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This is how one Toronto woman grew her pandemic passion into a booming business

Julia Rago, also known as Toronto Plant Girl. (Instagram/torontoplant.girl) Julia Rago, also known as Toronto Plant Girl. (Instagram/torontoplant.girl)

When Julia Rago’s father was diagnosed with cancer in 2018, she decided that she wanted to spend more time at home and be more present while doing so.

“I wanted to spend more time with [my dad], but the one thing I was noticing was that I didn't really like spending time at home — specifically my room. It wasn't inviting,” Rago told CTV News Toronto on Thursday.

So, she decided she would make her space feel as welcoming as possible.

“I think your room, your home, or your apartment — wherever you spend your time or call your home — I think that that place should be inviting and warm and welcoming and calming,” Rago said.

Her desire to improve her space led Rago to happen upon a 30-minute long YouTube video detailing plant care and, in that moment, what would soon become ‘Toronto Plant Girl’ was born.

As Rago amassed her plant collection, it soon became something she and her father could share in the moments in between chemotherapy and treatments.

“My dad would come into my room sometimes and he would just sit on my bed and stare at the plants for five to 10 minutes,” she said.

“He was either in bed or in-and-out of the hospital getting chemo treatments, so it was nice for him to sometimes come into my room and just soak in the life.”

In the summer of 2019, Rago’s father passed away and she once again turned to plants.

“They really helped. Nurturing them allowed me to nurture myself in a way,” she said.

One month later, a friend of Rago’s recommended she start a blog for her newfound passion.

“I started Toronto Plant Girl in August 2019 with the expectation that I would maybe meet some plant friends, share the growth of my plants and learn more about them,’ Rago said.

Today, Toronto Plant Girl is nearing 50,000 followers on Instagram.

When the pandemic hit, Rago decided to grow her hobby into a business by offering plant consultation services. She offers plant and garden installations, plant care consultations, virtual information sessions and more.

Once she started offering these services, Rago saw a significant increase in demand. By Jan. 2021, she had a full schedule and even had to hire an assistant in order to meet the demand.

“I started to get really busy — I was constantly scheduling people, unfortunately, double or triple booking myself sometimes,” she said.

Now, Rago is consulting and offering her services to some of Toronto’s largest condos and office buildings — not to mention plenty of homes across the Greater Toronto Area.

While growth is booming in both business and her plant collection, Rago wants others to know that running your own business isn’t always easy.

“I'm the content creator. I’m the Instagram manager. I’m the virtual assistant. I’m the driver. I'm also the person actually physically doing the work,” she said. “It's a lot, and if I don't do those things then my business won't grow.”

That being said, Rago values being able to work so hard at something she’s passionate about. She credits that passion as one of the reasons her business has seen such success.

“If you have the passion and the knowledge, I personally think there's absolutely nothing stopping you from having an extremely successful business,” she said.

When asked what advice she would give to those who want to turn their passion into a career, Rago points to discipline and consistency.

“I think a lot of a lot of us young people are so used to instant gratification and I think that we’re almost conditioned in that, if we don't get that instant gratification, we feel like we failed,” she said.

“I think people shouldn’t diminish the amount of work and dedication and sacrifices you do have to make when you start a business.”

In the beginning, she says she would often send 30 cold calls or emails a day to people she wanted to work with.

“Sometimes, I won't hear back from any of them or, out of the 30 emails I send, I might hear back from one person and a lot of people might think that's defeat, but you have to run with the people that believe in you,” she said.

According to Rago, the perseverance needed to champion your own business isn’t all that different from the perseverance needed to grow plants.

“Plants don't grow magically overnight. It takes months —even years— to get them to be the size that I would want, to flower or to grow a new leaf,” Rago said.

“It’s the same with a business.” Top Stories

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