2022 Garden Center Conference Schedule

Garden Center Conference & Expo

2023 info coming soon !

01:00 PM – 08:30 PM

Building a Business Community (SOLD OUT)
Facility Tour

Take a tour of the expansive and diverse grounds at Rockledge Gardens, and learn how the Florida IGC has worked with local businesses as well as nonprofits to create stores within the garden center. The Rockledge staff will walk you through each store-within-a-store from the beginning of the partnership through its success.

Dinner will be provided at Rockledge Gardens following the workshops and tour. Transportation from the hotel to Rockledge and back is also included.

Click here for more information.

09:00 AM – 06:30 PM

Registration Open
Event Function
Osceola Ballroom Foyer

09:30 AM – 10:00 AM

Welcome Refreshments
All-Access Event Function
Osceola Ballroom Foyer

 

10:00 AM – 11:00 AM

The New Normal: Adapting the Traditional Garden Center Model to Fit Today’s Customers
All-Access
Osceola Ballroom C

Your customers certainly aren’t the same as they used to be. Since 2019, change has been happening faster than ever with customers shifting to more online, personalized, experience-based shopping preferences. But your competition isn’t other independent garden centers; it’s the big-box stores and e-commerce platforms that are not only underselling on price, but challenging the idea that buying plants is more than a transaction — it’s an experience.

Our industry needs to evolve to meet the new normal quickly, and the good news is that we’re in the perfect place to take advantage of this shopping evolution. Join Rob as he discusses how to draw in the millennial and Gen Z crowd, give customers the meaningful shopping experience they want and increase sales at your garden center.

Rob Sproule
Speaker Rob Sproule Co-owner Salisbury View Bio

11:00 AM – 11:15 AM

Networking Refreshment Break
All-Access Event Function
Osceola Ballroom Foyer

 

11:15 AM – 12:15 PM

Growing The Family Business: Expansion And Innovation At Gullo’s Garden Center
All-Access
Osceola Ballroom C

Growth is exciting, but it can also be an intimidating endeavor. As your operation matures, what do you do when your needs outgrow your current footprint? Learn how Gullo’s Garden Center has managed three expansions as the 27-year-old garden center undergoes its fourth buildout.

Join Russell Gullo, who has worked at Gullo’s since the day it opened in 1994, as he shares what he’s learned taking the IGC from an outdoor tent in its first year to the powerhouse it is today. He’ll share what he’s learned from his experience, what fueled the growth and need for expansion, the internal business and family discussions they went through and all of the planning that went into both prior and current expansions. Bring your questions to join the conversation and learn from the Top 100 garden center’s experiences with expanding their footprint to better serve their customers and grow their own plant material.

Russell Gullo
Speaker Russell Gullo Chief Operating Officer Gullo’s Garden Center View Bio

12:15 PM – 01:30 PM

Networking Lunch
All-Access Event Function
Osceola Ballroom Foyer

 

01:30 PM – 02:30 PM

Smart Succession Planning
All-Access
Osceola Ballroom C
Transitioning ownership of your IGC can be stressful, complicated and downright daunting. Learn from those who have gone through the process of transitioning ownership, set your business up for a successful sale or ownership transition and ask your burning questions about planning for the future.
Katherine Smith
Speaker Katherine Smith Owner Smith's Gardentown View Bio
Clint Fiore
Speaker Clint Fiore Founder and CEO Texas Business Buyers View Bio
Michael Fiore
Speaker Michael Fiore Manager Smith’s Gardentown View Bio

02:30 PM – 03:00 PM

Networking Refreshment Break
Event Function
Osceola Ballroom Foyer

03:00 PM – 04:30 PM

Keynote Session - Take Back Control: The Importance of Driving Trends Instead of Chasing Them
Keynote
Osceola Ballroom C
When it comes to keeping up with trends, are you in the driver’s seat or a passenger hanging on for dear life? Keeping up with trends in the marketplace can feel like riding a roller coaster. By the time you react and start to tap into a new gardening or houseplant trend, your customers may already be moving on. Would you rather let social media influencers determine what you need to sell then chase down that product…or would you rather control that conversation from the start? As new and inexperienced gardeners search for guidance and inspiration, now is the time to take charge and lead from the front. Leslie will dig deeper into this idea and inspire you to quit chasing trends, and take the wheel as trend setters.
Leslie Halleck
Speaker Leslie Halleck Certified Pro Horticulturist, Consultant, Author Halleck Horticultural View Bio

04:30 PM – 06:30 PM

Welcome Reception/Top 100 Awards in the Exhibit Hall
Event Function
Osceola Ballroom DE
Come enjoy cocktails and light hors d'oeuvres on the expo show floor and join us in celebrating the 2021 and 2022 Top 100 Independent Garden Centers.
Kate Spirgen
Speaker Kate Spirgen Editor Garden Center magazine View Bio
Nick Collins
Speaker Nick Collins Publisher GIE Ornamental Media Group View Bio

