We had the good fortune of connecting with Diane Barnes and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Diane, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
Risk taking to me is very…… risky. I’ve never been the type to take big risks, but would rather go the comfortable or what I perceived as “safe” route. The fear of the unknown, or failure, is very unsettling to me, which ultimately causes me to not take more risks. Ironically, taking the risk of owning my own business has resulted in my biggest personal success. Prior to having my own business, I worked for the same company (again, don’t like taking risks!) for 21 years. It was comfortable and provided nicely for me financially but the company was going through some growth changes. At age 44, pregnant with my second child, planning a move due to my husband’s new job, my “safe” job of 21 years was eliminated due to a company restructure. I took a little time off to bond with my son, pack up one house, move to another, get settled and then start marketing myself. I thought with all my job skills and years of experience it would be easy to find a new career. It wasn’t. I recall the first job I applied to and thinking I had to be the most qualified and would easily be offered the job. I didn’t get an interview. After two years, the opportunity fell into my lap to own a succulent design business. Could I do it? My family owned a flower shop growing up in Illinois. I did love to dabble in arrangement making as a 6 year old…. And so came the biggest risk I’d confront – owning my own business. I thought of all the bad that could happen: what if I failed, what if I lost money, what if, what if, what if. And then I thought: what if I take this risk and I’m successful? what if this job affords me the opportunity to be there for my kid’s milestones, what if i am really, really good at this? I took the risk, and I’ve never looked back since making that decision. At times, I still find myself fearing the unknown but know that it is so necessary – and OK – to take a risk. I am lucky that I did and so happy that I have a husband and children to be there and support me in my journey. I’ve truly found my “fit” and wake up every day grateful that I took the risk that got me here today.

Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I’ve had a love for flowers and floral arranging from a young age, having grown up in a family that owned a flower shop. Prior to starting Artful Succulents I would make bouquets and arrangements for myself and friends for years just for fun. I’ve never met a nursery or farmers market I didn’t like! HA! When I moved to Claremont in 2015, I grew to appreciate and love succulents as they were plentiful here. Although very different from flowers, I realized the potential succulents had in creating beautiful (and eco-friendly) arrangements. People were starting to use them in weddings, as favors, as centerpieces, and more, and I felt there was an opportunity here.

I also grew up gravitating to the arts in grade and high school, so I felt it was bound to happen that I worked in a creative environment. In college I studied Marketing and for years worked in Retail Management and HR. My love of design, marketing degree and management experience all came together (a trifecta, if you will) to help me create and run a succulent design business.

Each of my pieces is crafted from the heart, with quality plants procured from some of the best growers in San Diego Co. I love being able to support these growers, many of whom are female, minority-owned, and people I now consider friends. I also love to get to know my customers and their individual needs. Bringing happiness to others through my art is such a motivator for me and brings contentment to my life.

My designs have changed a bit over the years; I’ve learned that adaptability is so important in business! As an example, early on I envisioned upcycling antique vessels for my arrangements, creating a unique product while being environmentally conscious. I quickly realized that my customers were more attracted to newer vessels. To this day, I continue to upcycle, (can’t help myself!) but have added more newer pieces to please my customers and attract new ones. I thoroughly enjoy consulting with my customers, finding out what they like and then giving them a product that, in the end, is better than they envisioned!

Another area that is gaining momentum for me is workshops. Pre-Covid I occassionally conducted workshops where I taught wreath and seasonal arrangement-making. Post-Covid, I am seeing more and more interest from my customers to get out in small, safe environments and create. Keeping flexibility in mind, I excitedly intend to grow this side of the business and host more workshops at homes or businesses.

For small business owners, it is so important to know that your business focus can be fluid. One can research trends, read books and magazines to understand markets and products better, but in the end, if your customers want a product or service that you can provide, you provide it. It is such an important lesson to not be afraid of changing course!

Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I am lucky to say that we would stay close to home as Claremont has it all! Where to start…

First up would be a visit to the California Botanic Garden, an 86 acre garden featuring CA native plants. You truly can get lost here in nature! For the outdoor enthusiast, a hike at the Claremont Hills Wilderness Park, which is a beautiful 5 mile loop hike is a must-do. The Claremont Colleges are a must see and visitors will enjoy walking through the adjoining campuses, which have an east coast vibe. If you’re feeling lazy, a few hours at Memorial Park to read a book or people-watch is fun. The park also houses Claremont Heritage in the historic Garner House where you can learn more about the history of the city.

Also a must: A visit to “The Village” which is the downtown shopping area. The Village is full of boutique shops, restaurants and galleries. A few of my favorite shops are The Hens’ Kitchen Shoppe where you will find everything for your kitchen that you never knew you needed, The Grove for beautiful, unique gifts, and Jasmine for the most comfy pajamas, soaps, and more! If kids are visiting, you must take them to our small but mighty toy store, Boon Companion Toys. Note: The best chocolate shop, AKline Chocolatier, is next door!

For dining, there are so many options! My favorites and where I always take visitors are: Pepo Melo for an “Extraordinary Bowl” with chia seed pudding, fruit and toppings; great for any meal of the day! You cannot visit Claremont without eating at Walters, a Claremont mainstay since 1957. Lawand Morgh is a must try! Pizza N Such serves great Italian food, pizza, and beer in a beautiful, restored bank building from the early 1900’s. It is a fun, casual environment and the pizza bread is to die for! Also great restaurants to check out: The Back Abbey for their amazing drinks, burgers and duck-fat fried french fries, Saca’s for yummy, fresh Mediterranean food and homemade desserts, and The Cheese Cave where you can grab a quick sandwich to go or have the “Cheesemongers” help you select cheeses to take home. For breakfast, we love Some Crust Bakery for their ginormous cinnamon rolls and “Sliders,” which are small customizable meat/cheese/veggie sandwiches. Creme Bakery is a favorite and we enjoy popping in there at all hours of the day for a croissant, cookie or lunchtime sandwich.

While in The Village, I also suggest a visit to the Claremont Museum of Art which is housed in the old train depot and just recently re-opened post Covid. Depending on when one visits, there are many events to enjoy such as the Farmers Market on Sundays, Claremont Village Walking Tours, Claremont Art Walk, Concerts in the Park and Village Venture Arts & Crafts Faire each October. It will be a truly unforgettable visit!

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Shoutout to my husband, Michael, and kids, Alexandra and Graham, who support and encourage me every day. My children are also brutally honest with me and give lots of design advice which I {usually} appreciate! There is also a phenomenal succulent community out there and they were so helpful to me as I learned the ins and outs of succulents. Forever grateful to them.

Website: artfulsucculents.com

Instagram: artfulsucculentsllc

Linkedin: Diane Dierkes Barnes

Facebook: Artful Succulents

Image Credits
*All taken/owned by me

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