Local gardener creates new tools for older hands
By KEEGAN PROSSER
Mercer Island Reporter Reporter
July 18, 2012 · 9:35 AM
Adams may be 81 years old, but she’s showing no signs of slowing down soon.
In fact, she’s doing quite the opposite in starting GardenAtEaseShops.com, an all-service website that sells garden tools and accessories for people with limited hand and arm strength.
An avid gardener, Adams suffers from rheumatoid arthritis, a disease that has severely affected her mobility most her life. And while bouts with the disease have found her bedridden, in a wheelchair and in pain over the years, she said she never let the disease control her life.
“In a lot of ways I think it was a blessing because it gave me a sense of compassion and empathy for a lot of people that I probably never would have [had],” she said.
When her previous job as a drug and alcohol counselor ended last June, Adams decided it was time for a new adventure.
While searching for opportunities online, Adams discovered Prosper Inc., a web-based school that offers lessons in real estate, financial trading and e-commerce in addition to other courses. She figured the program would provide the perfect opportunity to channel her passion for gardening into a viable business.
“I don’t need a lot of money. I’m more interested in helping people,” Adams said. “And introducing people to the joy of gardening [who] maybe thought they couldn’t do it because of this, that or the other thing.”
Before enrolling in the Prosper e-commerce program, Adams had no experience in web design, but with help from coach Beau Graves, Adams built the website — and business — from scratch. The site went live on June 29.
Serving as the middle person, Adams’ Garden At Ease Shops is a hub for customers to purchase products from Florian Ratchet-cut Pruning Tools, a division of American Standard that specializes in low-impact garden tools; customers order the products through the website, Adams sends the orders to Florian, and the product is shipped directly to the customer. Adams currently receives 50 percent of any product she sells through her site, a mark-up they agreed upon earlier this year.
Florian products currently listed on the Adams’ website include Florian Ratchet Pruners, Ratchet Loppers, and other ergonomically designed tools. “An ordinary person would have trouble cutting two inches with a regular pruner, but anybody could do it with the ratchet cuter,” said Adams, who contacted the tool company about doing business last fall.
Graves said that the thing that really separates Adams from others is her willingness and excitement to learn.
“She is completely dedicated to making this business online work, and she has what it takes to make it happen,” Graves said.
He adds that Adams’ site is unique in the demographic that she is targeting: an elderly generation with very unique products that are not found on super market or hardware store shelves. Besides select Sears stores, the only retailer who sells the Florian products in Washington is a feed shop in Enumclaw.
In addition to Florian products, the site features items to beautify the garden, including bird feeders, mail posts, and seasonal items like snow roof rakes, a greenhouse, and cedar storage bench. Adams also plans to post bi-weekly blog entries on a variety of garden-related topics, ranging from proper pruning tips to soil evaluation. Most recently, Adams began a series on noxious (non-native) weeds.
Also unique to Adams’ website is the fact that all products are made in the U.S. - something she said has been very important to her from the beginning. Adams said she wants to help the American economy get back on track, and was really happy to find a company (in Florian) that doesn’t outsource.
Adams said she has probably invested upwards of $8,000 dollars toward her online schooling and the website. And while she admits growing the site is trying at times, Adams’ goal to succeed forces her to keep going.
“It is so uplifting and so stimulating. It doesn’t allow me to think of myself as old.”
To learn more about the website and Ruth Adams, visit her site at gardenateaseshops.com.
Keegan Prosser is a reporter for the Bellevue Reporter, a sister paper of the Mercer Island Reporter.
Contact Mercer Island Reporter Reporter Keegan Prosser at email@example.com.