To say Katie Dubow is a force in the garden industry is a huge understatement. She took over Garden Media Group from her mom in 2020 and is using the women-owned PR firm to help change the face of the industry. From elevating women and people of color, to working on making garden education as accessible as possible, Katie is out to make her mark on a world that is predominantly old, male, and white. We chatted with Katie about her amazing mom, Garden Media Group, the new virtual conference the Great Grow Along that she helped found, and her own garden in Pennsylvania. We hope you're as inspired by this amazing woman as we are!
On Katie’s Mom, Suzi McCoy, Starting Garden Media Group In The 90’s
My mom worked part-time in a PR firm and one day she went into the office and all of her things were packed in the box. Her co-worker said ‘I think you should take half the clients and I'll take half the clients.’ So she did; she took half the clients and started Impact Marketing. For 10 years she did regional PR for a variety of car dealerships, fertility clinics, and then she eventually did a job for the mushroom industry which is big in our region of Pennsylvania. At that time the mushroom industry had a pretty bad reputation for the smell in the area and a lot of other things. So she did a really nice job turning their reputation around in the region which caught the eye of Dick Hutton of the Conard-Pyle Co. who contacted her and asked for her help to launch a new rose variety. She helped them launch the KnockOut Rose and really the rest is history — her next client was Tulip World in Holland. She went from 10 years working general PR to becoming an International Garden Industry PR agency in about three months.
Garden Media Group Now
In the 25 years since my mom started Garden Media Group, we’ve worked with some of the biggest brands in the garden industry and she — with the help of our growing team — has single-handedly changed the industry. We’re based out of Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, which really is a garden mecca. We have Chanticleer Gardens, Longwood Gardens, Mt. Cuba Gardens, and Winterthur Gardens all around us. About 10 years ago I moved back from New York City to help run the business and my mom told us she had about 2-3 years left in her … fast forward to 10 years later (2020) and that is when I officially bought the business from her. Obviously, buying a business in a pandemic year was insane, but luckily gardening was (and still is) booming. We hired three new people and our first remote employee, and that really will change our business forever. By allowing people to work remote, I'm able to find the best personalities, the best talent. I mean, garden marketing is something that's pretty unique. And so being able to find the right people who will work in Kennett Square was challenging. That was our best challenge. And now we can match with anybody. So that's really helped our business elevate to be able to serve customers in all time zones and regions. And really, now I’m just waiting for our office to be able to open back up!
What Does It Mean To Be A Woman-Owned Business?
My mom always would tell this story and growing up, as a kid, I didn’t think much of it. But her signature color was pink. She had classic eighties hair and wore pink suits, pink jackets, pink heels, and always had pink pens with her. She would enter these rooms that would regularly be all men in business suits or jeans, and she would show up in her signature color and always leave behind a pink pen. She told me she always did that when she went on prospect calls. I think that was a really nice touch — she would always stand out and then when people would see the pink pen they would reach out.
Even now, being a woman in this industry you’re still a minority — there aren’t many women-owned businesses and there aren’t a ton of people of color working in the garden industry. So to me, it’s so important to continue to support one another and bring up the whole industry, making sure that our voices are heard because so many times it is men making the decisions, and it's women buying the plants. That’s one of the things I admire most about my mom and try to take with me as a leader — her ability to speak up. Now, in meetings, I’m not afraid to raise my hand and say ‘let’s look at that a different way,’ or ‘that’s not the way I experienced it.’ Even though it may not be a popular opinion or I may be the only woman there. We offer opportunities to women at Garden Media Group to help continue to raise women up in the industry.
On The Great Grow-Along Virtual Conference (March 19-21)
There is a great woman, LaManda Joy, who started the Peterson Garden Project, which is a Chicago based initiative that takes reclaimed lots and turns them into Victory Gardens. Last year she opened a garden center in Chicago in a pandemic and now she has three garden centers. She is an absolute thought-machine of ideas. She called me this summer and told me she had an idea for an event. I said, ‘A virtual event for the industry? Sign me up!’ There are so many garden shows canceled this year so there was a huge gap and need for education in the industry. It was all her idea but the Garden Media group has so many great connections and partners we could help her make it happen.
The mission of the Great Grow Along is to inspire and educate new gardeners that started gardening in the past year or so. We also want to show them that our industry is not always male-led. It’s a vibrant, very multi-hued group of people, so a big part of our mission was to make sure that we show a diverse group of speakers. We have a few from the old guard, but also a variety of new speakers who are doing great things out there in the world and spreading the word about gardening. Our lineup is incredible; we have some of the biggest influencers and new faces and some highly-educated industry people as well. And it’s affordable! It’s $29.99 for the entire weekend and it’s accessible — you can watch from your mobile phone and you can access any of the talks for six months after the conference. So wherever you’re gardening, you can get out your phone and access these awesome talks throughout the growing season.
On Katie’s Passion For Educating On QVC
I love being able to share some of my favorite plants on QVC and it’s a platform where I feel like people don’t always get a great education generally, so being able to bring that mission of bringing up the industry and giving people the right resources to succeed in their garden is pretty cool. This year, as with most in the garden industry, we are exceeding our goals. If anyone is wondering whether this gardening boom is going to continue into spring, wonder no more. They’ve been adding entire days devoted to gardening on the platform and as much as maybe the TV channel is waning in popularity, they have a hugely-popular app. It’s #3 in shopping apps just behind Amazon and WalMart. So being able to use this huge platform to get high-quality, beneficial plants like asclepias to people, while also being able to educate them, makes me really happy.
Katie’s Pennsylvania Garden
My garden is in zone 6B and I really love to grow for pollinators. I have as many pollinator plants as I possibly can but I do have a sweet spot for roses, because that’s how I was really introduced to the industry and I don’t think Garden Media Group would be here if it weren’t for the KnockOut Rose. I have a huge collection of about 20 various roses now and I baby the heck out of them. I have come to love the process of caring for roses and really educating myself on them. Of course I also love how beautiful they are and how different they all look. The colors! The fragrance! So as much as I have most of my garden be for pollinators, I really can’t live without my roses. My favorite variety is probably the KnockOut variety Rio Samba. It’s incredibly hardy, pest-resistant, and the petals change colors as the season progresses.
As for using C-BITEs in my garden, I just started working with Thriving Design this December which is obviously not the growing season, but I can’t wait to use them in my garden. They are totally going to revolutionize the way I grow my tomatoes! I can’t wait to toss out my old, ratty tomato cages that have been broken for years and use C-BITEs instead.
On Why Katie Loves To Garden
To be honest, I really love entertaining in my garden. We have a couple of big parties every summer — a big Summer Solstice party, my birthday party in July, and my daughter’s birthday party in August. I love to walk people around the garden and have people ask me questions about all my plants. The first year we ever had a party when we first bought our house, the biggest question people had was about the ‘big green thing’ in our backyard. It was a compost tumbler! So for me a lot of the joy in gardening is educating people about layering plants, composting, vegetable gardens, or whatever it is. I also really like the bragging rights of my garden — it’s really fun to have people over and see their jaws drop at all the various plants. It’s also great to show people that there's a possibility that a working mom with two kids can have a garden, too. It's not just for retirees!