Flower business owner and longtime Clarkston landowner meet at VilCap Start and form partnership to grow a test plot
Bikash Chhetri had the idea to start a flower business. He knew there was demand for his product, and he wanted to provide it. But he didn’t have a place to grow.
Then he met Ben Spivey, who had the resources to make his vision a reality.
Spivey’s family owns a 25-30 acre plot of land in Clarkston. It has been in his family for more than 100 years, since before the Civil War, when it was more than 100 acres large. Spivey, a entrepreneur himself, was eager to help an aspiring entrepreneur.
They first connected at an early meeting of the Vilcap Start entrepreneurship accelerator program. Since then, Spivey has agreed to let Chhetri grow flowers on his land, as a test plot for his flower business.
The flowers are marigold and amaranth flowers, which are traditionally used in a Hindu festival called the Diwali Festival. Commonly celebrated in India, Nepal, and Bhutan, the Diwali Festival is a weeklong celebration. “We give these flowers as a present to our brothers. It is a tradition like the Christmas tree in America,” he said.
Spivey, the CEO of Amaji, LLC a health-information services company based out of Washington D.C., lives part-time on the property, where he takes care of his 89-year-old father, and travels often to Washington for work. He had been considering whether to return some of the land to farming productivity.
On one half-acre, he and Chhetri have already started growing tomatoes and other vegetables, and this July, they have agreed to grow flowers on the other half-acre. Chhetri does not have experience farming, but his mother and father are working the land with him and teaching along the way.
Chhetri was inspired to grow the flowers when he learned that members of his Bhutanese community were using plastic flowers in place of real ones because there was no place to buy them in America. He said this knowledge gave him the idea to start growing and selling the flowers to family and community members.
Chhetri said he took inspiration from the other entrepreneurs he met at the VilCap Start accelerator. “If they can do it, I can do it too,” he said.
The flowers take three months to grow and the festival takes place in October. Chhetri and his family plan to plant this month. Spivey said his father are also involved in the project.
“It’s a family activity with Bikash,” said Spivey. “That’s what farming is. A family activity.”
Chhetri said he wants to thank Clarkston Community Center and CDF for helping to connect him with Spivey, and for providing a space for so many entrepreneurs to meet.