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Exploring Life & Business with Jillian Eads of Eight 5 Outdoors

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jillian Eads.

Hi Jillian, so excited to have you on the platform. So before we get into questions about your work-life, maybe you can bring our readers up to speed on your story and how you got to where you are today.
Thank you for reaching out with this opportunity. So I guess an entrepreneurial spirit has been a part of who I am for as long as I can remember. As a kid, I constantly thought of ways to try and make “businesses” by doing things I enjoyed and always thinking of a side hustle to combine work and fun. I was fortunate enough to be the first in my family to attend a four year college and earn a degree. Somewhere in the later part of high school and into college, the pressure to achieve quintessential adult life “goals” such as starting a career, buying a home, and settling down had been the driving force behind the career choices I was making. Life became more about earning money doing the daily grind rather than finding joy in what I did. In the fall of 2020, I was in my sixth year of teaching high school Spanish in the St. Charles School District. My classroom had no windows, and I felt I was spending so much of the day trapped under fluorescent lighting.

Both my husband Mike and I were feeling completely burnt out in our chosen careers and decided to make a change. New town, new country, new outlook on life. In December 2020, we moved to a small beach town on the west coast of Mexico called Bucerías. I had lived in Mexico before, and it has always felt like a second home. We stayed there for three months, ate fresh tortillas and mangos, went to the beach, woke up to roosters crowing, and started a small business selling “bolís” (Mexican ice cream) on the beach to make our weekly grocery money.

We also worked on our business plans for what we wanted to do when we returned to the US. Spring of 2021, I started my 4th season working at Garden Heights Nursery, where I had been working part-time while teaching full-time (here is my shameless plug to say teachers are overworked and most definitely underpaid!). I had always grown up around plants. My dad is an avid gardener. I worked at a nursery in high school and studied bio in college, but Garden Heights is where I learned to design and horticulture from some very talented and knowledgeable colleagues. The pandemic had people wanting to spend time outdoors, and I noticed a trend of folks wanting to get involved with gardening but not knowing where or how to start.

Can you talk to us about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way? Would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
Whenever you work in a business based on creativity, the struggle always seems to be so many ideas and so little time!

Thanks – so, what else should our readers know about Eight 5 Outdoors?
Eight 5 Outdoors is a boutique residential and commercial exterior design and small-scale landscaping company.There is a niche pocket in the industry that nurseries or large landscaping companies don’t cover, and that’s what I wanted to create a business around. We specialize in pot and planter design and installation but do a wide variety of things, including exterior design, herb boxes, raised beds, pet memorial gardens, pollinator gardens, outdoor furniture upcycling, vacation watering, and container gardening workshops. My business partner Lacy Counts and I share a birthday – August 5th- that inspired the business’ name. Lacy does freelance graphic design and was looking to spend some time away from the computer screen doing something more hands-on. She has a background in furniture design and sustainability from the Savannah College of Art and Design, and we met through mutual friends in 2016. Honestly, I cannot pinpoint where or when day 1 of our business started; it just sort of happened and kept snowballing from there! We share a passion for creative design and getting our hands in the dirt; we love to give people a reason to spend time outside. We have a very yin-yang dynamic, and thus far, it has proven itself well and allowed us to continue to grow the business. We also have a great network of family and friends who have supported us since day one. So, in the spring of 2021, Eight 5 Outdoors was created to get people to spend time in their outdoor spaces in whatever capacity that meant for them.

What matters most to you?
Taking time to stop and smell the *literal* roses. Life is so short; spending time outside brings much inner peace and joy, and I want to help create that for others. I have a lot of gratitude that things have worked out and I am now in the position to make a living doing something I love. Regularly meeting and working with cool, interesting people around STL who we might not otherwise get to know is also a bonus.

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