Client Name: Jenny Stuart
Business Name: The Secret Gardener
Business Website:
Industry: Landscaping
Location: Epping, NH
SBDC Advisor's Name: Amy Sterndale

For Jenny Stuart, Owner of The Secret Gardener in Epping, NH, gardening has always been a part of her life. She fondly recalls gardening alongside her parents at their home in Vermont where they were always outside, tending to their vegetable gardens and picking berries. Her Dad used to tease them saying things like, “careful…you’re putting that seed in upside down. Make sure you put it in right side up.”

secret gardener

Jenny went on to attend the former Thompson School at University of New Hampshire where she earned an associate degree in Horticulture. Now her dad calls her for gardening advice.

Jenny loves gardening and explains, “it’s one of the few areas I feel like science and art coexist, because you have to be creative, but there’s also a lot of science to it.” She loves that through gardening, she can express her creativity and see what she’s done right away. “I feel in my own little way that I try to make a positive impact in every yard,” says Jenny.

The Secret Gardener is a business Jenny says she fell into. “I never wanted to run a business. Not in a million years,” laughs Jenny. But, while working for a nursery after college, a customer called asking if someone could go out to their house and do some work. Jenny took on the task, and it snowballed from there. “I was like ‘Oh, I can do this’,” says Jenny. “And, it’s kind of been growing and changing over the last almost ten years.”

The Secret Gardener offers customized gardening with a focus on ecological design. As her website states: “The Secret Gardener specializes in landscapes that blend aesthetics and functionality with a focus on native plants and sound ecological practices.”  Whether you want to remodel an existing garden, start from scratch, tame an unruly area, or build a vegetable or fruit garden, The Secret Gardener can help.

Jenny called upon the NH SBDC when she needed help handling the business side of things. “As I did not intend to go into business, I had gaps in knowledge on the business side of my industry.” Looking back, she wishes she had taken full advantage of the Thompson School’s full offering and stayed for a third year, which would have included business classes. But, with college expenses, she figured she had no intentions of running a business and did not need the business school. 

flower from secret gardener

At least now she has the NH SBDC and her NH SBDC Business Advisor, Amy Sterndale to help fill in those gaps. Jenny had the planting down; it was the business side she found scary. Jenny explains, “I was like, ‘How do I take on this business that I've been doing, but it's at a much larger scale.’ So Amy's been just a huge help in helping me get set up and, and find my confidence too.”

Jenny says the SBDC always assists when she meets a new level where she needs guidance. Amy breaks things down for her so she can understand it and makes things more tangible. Jenny adds, “she broke down these big concepts that were intimidating and made them easy to understand and manage.” She also describes Amy as “a great confidence booster,” explaining that when Jenny starts to feel nervous or unsure of herself, Amy is great about bringing her back and grounding her.

Today, Jenny says now that they’ve gotten through the initial set up of the business and the busy spring, her business has reached a rhythm. With Amy, a bookkeeper and some great employees by her side, running the business isn’t as scary as she expected.

Without the SBDC, Jenny believes she would be struggling more on the business side of things and understanding how to do this better. She says,

“it’s nice to know that lifeline is there. If something arises, or I start to question some business aspects, I can just set up an appointment with Amy, and she's right there, which is a huge weight off.”

Jenny hopes to hire one or two more people, so she can grow more and provide a more premium service to her clients. She plans to continue to improve in their field, while providing a fun work environment with a great work/life balance for herself and her employees.

Without hesitation, Jenny thinks all business owners could benefit from the advice and knowledge from the SBDC, saying “If nothing else, that validation they provide can be invaluable to a stressed-out business owner!”