By Anna Befort
Bree Clarke is the recipient of a Publish Her Business Impact Grant, a program dedicated to providing resources to female-identifying founders of color. Since 2018, more than $250,000 in grants and services have been donated to women business owners.
For an industry filled with greenery and flowers, the plant industry in Texas is very white. That’s what Bree Iman Clarke discovered when she set out to write a blog post in April 2020 highlighting Black-owned plant shops in Dallas. The problem? There were none.
It was the start of the pandemic, and as more people were suddenly sheltering in place, she wanted to share how beneficial houseplants can be for mental health. When she realized the lack of diversity in the Dallas plant world, she set out to do something about it. It helped that Bree was no stranger to starting businesses; she had already started several ventures, including The Iman Project and Lavender and Mint Designs, both created to give more people a seat at the table (quite literally, in the case of its signature farmhouse table). But many people still laughed at her latest idea, opening a plant shop with few plant-industry connections in the middle of a pandemic.
Thankfully, Bree was buoyed by her lineage of plant lovers. As a child, she’d spent hours watching her mother tend to her garden, and on weekends they’d often go to Granny’s house to help care for her yard. It was there that local character Herman Lee, aka “The Horticulture Man,” would walk by and talk for hours about plants and soil health. It turned out that Herman was the first Black man to graduate from Texas A&M with a degree in horticulture, and Bree was lucky to get to soak up his impromptu garden lectures.
Decades later, Bree thought of Herman as she prepared to open The Plant Project, the first Black woman-owned plant shop in all of Texas. And when the store opened its doors that November, in the historic Freedman’s Town neighborhood where ex-slaves had first settled after emancipation, she dedicated it to Herman.
Bree’s vision was always to make it more than just a plant shop. She wanted to create a community that was deeply rooted in diversity, where both plants and people could grow. As someone who had experienced homelessness during a rough patch in her life, Bree also wanted to create a space that felt like home, where people would feel welcome, at ease, and like they could linger. She builds community at The Plant Project through free gardening workshops that share plant knowledge and joy with more people, as well as through social events and community partnerships like a plant crawl with other women-owned plant shops. It’s also important to Bree to feature products by Black and brown artists in her shop, to “root for one another,” as she puts it.
Less than a year after her first plant shop opened, Bree added a second shop in Dallas. That was soon followed by one in her hometown of Houston, then a satellite shop in Galveston. Now there’s a new San Antonio store on its way in 2024. She and her husband, Carlos, have also branched out to work with more commercial clients, such as doing plant design for a 15-story office building for TIAA (The Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association). In 2023, she also received a Publish Her Business Impact Grant. She plans to use the $5,000 grant to help pay rent, host community events and do a $500 business giveaway to other small businesses.
As her own business grows, Bree still sees representation as a core part of her work—helping to make the plant industry more colorful and expand what the next generation believes is possible, including for her 12-year-old twins. “I want to create a better tomorrow for my boys and for others,” she says. “Life is hard. We have to have more joy shared with each other, and that’s what I get to do every single day. In every shop it’s plant-joy, and it’s planting joy in ourselves and others.”
Photo credit: The Plant Project
About the Author
As a writer, editor and yoga teacher, Anna believes strongly in the power of words to connect us. She is passionate about using that power to uplift women’s voices and create spaces where women can connect to their own innate wisdom, creativity, and wholeness.
About Publish Her
Publish Her is a female-founded publisher dedicated to elevating the words, writing and stories of women. We are passionate about amplifying the voices of women of color, women with disabilities and members of the LGBTQ+ community. We aim to make publishing an attainable, exciting and collaborative process for all. Publish Her specializes in print-on-demand books, workbooks, journals, magazines and more.