through all the trials and tribulations, I have a healthy and handsome 10 month baby boy. He is my joy and has brought Chad, Peyton and I so much closer together!
MFM: What was it like to have him so early?
JS: It changed everything. He was in the NICU several weeks so the shop just shut down. We were closed a good 30 days but everyone chipped in to help us keep the doors open in any way they could. David Kittredge and Ginger Roddick of The Idea Collective, Kyle Simmons and Blake Behrens of The Okay See and Jacob Peregrin at Blue 7 are just a few of the many, many people who helped keep the shop running during that time.
MFM: Did becoming a mom change your business?
JS: Absolutely. I've found myself to be much more of a compassionate person. I've donated a lot more of my time and energy to things that matter to me. And I'm much more intentional. Memphis and family, will always come first and so I'm finding myself having to say no or turn down jobs because of it. I've realized that I'm just one person and that I can't do everything and I can't please everyone. As much as I want to, I just can't.
MFM: What's a typical day like at home?
JS: It's always changing but we're usually up by 7 or 7:30 and I take care of things around the house in the morning like feeding him and doing computer work while he naps. I love to take Memphis to the shop with me in the afternoons. It's been hard to get things done with him lately because he's at that age where he needs to be entertained. It was so easy at first because I could just wear him and he slept all the time. But I love taking him because he's a social butterfly and loves the interaction and the people. I think the customers like it, too.
MFM: What are the best and worst parts of motherhood?
JS: The lack of sleep is the worst. The best part is just watching the changes.
MFM: What were the biggest changes in becoming a mom?
JS: Not being able to just get up and run to the grocery store or out to eat on a Friday night. We're not as actively involved in everything anymore. But we found this magical app called OrderUp. You can get food delivered from anywhere for less than $5. So we've been on a kick where we order Grand House and have it delivered.
MFM: Do you believe in balance?
JS: I think it's a process. My priorities have changed for sure. Family is always going to come first and business second. I was always the type of person before he was born who said yes to just about everything. But now I find myself saying no or telling people it will have to be on my timeline.
MFM: Are there benefits to having a job that allows Memphis to be at work with you?
JS: Yes. In some ways it's harder, but being able to instill in him how hard it is to make a living and show him that not everything is given to you is really important to me and Chad. Those are qualities I find important and I love he can see me and Chad doing the work.
MFM: What's the best advice you'd give other new moms?
JS: Don't be afraid to ask for help. That's one thing I really have learned the hard way. I'm very prideful, but everything works so much better when I'm flexible and can ask others for what I need. Be able to adapt and your life will just be easier. Also, it's okay to have laundry piled up on the table and bottles piled up in the sink.
With your partner, communication is everything. Don't always assume. Just listen to each other. Raising a child and running a business wouldn't happen without Chad. Having a partner who believes in you, supports you and plays on the same "team" is so important.
MFM: Do you have any traditions at home?
JS: I grew up having family lunch or dinner every Sunday so that's something we want to continue. We always went to my grandma's house on Sunday and I remember sometimes feeling like it was such a pain. Looking back I think it brought us so close together.
MFM: How do you want people to feel when they're at your house?
JS: Like they're in their own home. Welcome and loved.
MFM: Because you're the plant expert and your house is so beautifully decorated with plants, what advice do you have for keeping plants alive at home?
JS: Don't over think it. That's what a lot of people do. There's no real secret, but you have to find something that works for you. If you know you can only water once a month, find a plant that doesn't need a lot of water. Don't pretend you'll be able to manage something that needs constant attention if you know that isn't you.
This interview has been edited for style and clarity. To learn more about Jen and her business, visit www.plantshoppe.com.