Eco-Chic Gardens: A Success Story in Transforming Your Future
Temple University Ambler alum Kimberly Lock (AMB ‘07, Horticulture) affectionately calls herself a “corporate escapee.”
Lock had a full 15 years of corporate experience — even running her own collection agency for a time — but that was not where her passion lay.
“I was pulling weeds out in a suit with a briefcase slung over my back. I’d be working on my garden at 2 or 3 a.m. with a spotlight on,” she said. “It was a no brainer really. I loved working with plants and wanted to make a living out of it. I was 36 and wanted to completely change careers.”
Within a year of having this life-altering epiphany she enrolled at Temple University Ambler.
“I felt at home here. I loved the people and the campus and the small classroom setting,” she said. “There was a lot of soul searching, a lot of thought put into this — learning the plant science; the art of design; the tools necessary to become a good steward of the environment. I know I made the right decision — I’ve never looked back.”
While at Ambler, Lock met numerous kindred spirits, including Ann Laughlin (AMB ‘05, Horticulture), a fellow survivor of the business world who would eventually become her partner in a new path for both of their lives — Eco-Chic Gardens, which formally opened for business in Andalusia, Bucks County, Pa., in 2007.
“I quit a 13-year career in human resource benefits and human resource information systems and began volunteering at Longwood Gardens, which has a professional gardeners program. I decided that not only did I want to receive certification, I wanted a degree,” Laughlin said. “Ambler had a strong science aspect to it that incorporated the design piece, which I thought was essential — I was able to graduate with a very balanced degree. I was encouraged to take risks and pushed to believe in myself — I was given the support I needed educationally through practical knowledge and hands-on experience and personally.”
For years, Laughlin and Lock batted around the idea of starting a business together — one firmly based in ecologically responsible and sustainable landscape practices, promoting “healthy outdoor lifestyles through innovation, art, and science.” A summer spent working together in Temple University Ambler Founding Landscape Arboretum Director Stephanie Cohen’s garden solidified their goal.
“We said ‘Wouldn’t it be great if we could do this every day?’ and decided why couldn’t’ we,” said Lock, who was recently elected Vice President of the Ambler College Alumni Association.
Laughlin and Lock established their firm’s approach based on “ecologically friendly best management practices,” Laughlin said.
“You can have a beautiful landscape, but still take an ecological, water wise approach,” she said. “We take a team approach with our clients and are completely involved in both the design and installation process.”
Since its inception, Eco-Chic has been building a substantial client base in addition to hiring new employees “to assist us in meeting our goals this year,” including Ann Marie Rambo (AMB ’07, Horticulture).
“We have also successfully completed several jobs in partnership with Bradley Scherff (AMB ’07, Landscape Architecture) of Creative Environments. We are always looking for more good people to join our team and, of course, Temple students and graduates are most welcome!” said Lock. “You should never give up on your dreams. Truly, there’s room for everyone in the green industry — the industry is hungry for knowledgeable people entering the workplace.”
For other individuals seeking to make life and career changes, Laughlin encourages them to “take the leap.”
“You have to realize that you can always change course. For example, people tend not to realize just how many types of jobs there are in the green industry — public horticulture, landscape design, landscape architecture, research, plant science, botanic art, historical gardens,” she said. “You can always move to another job in the green industry or another avenue entirely that suits your passions. You just need to believe in yourself.”