It all happened organically. I never intended to become the owner of a gardening company.
My name is Raúl. Before March 2020, I was a successful commercial director. Along with millions of other people, my career came to a screeching halt when Covid shutdown orders came in. I went from having multiple jobs going on at the same time to literally none.
I’m the kind of person that loves to be busy and has to be “creating” something at all times. And so it happened. Among other house projects, my wife, mother to our two young boys and an avid gardener, asked me to build her two elevated planter boxes to replace the large raised bed we had before, I wasted no time and got them built that day. I just so happened to show my men’s soccer league WhatsApp group and one of my friends asked if I could build him some planter boxes just like them for his house. Then someone suggested I put a post up on NextDoor offering to build them for my neighbors. On a whim, I went for it.
It was Spring, and people were newly quarantining. There was also a desire to grow your own food instead of going to the grocery store as much. Again, I didn’t plan it. But within a few days, I was completely overwhelmed with orders. I was building away as fast as I could in my front patio and delivering planters to dozens of people in my neighborhood. It was truly an awesome experience to have these brief but profound interactions with people when dropping off their boxes. We were all in the same boat in this unknown sea of Covid, but I could see the joy and hope that people were feeling with the possibility of not only growing their own vegetables but also reconnecting with the earth and their own space.
It only took a few weeks to outgrow the “workshop” on my patio. First, I hired a neighbor to cut all the wood for me in my driveway while I did all the assembly. A little while later, I partnered with my good friend Colin and we moved the operation to his much larger driveway. With this move we were able to offer people soil and then start building the business in terms of other offerings. We taught ourselves the best irrigation systems and how to best keep critters from eating folks’ vegetables. We decided early on to only use FSC certified cedar and responsibly farmed redwood to keep our company eco-friendly and sustainable.
With demand spiking and more people developing a passion for gardening, we hired other out-of-work film industry types to help build and deliver the planters. We had 6-8 people working on any given day, spread across this long driveway. These were grips, actors, production designers, camera operators, and producers. We had all worked together on set before, so we fell back into our natural family dynamic, and were able to pivot our teamwork skills quite easily.
Long story short, it didn’t take long for us to have to move again. And then again. Expanding and expanding. We have now provided planter boxes and gardening products to hundreds and hundreds of customers all over Los Angeles. Many people who, more often than not, had never tried edible gardening. We did everything we could to take the fear out of the process, introduce everyone to the many possibilities afforded by Mother Earth, and guarantee a bountiful harvest! We couldn’t believe the reactions we got from people. Many seniors told us that there would be no other way for them to garden if our service didn’t exist. I’m truly proud of the work we’ve done in allowing (enabling) people to grow their own natural food. So many families are now spending time together taking care of their gardens. I constantly get updates from customers when they harvest their vegetables and the sheer pride they have is so inspiring.
Will I go back to directing? Of course, I still love it. But Victory Garden LA isn’t going anywhere. With hundreds of customers and orders coming in daily, we couldn’t stop this train if we tried.
Raúl + Colin