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Terra Phelps, Handler at Utopian Landscapes LLC

Q: How long have you been in the industry? What motivated you to want to work in this industry?

I’ve been in the industry since 2015, but have been exposed to and around the landscaping industry for 10 years. I never imagined myself in this industry but it kind of felt like destiny.  My husband was operating the business on his own until he realized he needed more support in client relations, marketing, and management. I had been helping in the background for years, but it never occurred to us to bring me on board full time.  It wasn’t until I was discussing our dilemma with a co-worker who said, “That sounds like the perfect job for you, Terra,” that we realized it WAS the perfect job for me. My background and education in public relations, my love for design work, photography and passion for plants made me the perfect candidate.

Q: What do you enjoy most about it?

In my opinion landscaping is highly misunderstood and underrated so I enjoy educating people about it.

Developing relationships with clients is another great aspect of this career. Helping them navigate projects, choose products, and care for their new landscapes can be so fulfilling. It’s my job to help them find the best outdoor solution to meet their wants and needs. I love hearing from clients when they just want to share something fun with us. For example, last week a client sent us a video of a small black bear in her driveway.

Getting dirty is also one of my favorite parts of the job. I spend most of my time at a desk in an air-conditioned office, but there are times when certain jobs need me to be in the field working side-by-side with our team members. I think this is something that is important for everyone in our industry to do in order to maintain perspective on what landscaping truly entails. Some of the best conversations I’ve had with our team have been in the field while planting or weeding. It’s also given me inspiration for two-second improvements that I wouldn’t have seen otherwise.

Q: How have you navigated your career path in a male-dominated industry?

My previous industry was the public sector. I worked with women who made it their mission to tear other women down. So, I was not intimidated at all when I started my new position; rather, I was grateful for a fresh start. I do run into issues related to being a female in this industry but they aren’t common at all. In the rare instances someone doesn’t respect my industry knowledge,  I step back and take a different approach. A lot of times someone’s background can have a huge impact on how they treat women or people in general. If I have an opportunity to educate someone or make a change I take it.

Q: What are the most rewarding aspects of your career?

Finding the diamonds in the rough. We have team members who are remarkable human beings and without this business our paths never would have crossed and I never would have heard their stories or seen their growth. As an employer it’s so nice to see members of our team thrive, whether it’s traveling thousands of miles to see their favorite band, buying their first home, or hearing about their weekend adventures hiking with their dog.

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