Hi, we're Exotic Forest and this is our story of how it all began. Well, "our" is an interesting term because Exotic Forest only has one employee, its founder, Forrest, and a virtual team from Fiverr and Upwork. If you're unfamiliar with these companies, they provide freelancers a platform to assist startup companies like Exotic Forest with anything from marketing to blogs to photoshop. Their help is invaluable and growing Exotic Forest faster than anticipated.
Now, here's a little back story about how I got here - I was born and raised in a small town south of Baton Rouge, Louisiana called Gonzales. Here I grew up riding dirt bikes and tinkering on cars with friends and family after school. Being just 20 minutes south of Louisiana State University (LSU), I always loved watching the Tigers play football and knew many people who were planning to attend, but I was unsure what I wanted to major in and chose what my friends were doing, Chemical Engineering... then Petroleum Engineering... then finally landed on Mechanical Engineering. Oh and my ADHD kicked in during my last year and I decided to minor in Nuclear Power Engineering.
Upon graduation, I landed my first job at a local nuclear power consulting firm and started doing a Masters in Business Administration (MBA) with LSU part time. I stuck with nuclear consulting for a year and a half but it never felt just right. So when a position arose to internally transfer to Palm Beach, Florida, I jumped at the opportunity and used my existing contacts to switch roles from nuclear to power distribution. This is when a serious wrench was thrown in the mix for me and everyone around the world... the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
Here I was, just three months into moving to South Florida and buying a home one thousand miles away from my friends and family, only knowing my new coworkers for about two and a half months and isolated from the people around me. So what does someone do when they are suddenly thrust into lockdown? Well, like everyone else, they start working longer hours, working around the house fixing anything in sight and redoing flower beds.
This is when I got the plant bug.
By going back and forth to the plant nurseries, I started to love bringing home new and exciting finds until some started to make their way into the house, namely Phalaenopsis Orchids in yellow with orange, white with purple, and anything that caught my eye!
Something funny happened about this time, people at the nurseries started to remember me and began guiding me to more exotic and rare finds - the kind of plants you can't find at your local Lowes or Home Depot. I started planting Brugmansia candida 'Angel's Trumpet', Solandra maxima Variegata 'Gold Chalice Vine' and plants that I never imagined would exist into my garden. Then one day it hit me - why doesn't everyone have access to the plants that typically only grow in tropical regions like South Florida?
I couldn't come up with a reason and decided I needed to find a way to connect the growers from South Florida to the billions of people who have likely never seen the beauty of tropical and exotic plants. This is when the wheels started turning, around August 2020.
I began by starting a business in Florida, getting all of the applicable licenses and certifications to ship plants across the United States and abroad, and developing the website. One thing was missing though, what to call the business.
I soul searched for a few months and after being pressured to watch The Tiger King on Netflix, the one and only Joe Exotic gave me an epiphany - I should merge my name, Forrest, into the business name. This where the name, Exotic Forrest took shape but after much deliberation, Exotic Forest made more sense and was more memorable. Around the same time, I polled family and friends to get a sense of which plants they adored and that they normally couldn't find in their area. We developed the list that is seen today but I'm constantly asking around to find the next plant to add to the selection.
Fast forward to January 2021 and I made an Instagram (@the_exotic_forest) and Facebook (Exotic Forest) account, started taking photos of plants around my house and offering friends plants in return for allowing me to take pictures of plants around their homes. By February 2021, the website went live for a soft opening and started accepting customers from the continental United States.
The Future of Exotic Forest:
My team and I are still working on developing Exotic Forest into a brand that people know and love. Things are constantly changing but we are dedicated to improving and growing the plant community by providing extraordinary plants to those who want to Be Different.