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Boise State grad’s independent business brings green artistry to the plant-loving community

Follow A Succulent Day on Instagram and you’ll feast on images of a bright shop filled with an unimaginable number of succulents and other plants – living things large and small, plants hanging or potted in bright containers, cacti as living art pieces coaxed into wreaths and bridal bouquets.

The shop, at 3017 W. State St. in Boise, is the brainchild of Martha Mendoza, a 2010 graduate of Boise State. Mendoza received a bachelor’s degree in bilingual elementary education. She also held several posts at the university, including director of educator success in the College of Education, director of student relations and student success in the College of Arts and Sciences, and adjunct instructor and lecturer teaching Spanish.

Her life in plants began as a hobby, but one with deep roots in her childhood in Southern Mexico.

“The place where I grew up is a lush paradise of tropical plants,” said Mendoza. “My mom and grandma loved plants, so I grew up with them, making arrangements, growing gardens. I spent a lot of time outside, loving the plants and being there. That was the foundation.”

Mendoza came to Boise in 2004 to attend Boise State. She’d never lived in a cold climate before, she said, so she made a conscious effort to surround herself with greenery. She began her plant business as a side venture in 2016.

Martha Mendoza
Martha Mendoza in her shop, A Succulent Day on State Street. Allison Corona photo.

“I started creating arrangements and sharing them on Instagram. I participated in the Wintry Market (an annual indie market in Boise). I had my little booth. My arrangements were well-received and I said, ‘oh, I guess people like this,'” Mendoza said.

The next year, she started teaching workshops, almost by accident, after she went to a client’s home to help her care for her succulents and the client asked Mendoza to host a planting party. Mendoza transferred her Spanish teaching skills to teaching people about plants, and the popularity of her workshops grew.

“It just became something,” said Mendoza.

In 2018, she decided to leave her fulltime job to start her own business.

“My husband thought I was crazy, but I was able to take the leap,” said Mendoza.

Monica Galvan, an artist, is a longtime friend of Mendoza’s and a fellow Boise State graduate. Galvan wove the macrame plant hangers that dot the walls at A Succulent Day. While at Boise State, the two friends talked about opening a shop one day, said Galvan. It’s been wonderful, she said, to see Mendoza summoning her courage, trusting her gut and making her shop a reality.

“She’s good at everything,” said Galvan. “The business and the creativity, and working with people. Having all of that explains her success.”

Mendoza continued expanding her workshops and the events for which she’s become known that pair planting with wine- and beer-sipping, goat yoga, art projects and more.

“I like finding opportunities to collaborate with other people doing creative work. That’s something I learned from my undergraduate classes at Boise State that I’ve applied to build my business, the value of teamwork and building community.”

Mendoza opened her brick and mortar shop on State Street in the late summer of 2019.

“I wanted a shop where people could come and see the plants and select what they want, and I wanted a place where we could have more of a conversation,” said Mendoza.

Kristen Jackson owns Lit & Co. Candles, next door to A Succulent Day. Jackson and Mendoza met and became friends after Mendoza pitched the idea of a DIY candle and succulent workshop.

“A Succulent Day is a tremendous neighbor to have on State Street,” said Jackson. “This business brings a thoughtfully curated, beautiful, educational and fun retail and gift option to the neighborhood, and is a great addition to the eclectic mix of local retail and services. It’s a literal breath of fresh air.”

Learning to build a business from the ground up has had its challenges, said Mendoza. She had to find the best wholesale plant sources – transporting tropical plants to Boise, Idaho, comes with obvious challenges. She had to learn to keep plants healthy for buyers and handle growth that has sometimes outpaced her infrastructure. Mendoza doesn’t have a greenhouse, for example. Her bonus room at home is filled with grow lights.

“Martha is truly an expert in her field, which is paramount to any successful small business,” Jackson said. “She has such an in-depth understanding of plants and their needs and can tailor any plant to fit any situation, which gives regular people – like me, I have eight of her plants – the confidence they need to take things from there.”

The shop’s official opening was in late September. So many people showed up – there was a line out the door – that Mendoza had to draft a visiting friend to help handle the crowds. She now has four employees with a range of talents, from graphic design to biology. Her Boise State education contributed to her success, she said.

“I’ve been doing my own marketing and writing for my website. The writing I did in English 101 and creative nonfiction helped give me the skills I use every time I write an Instagram post or a description of an event. I haven’t had to hire copywriters,” said Mendoza. “Studying math was awesome, too. I build my own Idaho-shaped planters. You have to cut exact angles. Everything I’ve studied can be applied to my business.”

– Story by Anna Webb