Brianna Wright started Bow Peak Botany to expand the ways she can spread her zeal for growing unusual plants and fungi. In 2016, Brianna moved back to Wisconsin from Wyoming, where she taught science at the University of Wyoming. She was looking for her next opportunity when she spotted two: a posting for a position as a Horticulture Educator for the Marathon County office of the University of Wisconsin Extension and an announcement for an entrepreneurial “Boot Camp” offered by the Wausau Entrepreneurial and Education Center. Brianna applied for the Horticulture Educator job and enrolled in the Boot Camp, which gave her an intense 28 classroom hours over five days.
Brianna was selected for the educator job, where she now works with home gardeners and teaches therapeutic horticulture. She also applied what she learned in Boot Camp to start Bow Peak Botany, LLC, through which she grows and sells hops rhizomes and forest logs she has inoculated to produce home-grown oyster and shitake mushrooms. “It’s a very small-scale business,” she said, “but people are finding all kinds of uses for the hops—home brewing, aromatherapy, or food seasoning. The plants and fungi I grow are tools I use when I go out and educate.”
Entrepreneur Training Program leads to connections
Brianna wanted more in-depth business training and support. At the Boot Camp, she had learned about the Entrepreneurial Training Program (ETP) offered by the Small Business Development Center of UW-Stevens Point. Through instruction, guest speakers, and coaching, the ETP course serves those who are considering starting a business as well as owners of existing businesses. After the conclusion of the nine-week class, all participants have three months to complete a lender-ready business plan. That was what Brianna needed.
Working closely with Mark Speirs, a consultant with the UW-Stevens Point SBDC, Brianna completed her financial projections and a business plan. “Mark teased out of me the questions I didn’t even know how to ask,” Brianna said. The connections with other entrepreneurs in the course have led to collaboration opportunities, “and that’s been phenomenal,” she added. Brianna, a mother of three, has been financing her business startup with her own funds, “and making the money back—my measure of success,” she said.
Accomplishments with the SBDC at UW-Stevens Point:
- Financial projections
- Networking connections
- Business plan
Bow Peak Botany offers growing services as well as products
Brianna struggled while writing her business plan to connect the selling of plants with her desire to offer education about them. Mark Speirs observed, “She has several revenue streams—the educational part gets the word out and retailing the plants brings the profits. She has a great grasp of what she’s doing. Where I helped her was how to monetize it, how to get started, step by step.”
Brianna has chosen not to open a retail storefront. Instead, she delivers the plants and teaches about how to care for them or brings product along to sell at educational events she offers in the area. “I get all kinds of requests—a talk on how to start hops rhizomes, or about fungal biology and mycology. It’s all about getting people excited about plant biology,” she said.
Spring finds Brianna getting the hops rhizomes she over-wintered ready for customers to plant. She frequently consults with customers who come back with questions. She said, “I’d love to eventually mentor others and provide internship opportunities.”
Mark said, “With her full-time job as a Horticulture Educator, Brianna has learned to use her time building Bow Peak Botany efficiently. She has the self-discipline and the enthusiasm. She uses every moment productively because she enjoys the work.”