In The Country Garden and Gifts, Independence

America’s SBDC Iowa at the University of Northern Iowa helped Josh and Sue Spece run new financial projections and complete an application for Targeted Small Business certification so they could obtain financing to move their existing rural greenhouse business to a more accessible and larger location.

Mother and son team, Josh and Sue Spece, have been successfully operating In The Country Garden and Gifts near Independence, Iowa since 1998. Josh has had a passion for gardening since he was a young child and he graduated from college with a degree in Horticulture despite being in a wheelchair. With hard work, a great attitude about entrepreneurship, and a little help from others, Josh has overcome his physical limitations and has grown a very successful niche greenhouse business.

In addition to working in the greenhouse, Sue has more than 25 years of experience creating handmade crafts and gifts. She fills their retail shop with unique garden décor, statuary and homemade gifts.

In The Country Garden and Gifts specializes in sales of Hostas and water plants such as tropical water lilies. There are over 8,000 varieties of Hostas and collectors from across the country come to their greenhouse, or purchase online, to gain access to some of the 300 varieties and unique Hosta-themed gifts the business carries.

Because of increasing demand, especially in online sales, the company needed additional space to grow. In addition, Josh and Sue wanted to relocate their business to a hard surfaced road, for easier access and increased traffic. So in July 2011 Josh and Sue went to the UNI SBDC in Cedar Falls to find out what they needed to do to make the changes happen.

SBDC Regional Director Dan Beenken helped Josh and Sue put together new financial projections for the business, reviewed their business plan, and assisted them in completing an application for a targeted small business (TSB) loan. The Speces were successful in getting the TSB capital they needed to relocate, expand, and upgrade their facility significantly.

In August 2012 Josh and Sue consulted with the SBDC again on how to expand their online sales and their retail gift shop sales, hoping to smooth their cash flow during their off-season months. Dan gave them some good advice on developing their company’s branding as a home décor shop as well as a greenhouse, plus suggested they work with other local retailers to hold open houses and promote their home décor items. The business now hosts workshops and special events during the year that draw Hosta-holics from across the Midwest.

Josh and Sue are very happy about the assistance they received from the Iowa Small Business Development Center. Josh says, “The Iowa Small Business Development Center was a great help in making sure our business plan and TSB loan application were polished and detailed.  It was a relief having help to secure the funding we needed to relocate and upgrade our facilities.”

In The Country Garden and Gifts currently has two full-time employees and other family and friends help part-time as needed. The company is growing steadily and its sales doubled from 2011 to 2012. The company’s tremendous client base also helps to bring new dollars to the local economy.

Their new business location allows Josh and Sue to better serve customers from all over the region and the country, and their website features hundreds of pictures from the nursery, gardens, and ponds. Josh’s online focus and talents, including a Garden Journal and an online newsletter, have allowed him to bring in sales from outside the region. Be sure to check out all that In The Country Garden and Gifts has to offer at

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