Home LifestyleCareer Leila’s Plants in Jersey City is Celebrating its Opening Today

Leila’s Plants in Jersey City is Celebrating its Opening Today

by Stephanie Spear
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Jersey City resident Mariel Acevedo has always had a passion for plants. Mariel grew her collection and learned more about different kinds of plants for much of her life and made a ‘pandemic pivot’ to launch her plant business, Leila’s Plants. This month, Leila’s Plants will grow from a pop-up to a brick-and-mortar location at 351 Martin Luther King Boulevard in Jersey City — and the official grand opening + ribbon cutting will be held on July 13th at 1:30PM. The shop is located in a converted shipping container as part of an entrepreneurship incubator program supported by the City of Jersey City. The Hoboken Girl spoke with Mariel about her business. Read on to learn more about her inspiring story and to plan a visit to this innovative shop.

About Mariel

Jersey City resident Mariel Acevedo is the woman behind Leila’s Plants. Mariel has lived in Jersey City since emigrating to the US with her family from the Dominican Republic at age 5. The new shop is not far from where Mariel lives in the Greenville section of Jersey City. “Having this business here in the neighborhood means the whole world to me,” she said. “To be able to contribute to the neighborhood’s growth by having my business here is very important to me.”

Prior to Leila’s Plants, Mariel worked at Rutgers University in higher education in early childhood education research. For over a decade she managed large-scale surveys and data collection efforts for nationwide studies. She hired, supervised, and trained the teams. “It was a lot of project management,” she said. Meanwhile, she was an avid collector of plants and enjoyed learning about plants and growing her collection.

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Mariel Acevedo 

Like many people, the pandemic spurred a change in thinking about her life’s direction. “During the pandemic, the online plant community was really growing,” she said. “I had already been a part of it for a while, and growing plants on my own, but I saw that there was something else there.” Mariel would informally sell or trade plant cuttings with other plant hobbyists, and it made her realize that she could do more and think bigger. “I wanted to provide accessibility and quality,” she said. “I have years of experience with my own collection”

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In 2021, Mariel started attending fairs and other events with a pop-up setup for her business.  She chose the name Leila’s Plants for her business to honor her time in Hermandad De Sigma Iota Alpha Inc., a Latina-based sorority that was pivotal to her success in college. “Leila was my line name,” she said, referring to the sorority’s pledging process. “Whenever I need an extra push or need strength I use that name.” Overall, Mariel said the pop-ups were a good learning experience for her.  “It was a great way to get momentum for myself,” she said. “And with the pop-ups, I was able to provide quality plants in an accessible way.” The pop-ups were also a way for Mariel to test the waters of opening a shop. She was still working full-time at Rutgers as she continued to grow her pop-up business when she started to research learning opportunities for beginning entrepreneurs.

Read more: This Jersey City Store Supports Women + Mothers

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Leaning on her research and project management skills led Mariel to two pivotal programs. “I knew a lot about plants but I didn’t know anything about running a business,” she said. “I wanted to learn.” The first was a course with Rising Tide Capital called the Community Business Academy. It was a 12-week program with experienced instructors and hands-on training in creating, growing, and managing a business. “I want to get as much information as possible,” she said.

The second program was Pop Up Jackson Hill, which is a micro-entrepreneurship incubator managed by the Jersey City Economic Development Corporation (JCEDC). There are four repurposed shipping containers available for use, and to get into the space, a business owner must successfully apply to the program. Participants get access to the shipping container space for one year and are enrolled in a program through Rutgers Entrepreneurship Pioneers Initiative as part of the Rutgers Center of Urban Entrepreneurship and Economic Development. The program is designed for first-generation business owners.

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Pop Up Jackson Hill 

Muriel applied, knowing that the physical space and the professional support of the program would make for a smart transition from her plant business being a part-time to a full-time setup. She said it’s been incredible. “There are 30 other business owners in my cohort, so we trade ideas and are going through many similar things,” she said. The courses cover everything from budgeting to risk management. There are three other businesses in shipping containers: clothing retailer Outlaw Apparel 88; Washed and Made Whole handmade soaps; and clothing retailer Female King.

In early 2022, Mariel left Rutgers University to pursue Leila’s Plants full-time. She keeps up with her previous career through her own consulting business, where she advises non-profit organizations and educational institutes.

Visiting Leila’s Plants

At the studio, Mariel sells common and uncommon house plants, plant care tools, and offers educational workshops and plant styling consultations. The studio is located at 351 Martin Luther King Drive in Jersey City. Its hours of operations are Wednesday – Friday 12PM- 7PM; Saturday 10AM – 6PM; and Sunday 10AM – 5PM. There will be an official ribbon cutting + grand opening ceremony on Wednesday, July 13th at 1:30PM.

Mariel says she is proudest of her space. “It’s an 8′ x 20′ container with white walls and laminate flooring. I used the space to show how you can decorate your own space with plants. When you walk in, you don’t even think you’re in a container – it feels like walking into someone’s personal space, not a store.” she said. “A lot of care and detail went in. All of the colors, finishes… a lot of love went into the space.”

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A scene from Leila’s Plants 

In fact, the space itself serves as an advertisement for the plant styling consultations that Mariel offers. “To decorate the space, I did the same analysis that I would do for a client,” she said. The styling consultations are designed for people or businesses who want to start collecting plants for different reasons. “I have a conversation with them, learn what are they looking for, and then assess the space for lighting, humidity, temperature control,” Mariel says. “I pride myself on providing quality plants plus the education to provide for them. I want people to get good value for their money.”

See more: A Historical Walking Tour of Jersey City Heights

Mariel is always on the hunt for the best and most interesting plant picks for the shop. “Even though I don’t grow the plants, I pick out everything,” she said. “I take care of the plants like I would my own collection.” Her favorite plant to sell, however, is anything from the Hoya family. “These are the easiest plants out there. They don’t require a lot of care.” She added, “What’s more beautiful for me is that they have beautiful blooms. It’s rewarding to care for a plant and get a bloom. There are several hundred species, with tons of variety, depending on the country of origin.”

Looking ahead, Mariel will continue to appear as a pop-up at events throughout North Jersey. She also wants to have other entrepreneurs be able to use her space for their own ventures. “I’d love to have events in the studio,” she said. “Like a yoga class, or a pot-and-paint class.” Her time in the shipping container will be up in Summer 2023, and she hopes to have a new location for her shop by then.

To stay up to date on all things Hoboken and Jersey City, follow @thehobokengirl on Instagram and TikTok.

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