08:00 AM – 06:00 PM

Registration Open
Event Function
Osceola Ballroom Foyer

08:00 AM – 09:00 AM

Networking Breakfast
Event Function
Osceola Ballroom Foyer

09:00 AM – 10:00 AM

The One-Hour Strategic Plan
Executive
Osceola Ballroom C
Join John Kennedy as he delivers this fast-paced approach to “moving mountains” through vision, values and volition. John’s “pebbles, rocks and boulders” program will deliver you a structured and strategic plan to help you navigate your garden center in 2022 and beyond. Learn how to set your compass to “true north” and establish an entrepreneurial operating system (EOS) to drive traction to your team and traffic to your business.
John Kennedy
Speaker John Kennedy Owner John Kennedy Consulting View Bio

09:00 AM – 10:00 AM

Tried, True and New Education
Management
Allendale Room
Your customers are always going to want bread-and-butter education on plant basics, growing tips for their area, and plant care and selection. But with an influx of new customers coming to your IGC or looking for information about growing in your area online, there are new opportunities to show what you know. But first you have to determine how to reach them. How do they like to receive information? And how can you capture them as long-term customers? Join LaManda Joy (formerly) from City Grange and co-founder of the spring virtual garden festival, Great Grow Along, to learn how to make your education program meaningful to as many customers – existing and new – as possible.
LaManda Joy
Speaker LaManda Joy Co-founder Great Grow Along View Bio

10:00 AM – 11:00 AM

Networking Refreshment Break in the Exhibit Hall
Event Function
Osceola Ballroom DE

10:00 AM – 10:45 AM

Meet Your New Master Gardener Store Associate: Using Technology to Drive Loyalty, Help Customers Select the Right Plants & Achieve Gardening Success
Tech & Solutions
Osceola Ballroom C
Sponsored By
Mobile devices are ubiquitous, and today's shoppers are overwhelmed with options - plants are no exception. At the same time, knowledgeable workers and productive labor in retail gardening are almost impossible to find. This session discusses how garden centers can leverage mobile in-store to boost sales, incremental purchases, and repeat visits. Join this session to learn how you can help shoppers choose the 'right plants for the right situation' through location-centric data and Master Gardener-crafted plant and plant care information. Walk away with tangible ways to boost loyalty and new revenue opportunities alongside shoppers' gardening success.
Andrew Levi
Speaker Andrew Levi Founder/CEO PlantTAGG View Bio

11:00 AM – 12:00 PM

Making E-commerce Work For You
Executive
Osceola Ballroom C
Learn how to make the most of an online site from populating to POS integration to new avenues for revenue.
Michelle Castaneda
Speaker Michelle Castaneda Garden Center Manager Van Putte Gardens View Bio
David Bogage
Speaker David Bogage CEO Mahoney's Garden Center View Bio

11:00 AM – 12:00 PM

How To Make Your Customers Successful Plant Parents
Management
Allendale Room

With the soaring popularity of houseplants, more and more people are bringing these living things into their homes but confused about exactly how to care for them. Googling for plant care advice tends to leave people with more questions than answers because that advice has been recycled from decades past when houseplants were treated as mere decor. Darryl brings a fresh perspective to an old hobby. His science-based, practical approach has helped thousands understand the essentials of houseplant care to become confident plant parents. Success propagates success: confident plant parents become repeat customers; plant advice that works and makes sense attracts new customers.

And how can we keep them coming back to the garden center? How do we better connect with a broader audience around houseplants? This session will also discuss the role of social media, how to use it effectively, and how to keep the interest in houseplants alive.

Darryl Cheng
Speaker Darryl Cheng Creator House Plant Journal View Bio

12:00 PM – 01:30 PM

Networking Lunch in the Exhibit Hall
Event Function
Osceola Ballroom DE

12:30 PM – 01:15 PM

The Living Landscape Design: Create Confident Customers and Increase Sales with Fewer Employees
Tech & Solutions
Osceola Ballroom C
Sponsored By

In our industry, connections are crucial. With the right in-store and online experience, your garden center can create predictable demand and connect with loyal customers who need less handholding.

When a customer walks into your store, they may know that they have a problem, but they feel overwhelmed. Given enough time, your skilled employees are probably great at helping customers. However, time and skilled labor are both in short supply these days. So, how can you create a more engaging customer experience with the staff you already have?

Come and learn how Simplyscapes can help you and your customers create a living design that removes the guesswork from landscaping. Using the new online landscape design software from Simplyscapes, this process is easy for anyone. Simply put, Simplyscapes empowers your garden center with the technology it needs to grow and outperform, even against larger retailers in your area.

