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Meet Laura Neff of The Rice Organization in The Heights

Today we’d like to introduce you to Laura Neff.

Laura, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
After college in the late 80’s, I briefly tried the corporate life and decided the day to day routine was not for me. A short stint as a girl Friday left me restless and since I inherited my late grandmother’s love of all things green, I decided I wanted to work in the gardening industry. I scored a job as a newbie, learned the business and a few years later, jumped feet first into my own gig. The first years were just me and my 4-Runner pulling a tiny trailer. I weeded, trimmed and planted a lot of flowers, shrubs and a few trees. Then, in 1996, I was introduced to Lalo Jimenez, my foreman, by his brother, a friend from a local nursery. With his help, I was able to go big! I bought a truck and real trailer and hired two more men. Lalo is still with me today, 22 years later. (We are both a little older and rounder.) My company is now a full service landscape company offering everything the big guys do but since we are small, I can personally still visit all my customers, old and new.

Has it been a smooth road?
Starting, running and keeping your own business is never smooth sailing. One has to know going into business that it can be a feast or famine adventure of which you have to make the most.

When I first started, there were a few challenges. Obtaining vendor credit, finding honest contractors, getting paid by clients, making payroll, taxes… but as I grew, I learned how to deal with these issues very quickly. Several years down the line, the company got a business line of credit from the bank and BINGO, no more worries.

As a business owner, I have made many mistakes that I regret. I HAVE learned from those mistakes and only become better and more resilient.

“Develop success from failures. Discouragement and failure are two of the surest stepping stones to success.” – Dale Carnegie

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the The Rice Organization story. Tell us more about the business.
The Rice Organization is a full service landscape company. We have been proudly providing Landscape Design and Installation of beautiful residential gardens in and around Houston for 22 years. Cultivating the environment is our life and livelihood. It is our number one goal to help our clients create and maintain beautiful landscapes. We offer a complete line of landscape, design/build, and maintenance services which include landscape design, installation, hardscapes, irrigation, drainage, seasonal color, and tree care.

Whether it’s a new construction, a renovation, seasonal plantings, flowers, trees, irrigation or drainage, The Rice Organization offers a proven track record of quality landscape installation.

We are known for our attention to detail and dedication to our customers. I am proud that my company has continuously grown without losing sight of our main goal.

How do you think the industry will change over the next decade?
Luckily for us, the Texas economy has done really well here for many years until the price of oil dropped, the barrel that is. I think many of Houstonian’s still spend a great deal on their gardens but less feel the need to have a big name parked in front of their house. This leaves room for smaller companies like ours to thrive. We provide the same services as they do but for less.

A lot of my clients are going away from the old-fashioned Azalea and Camellia gardens wrapped in Boxwood hedges. Natives are becoming the norm now with the temps soaring in the summers here. The only issue I see with this is the potential for future winter freezes.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Karen Warren, the staff photographer with the Houston Chronicle

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