Garden company turns a profit
Brie Sievert studied to become an interior designer with the idea of making private homes beautiful.
But when she re-located to Lantau and saw how so much of the island is neglected she decided to use her design talents to landscape both gardens and countryside.
Her company, Asian Earth, is one of the few that concentrates on gardens for private homes. Its customer base extends to Discovery Bay and Hong Kong. 'The big money, of course, is in landscaping for major developments,' she says, 'but I felt there was a need to create beautiful small gardens.'
The influence of her company has been pervasive in the village of Shan Shek Wan. After the company bought a house there and landscaped the area around, the villagers all began to take a keener interest in improving the area and last year the village took third place in the Living Village contest organised in association with the South China Morning Post.
With low overheads, the company went into profitability the first year. Asian Earth was started with only $50,000 capital in 2002. Ms Sievert and her husband, Cory, a Cathay pilot, had already bought the house in Lantau where they live with their five-year-old son.
'Major costs were labour and transportation,' she says. 'We now employ two men full-time and take on casual labour when needed. I also do a lot of the work of planting and my husband helps out when he is not flying, so it is quite cost-efficient. All our plants come from China, and we import garden ornaments from Bali. Because we have such low overheads we can keep our charges down. We had a website created for us, which was a major expense at $25,000, but we have never needed to advertise.'
Ms Sievert, who is 34, studied interior design at the British Colombia Institute of Technology in Vancouver, and uses her training to create the gardens. 'Designing gardens for private homes is quite different from the big projects. I like to study the personality of the home owner and seem to be able to sense what will please them. We also provide a maintenance service as a follow-up.'
Asian Earth charges $10,000 to $200,000 to create a garden, depending on size, but this includes clearing, bringing in soil and turf and all plants and shrubs needed.
Ms Sievert began with a booth at a homes and gardens exhibition in Discovery Bay and found an immediate demand for plants and garden accessories. This encouraged her to go ahead and start Asian Earth. She sees potential for future growth. So far her profits have increased by 30 to 40 per cent each year. 'We have not finalised the figures for 2005 yet, but I think our turnover was over $1 million.'