In the run-up to President’s Day weekend, San Francisco Bay Area designer and entrepreneur Carly Dennett was in the mood to shake things up. Uplifted by the Women’s March in Oakland a few weeks before, but still mad as hell about the election of a misogynist president and almost daily attacks on the civil rights of women and girls from the new administration, Carly’s Flowerland nursery in the town of Albany became a hub for a community looking for ways to fight back.
In honor of President’s Day, the big Flowerland sign on Solano Ave read: “It’s time to plant your impeach trees” – the work of Carly’s husband Matthew Hooven. Carly and her staff were brainstorming about how to unload a shipment of self-watering pots that just hadn’t hit it off with her customers as well as she’d hoped.
Her long-time friend and co-worker Carrie Schulze came up with the idea of giving the pots away to every customer who made a donation to a good cause. Carly, a supporter of Equal Rights Advocates who marched with the ERA contingent in Oakland, jumped on the idea and suggested that ERA would be the cause to benefit from the giveaway. One week later, 331 pots had moved off the shelves and more than $4,000 had been donated to ERA.
“It was so empowering. Wow! I couldn’t believe things came together so beautifully,” says Carly. She had been both excited and scared by the giveaway idea. “But the Flowerland staff really got into it and the customers were just amazing. I’ve worked hard to nurture the community around the nursery and was a little worried that folks might be put off by being asked for a donation. But really it was just the opposite – we had people thanking us for the opportunity to give.”
Carly, who was raised in Mendocino, is the first woman in her family to go to college. She’s worked hard to make Flowerland a success and a destination for garden lovers in the East Bay. “I’m proud to have taken a non-traditional route and am showing my daughters that they can find their own path to doing whatever they want to do with their lives.”
As a woman business owner, Carly appreciates the work that organizations like ERA do to clear a path for women to succeed. “There are so many potential stumbling blocks when starting a business and it’s been great to have strong women there to help me at key points along the way. Learning how to combat bullies was an important life lesson for me.”
“Raising money for ERA was a way I could do something,” Carly concluded. “I’m not a lawyer. I’m a terrible letter writer. But I have this amazing community of friends, employees and customers who I knew were feeling a lot like I did about the political scene and wanted to do something about it. The success of this idea has given me the confidence to try something similar again.”