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Leslie Harris '79

Founder and owner of LH Gardens, LLC in Charlottesville, Virginia.

You were a teacher and coach for three decades. What inspired your career change and why gardening?
My husband Jeff and I started teaching at Brunswick School in Greenwich, Connecticut right after we graduated from UVA in the early 80's. We had spent a bit over 30 years there and it had been a wonderful experience. It was just time for a change. It wasn't time to retire, though, and I thought it would be great to make money doing what I love to do. I have loved gardening for years, and in my last years of teaching Spanish at Brunswick, I worked with a gardening company on Saturdays so that I could understand how a business like that would operate.
What is the most rewarding aspect of creating your own business?
I have to give you three aspects that are particular to our business: One is the team of talented gardeners (seven now) I have assembled and how wonderful it is to work with them. The second is client relations. We stick with clients who appreciate what we do, which makes it so rewarding to do well. And the third is hanging out in gardens that we have worked to make beautiful. Best office space I have found! But in terms of creating your own business, ANY business, and watching it come alive as you work with it-- I compare it to a sport. It's multi-faceted and you get better as you put more time into it. A team forms and if you think of getting a new client as 'winning', that's great, but what's even better is just getting to do something you love. Back in the day it was team sports at SSSAS and in college, then lots of years of tennis. Running my business feels like my new sport. And in my case, it's actually pretty physical.
What is more difficult: teaching or creating your own business?
In the case of my business, there is much less stress. When you teach at a really good school like Brunswick or SSSAS, there is a high standard to maintain in terms of professional standards and growth. Our motto for LH Gardens is 'We like to fuss with your flowers'. We do the very best we can to make each garden shine, but as you can imagine, there is not quite so much pressure there. You always want to do your best, but gardens are less important to oversee than young people. That being said, I am putting every bit as much time in as I did teaching, and of course much more in the summer!
What do you love most about being a part of the SSSAS community?
I like that even though I am getting rather ancient, the older AND current people at SSSAS still seem interested in me, and I certainly am interested in them! There is a bond over the years and experiences, even if the specific years and experiences didn't overlap. I am currently working with the Athletic Hall of Fame Committee, and I really appreciate how there is respect among the generations and current employees, too. It's a special place, and alumni participation is so valued and welcome, whether it's in the form of a donation or just being connected. 

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