Photo courtesy of Lauryn Polito

Through career exploration, work experience and input from friends and family, Lauryn Polito now knows exactly what she wants to do with her life — own and operate her own greenhouse.

Polito, 19, is currently pursuing a degree in horticulture, with a concentration in floriculture and ornamentals, at Mississippi State University. But before college, Polito hadn’t yet realized her dream of being a small business owner.

“At the beginning of high school, I thought I wanted to be a physical therapist,” she says. “But after shadowing someone, I realized it wasn’t what I wanted to do. My mom looked at me one day and said, ‘Lauryn, why don’t you do something with plants?’ Because our back porch is covered with house plants.”

Polito took her mother’s words to heart and knew that it was the right choice for her.

“Going into college, my major was in environmental science and agricultural systems because I knew I wanted to do something involving plants but didn’t really know what I wanted to do,” she says. “After talking to my advisor and telling him I wanted to start my own business one day… he told me to look into horticulture. I thought it’d be the best major for what I want to pursue in life.”

The Trussville, Alabama, native says her classes have given her an even greater appreciation for greenhouses.

“I’ve enjoyed learning about the inner workings of greenhouse management. I actually didn’t know how big greenhouses could be, especially at commercial scale. Gaining that knowledge on the stuff I’m passionate about is great,” she says. “Living in a suburb, there are a lot of greenhouses and plant shops around us and they make me so happy. When I go in there, I could spend hours in there. I can just see myself doing that one day and being happy.”

Polito says that she’d love to incorporate a wedding venue into her future greenhouse so she can do floral arrangements as well.

“I’ve worked at a wedding venue for five years now and it’s one of my favorite things about coming back home from college,” she says. “In my experience there, I’ve gotten to work with a lot of florists and that was another way horticulture interested me.”

Polito adds she loves being around people and being outside, so she also took the time last summer to volunteer at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens as a camp counselor.

“That was really fun,” she says. “It was a week-long thing and I got a group of kindergartners. We’d go on nature walks, and seeing little kids passionate about nature and loving where they were was really cool.”

Before she sets out to start her own business one day, Polito says she’d like to get a research job first in hopes to help end world hunger.

“I’m very passionate about world hunger and have been since high school,” she says. “I want to work with a large organization to help end world hunger and find the best methods to grow sustainable products for vast numbers of people.”

The author is assistant editor of Lawn & Landscape magazine.