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She's made a name for herself among southeastern Wisconsin gardeners, and now she's turning that name into a business. Melinda Myers, host of the popular "The Plant Doctor" show on WTMJ AM-620 radio and of "Great Lakes Gardener" on PBS stations throughout the Midwest, will launch the Web site www.melindamyers.com this month as part of the branding and marketing efforts for her new business, which will operate under the Melinda Myers name.
Myers earlier hired BottomLine Marketing and Public Relations in Milwaukee to help form the new business and develop the Web site.
"Although I'm a horticulturist who many people know through different means, I felt I needed a vehicle to start saying, 'This is Melinda Myers,'" she said in a recent interview with Small Business Times. "I really wanted to bring all the pieces together for a uniform presentation."
Ultimately, Myers said, she'd like to take the business national, filling what she sees as a void in the national scene -- a void created by the absence of a Midwest presence on national gardening shows.
"I definitely want to go regional and, eventually, national," she said. "What I bring to the national mix is a focus on gardening in the north. There are focuses on the Pacific Northwest, the south, the southwest, but no one is focusing on the north. And we have a very different kind of gardening here."
With attention from her radio and television shows, her newspaper and magazine columns, her public appearances, her teaching at Milwaukee Area Technical College, and her books, Myers encountered increasing demands on her time and realized she was trying to be too many things to too many people.
"I love everything I do; I'm my own worst enemy," she said of the growing demands for her time from the lawn and gardening public. "I just couldn't say no. I could be booked every single night speaking to small groups or garden clubs, which I love to do. But I need a more planned and focused approach to my appearances."
BottomLine is now managing her appearances.
"I really need to reach as many of the right people as possible" in selecting audiences for appearances, she said. "It's beyond the point that I can afford to do this as a hobby."
Fellow radio show host Tom Feiza, who operates through Mr. Fix-It Inc., has made a similar approach work as a business for 10 years, and has encouraged Myers to formalize her work.
"She's been doing things for free for too long," Feiza said.
The key to making it work as a business, Feiza says, is "finding your niche and loving what you do."
And expect to work hard, he says, adding that he jokes that, as a self-employed person, he can work half-days - "just pick which 12 hours of the day you want to work."
His public speaking abilities were honed through Toastmasters and a professional speakers organization.
Feiza, who grew up on a farm in Illinois, earned a mechanical engineering degree from Marquette University and went to work in facilities management. After losing a job, he started his home-inspection business and then started writing. He now has two books, How To Operate Your Home and Just Fix It, and a syndicated column that appears in 80 newspapers. He also appears on WTMJ-TV and on CNN Headline News.
He also operates a Web site, www.misterfix-it.com.
Like Myers, Feiza enjoys helping homeowners who call his radio show and who he advises through his column and at speaking engagements.
Myers' Web site will have horticulture tips and other lawn and gardening information, and will list her public appearances and TV and radio shows and showtimes.
"She has something there. She'll make a go of it," Feiza says of the new Melinda Myers business venture.
An advisory board of business and industry people is guiding her venture. "They're people who I respect but who will be wonderfully honest with me in helping me ask the right questions about this new business."
Myers' new business is also working with Stein's Garden Centers on a line of plants to be offered this spring called "Melinda's Choice." Myers has made regular appearances at Stein's over the years.
She will continue teaching horticulture classes as at MATC's North Campus in Mequon, but admits that commitment may have to change in the coming years as the business grows.
"I plan to stay at MATC for awhile; I love my students and teaching," she said. "No matter what I do, I'll always be in education at some level."
Myers, a native of Columbus, Ohio, has 25 years of Midwest gardening experience - most of it in Wisconsin. She has a master's degree in horticulture and is a certified arborist.
She worked in California one summer, and stopped in Milwaukee another summer for a job with the University of Wisconsin Extension. She never left Milwaukee, working 13 years in the Extension's Milwaukee County office.
Her experience here also includes three years as assistant forester for the City of Milwaukee.
April 2, 2004 Small Business Times, Milwaukee