We had the good fortune of connecting with Mike Atkinson and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Mike, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
We’ve been growing plumerias on our farm on Mt. Helix/La Mesa for over 25 years. (Plumerias are commonly known as the flower of the Hawaiian lei.) Selling only grew out of interest in others in acquiring some that we had. We found that we could sell enough each year to cover our expenses of growing our collection.
Then the pandemic hit. After 14 years, I was laid off with a third of the company. In 2020 I just worked on the farm with the plumerias. It was great therapy and such a healthier lifestyle than sitting at a desk. So we flirted with growing the business side and were met with great success.
In 2022 we rolled out a full business plan, including two sales a year, over 40 classes, multiple in-garden consultations, trimming trees, and selling leis and blooms. It’s been a very busy year!
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I quickly caught on to the internet craze in the early days. I was able to convince the organization I worked for to ease into this world to explore the possibilities. The response was almost immediate and helped to grow the business over the twelve years I worked there.
We were part of a network of internet early adopters. That network supplied us with interns, education, and support. My knowledge and experience grew and led me to ultimately teach classes to help others expand their organizations through effective internet-based marketing and communications.
That led to a couple of years as a consultant, helping companies across the country to build and deepen their internet initiatives.
Then a friend asked if I would be interested in helping his business do it on a full-time basis. I spent 14 years there managing websites and applying my communications background to email and social channels.
After being laid off and walking away from the desk and onto the farm, we decided to make our passion into a business. I’d been helping to build other businesses for 40 years and it was time to do it for us.
I set up a website, email list, and social channels. I then started connecting our plumeria friends to our network and developed our audience from there.
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.
Stacy and I are both San Diego natives so we love to show out-of-town friends our amazing city. We’d hit La Jolla with a trip up Mt. Soledad and brunch at Brockton Villa at La Jolla Cove.
A drive up the 79 through Cuyamaca State Park, past Lake Cuyamaca, and ending at Julian. Lunch at Julian Cafe and then hot apple pie with cinnamon ice cream at the Julian Pie Company.
Pacific Beach gets a bad rap from the middle-aged crowd, but it’s still our favorite beach. Walking the pier and the boardwalk and eating breakfast, lunch, or dinner (all are awesome) at World Famous is always a hit with our visiting friends. Getting seats on the patio right next to the boardwalk is always a good show, either people-watching or sunset-watching.
We almost always take friends to Grand Ole BBQ Flinn Springs. I’m a BBQ freak and am blessed to have eaten some of the best from the most notable restaurants across the US. We love taking our Texas friends, even though they’re skeptical of my claims that it’s just as good as home. Every single one of them has given their thumbs up. That says a lot.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Our wife’s parent bought a house with a couple plumeria trees in the garden. My wife Stacy loved them, but didn’t know what they were. One Sunday she picked a flower and put it in her hair to wear to church. After church, a gentleman approached her and said, “Nice plumeria.” She responded, “What’d you call it??”
He turned out to be one of the co-founders of the Southern California Plumeria Society here in San Diego, Ted Higgins. He took her to a club meeting and she came home with eyes bugging out holding a bunch of plumerias. We’d only known the one plumeria in her folk’s yard, the classic white/yellow named Celadine. She exclaimed, “There are pinks and reds and oranges and rainbows!!”
She started attending the Society meetings and I joined later. In those days, these were the early pioneers of plumeria in So Cal. The knowledge we gained would direct our efforts for decades and certainly contribute to our successes.
I must also mention one more couple – Joy & Carl Herzog. Before going to a birthday party, Stacy said we need to stop to buy a present. She directed me to the Herzog’s home in Lakeside. Their farm is stunning with hundreds of plumeria trees in the ground. I was mesmerized. They kindly gave us a tour and I was amazed at their passion for plumeria.
When we got back in the car, I paused and looked off into space. Stacy said, “What’s up?” I replied, “I could see us getting old together sharing a passion like this.” I had no idea that this vision would become reality.
Bryson Kim (1st photo), Stacy Atkinson (4th photo), and the rest is Mike Atkinson.