Photos by Collin Richie

The Creatives: Branching Out

Kyley Catalano and Elise Farris

Hometown: Covington
Ages: 22
Artistry: Owners, Garden Goons
Online: @gardengoons on Instagram

When two 22-year-old LSU students can barely contain their excitement for the weekend, it’s reasonable to assume a rager or marquee concert is on the calendar.

But in early March—two months before what would have been graduation and just a week before the university announced its move to online classes for the rest of the semester—the only party Kyley Catalano and Elise Farris were looking forward to that weekend was a plant party.

The side-hustling pair launched an online plant growing, potting and delivery business in late 2018. In January of this year, the green-thumbed Louisiana natives began hosting weekend pop-ups as Garden Goons. With youths rooted in lessons from Farris’ landscape architect mother and Catalano’s horticulture minor, their goal is to simplify and personalize the plant-owning process for hobbyists young and old.

“Because I have a cat, I keep all my plants in my bedroom, and it was a rainforest,” says Catalano, a marketing major who has for the past year balanced a service industry job with classes and their startup. “It felt like there was an environment in there; it was just too much.”

It turns out Farris, an education major and student assistant at Central High School, had an overgrown collection of her own, so they took to Instagram with a poll, and the results were 100% affirmative: Their followers would love to buy creatively potted plants directly from them.

“When the pop-ups started, we realized it could take off,” Farris says. “That first year was more difficult, but now talking to people and selling in person, that interaction has been great.”

An avid thrifter, Farris is always finding unique things to use for planters.

In her hands, a large glass rain boot becomes a wild terrarium. A ceramic cat grows succulents from the top of its head.

“We don’t want to just do normal pots,” Catalano says. “We want them to match someone’s personality, to create things that are different and funky that speak to the specific people who find them.”

It’s this mix of unique bravura and ease of process that is reflected in the duo’s operations. They grow their own succulents and mushrooms, craft unique ceramics and thrift eclectic items as planters. It’s all work but never feels stressful. They are beginning to steer away from their other jobs to give Garden Goons more attention.

“Mentally, that feels healthy,” Farris says.

She may move back to the Northshore soon, so with Catalano remaining in Baton Rouge, the pop-ups could stretch into Mandeville and Covington, too, while still occurring at French Truck Coffee, White Star Market and Pink Elephant Antiques, among other spots in Baton Rouge.

“Anywhere we go, we will take a chance and just ask about hosting a pop-up with a business,” Catalano says. “People have responded so well to that, so my advice to creatives is to reach out, and reach out boldly.”