Scott Brady
Speaker Scott Brady President Simplyscapes View Bio

01:30 PM – 02:30 PM

Build Your Brand By Being The Experts
Executive
Osceola Ballroom C
The expertise of your staff is what sets your garden centers apart from the big-box stores and keeps customers coming back for more. Learn how to build your reputation as the plant experts in your community, get the word out about your garden center and further your reputation with education that’s right for your market.
AJ Petitti
Speaker AJ Petitti President Petitti Garden Centers View Bio

01:30 PM – 02:30 PM

The Cannoli Factor of Employee Engagement
Management
Allendale Room
There are five things that motivate employees ... and the funny thing is they have been the top five things for 50 years! Join John as he addresses the importance of one single word: Engagement! Learn how to turn your workplace culture into a place your employees “want” to work and don't “have” to work. Discover the value of a consistent on-boarding process, the continued success of The Great Game of Business, and the one value that employees look for out of a manager and leader.
John Kennedy
Speaker John Kennedy Owner John Kennedy Consulting View Bio

02:30 PM – 03:30 PM

Networking Refreshment Break in the Exhibit Hall
Event Function
Osceola Ballroom DE

02:45 PM – 03:30 PM

Future of Technology in Retail
Tech & Solutions
Osceola Ballroom C
Sponsored By
Disruption in the retail industry over the past few years has posed many challenges. Retailers are now faced with supply chain issues, labor shortages, managing cash flow, and changes in consumer purchasing preferences. This panel discussion will review how technology can help better manage these changes now and into the future and share key results from a case study at Homestead Gardens this spring.
Sam Kirkland
Speaker Sam Kirkland Strategic Relationship Manager Epicor View Bio
Jessica DeGraaf
Speaker Jessica DeGraaf Director of Retail Accounts Proven Winners® View Bio

03:30 PM – 04:30 PM

Story-Telling Tips From A Theater Nerd: How Retail Is Theater And It's Time To Play!
Executive
Osceola Ballroom C
From "casting" to scripting to setting the stage, retail and theater have more in common than you might expect. Join Liz, a garden center Managing Director who came to her role with 15 years of experience in the performing arts, to learn how she translates the principles used to create captivating performances for the stage into unforgettable experiences in a retail environment. From communicating your IGC’s unique story and marketing with meaning to creating an environment your customers will want to visit again and again, you’ll learn how to engage your core audience in a way that will have them giving you a standing ovation.
Liz Lark-Riley
Speaker Liz Lark-Riley Managing Director Rockledge Gardens View Bio

03:30 PM – 04:30 PM

Couch to 5K New Customers: Collaborate & Create with Fellow Retailers
Management
Allendale Room
Can you really market "from the couch" and recruit 5,000 new customers? Is it possible for your garden center have such raving fans that you need to develop your own line of merchandise? Will your customers do your marketing for you? Yes, yes and yes! It's time to tie everything together that you've learned throughout the conference education sessions and create a three-point plan to implement when you return home. Learn what your cohorts and colleagues are doing to create simple experiences that draw raving fans. Then collaborate with fellow attendees to develop your own easy plan.
Katie  Elzer-Peters
Speaker Katie Elzer-Peters Founder and CEO The Garden of Words View Bio

04:30 PM – 06:00 PM

Networking Reception in the Exhibit Hall
Event Function
Osceola Ballroom DE

08:00 AM – 12:00 PM

Registration Open
Event Function
Osceola Ballroom Foyer

08:30 AM – 09:00 AM

Networking Breakfast
Event Function
Osceola Ballroom Foyer

09:00 AM – 10:00 AM

Consumer Psychology: How They Think Influences What They Buy
General Session
Osceola Ballroom C
Consumers have a lot on their mind and aren’t always rational. In this session, Bridget will share some current research-based information about how consumers think and shop. Pricing, pollinators, micromarketing, the environment and several more topics will be discussed and their influence on plant purchases.
Bridget Behe
Speaker Bridget Behe Professor of Horticultural Marketing Michigan State University View Bio

10:00 AM – 11:00 AM

Networking Refreshment Break
Event Function
Osceola Ballroom Foyer

10:15 AM – 11:00 AM

Food Safety Considerations and Human Pathogen Mitigation Strategies in CPG Organic Soil Amendments
Tech & Solutions
Sponsored By

True Organic Products is the leading manufacturer of organic fertilizer used by the major organic crop producers.

The same requirements that are expected by our customers have been applied to our CPG products.

This presentation will cover the Food Safety aspects as it relates to manufacturing of fertilizer suitable for use in organic crop production and now home gardens. We will cover the mitigation strategies, the regulatory requirements and the internal expectations that we set to benefit the retailer, the distributor and ultimately the consumer.

Michael E. Menes, Ph.D.
Speaker Michael E. Menes, Ph.D. VP Food Safety & Technology True Organic Products, Inc. View Bio

11:00 AM – 12:00 PM

Roundtable Discussion: Keep the Momentum Going
General Session
Osceola Ballroom C

Garden center operators have faced a litany of challenges over the past two years, but there's great opportunity on the horizon. In this interactive workshop, attendees will have the opportunity to apply what they’ve learned during the conference to their businesses and discuss strategies with other leaders. Attendees will gather in roundtables to share possible solutions to the following topics:

  • Repeat business: How can you improve your customers' experience to keep them coming back to your store again and again?
  • The benefits of plants: How are you communicating what plants can do for your customers and the environment?
  • Driving trends: How do you inspire your customers and lead customers?
  • Education: How can you support customers and help them succeed, especially as so many new gardeners come to your IGC?
  • Facilitators will summarize roundtable discussions and share strategies with all attendees.

12:00 PM

Event Concludes
Event Function