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This article was prepared for the

December 11, 2002 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

Poinsettia Survival

Look for the work of Alan Brody in the atrium

of Computer Associates on Orchard Road. You will see a poinsettia

with more than five dozen plants. Or notice his five-foot poinsettia

trees at Drinker Biddle on College Road or the indoor plantings at

New Jersey Manufacturers insurance.

Brody’s 12-year-old Hamilton Square company, Interior Plants, does

interior plant design and maintenance for offices and businesses.

He started out part-time and now has four employees.

Brody’s first big client came from his success with "used"

poinsettias. "At one of my first accounts I had put in 20

poinsettias

for the holiday season, and when I took them out they looked twice

as big and beautiful, so I donated them to volunteer services at

Robert

Wood Johnson University Hospital at Hamilton." Pretty soon he

was signed on to be the plant provider there, and he worked with the

art and furniture designers on the new cancer and health center.

Good poinsettias, like the ones he gets from his own grower, are going

to sell for about $8.50 for a six-inch table top pot or $20 for 7

1/2 inch pot. A 20-inch pot with lots of plants costs $120. He offers

this poinsettia advice for businesses that want to do their own

decorating

for the holiday season:

Choose red for hardiness .

Choose the spot carefully. Put the plant somewhere where

it won’t get bumped, not in a high traffic area, because it is fragile

and breaks easily. Provide a "good amount" of light, but the

light shouldn’t be very bright.

Don’t let it dry out . Poinsettias can even sit in some

water. "Water any plant with respect to how much light it is

getting,"

says Brody. "If it is near a heater, it will need more water.

If it is very dry, give it a little at a time and let it soak through.

Then give it a little more. Poinsettia soil will soak up water."

Deliver it with caution because a maltreated poinsettia

might go into shock and die within two days of delivery. "They

hate cold weather," says Brody. "If it is 20 degrees outside,

and you carry one naked from the car to the door, there is a very

good chance it will die. Keep it sleeved. Don’t leave it outside.

Don’t let it sit in the car. Keep the heat on in the car."

And water upon delivery.

The son of a professional fundraiser, Brody graduated from

Temple

University with a degree in journalism and a minor in art. He had

a federal purchasing job in Philadelphia. When he got married, had

a baby, and moved to Hamilton, he needed extra money and started his

business part-time with a few accounts.

"I got good feedback from my clients and saw the potential, but

everyone was trying to talk me out of doing it. `Make a living on

$50 a month?’ they said. But if you have 100 accounts, that’s $5,000

a month."

Brody says that his business doubled this year as a result of his

making a five-year plan, instigated by counseling sessions with Ray

Oren, a counselor with SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives

Association) at the Princeton Chamber. In three free counseling

sessions,

Brody learned how to structure his business to protect himself against

liability claims, and how to delegate so he had more time for

marketing

and sales.

Brody’s entrepreneurial education also included a small business

course

given by the Rotary and one at Mercer County Community College. He

belongs to the Princeton Chamber as well as to a networking group,

Le Tip.

Competition? Very large plant-care companies or designers that prefer

to decorate with artwork or fake plants. He tells of one bidding on

a large account where his competition had let plants get infested

with disease. Big tubs had holes where dead plants had been taken

out. "I refused to take the account unless they let me replace

everything. `Don’t throw good money after bad,’ I told them. `Once

I do the change, I am responsible, but I can’t make your plants look

any better than they look now.’"

Interior Plants Inc., 4 Wendover Way, Hamilton

Square 08690. 609-890-9304.


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