The elevator bell dings, and Rachel Collins, a landscaper and owner of Collins Containers, steps inside, shovel in hand, followed by a worker hauling a load of soil.
When they reach the second floor of One North Shore condominiums, Collins and her employee step out onto a landing that faces a pool surrounded by large pots overflowing with ivy and wind-bent bushes.
Collins, originally from Chicago, trained and competed on hunter-jumper horses and owned her own farm for 25 years in South Carolina before moving to Chattanooga about nine years ago.
What began as a small job for a friend is now a 7-year-old business for Collins. Growing up on and owning a farm, she had the basic knowledge needed to take care of plants, but she attributes much of her success to the help of others in the community, from her clients to master arborists.
Although Collins does not have a degree in landscape design, her grit to take on new projects has given her small business an advantage in the landscaping scene.
"The more challenged I am, the more interesting it is to me," she said. "There's a lot that goes into it and a lot of care and maintenance afterward."
Collins takes pride in the detail work she and her workers put into each project.
"We do a lot of maintenance things that some companies don't," she said. "We will actually go in and pull weeds instead of just spraying Roundup. We have a lot of clients who are very sensitive to the environment and want to do things organically."
Just like with any business, things will go wrong. Plants will die. Orders may go wrong. With so many moving parts, problems are bound to happen, she said.
"You just try to fix it as quickly as possible," Collins said. "If it just means going back and spending money out of your own pocket, you just do it."
According to Collins, having a good relationship with clients is most important and keeps the business a return business.