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How Austin's Succulent Sensation Started On An Ice Cream Bike

The light was glittering in through the front glass windows and the smell of earth and plants tinted the air with freshness. Spiky, smooth, fuzzy and flowery succulents covered the room in vases and pots of all kinds; adding to the eclectic and artistic space occupied by a woman and her self-made business.

succulent arrangement lined display shelves and tables

As the Succulent Native doorbell jingled with each customer’s entrance, Shannon Donaldson greeted them with enthusiasm, overjoyed to talk about the different plants adorning her shop. String of buttons, burros tail, ball cactus etc., she spoke to each customer as if they were all succy enthusiasts—her passion for the plants was contagious.

Two of the customers, strangers to each other, started a conversation at the counter, “Oh yes, mine just keeps having babies. I have to keep starting new pots!” Customer number two, who was admiring her newly purchased arrangement, said, “I do love string of buttons though, I’ve thought of getting one of my own!” Owner to the new succy reached down and snipped a piece off, handing it to her new friend, “It looks like you’ve got yourself a start!” The two laughed and went about their day, succulents in hand.

Customers came and went, and the green glowing shop continued to breathe life into its customers.

The Succulent Native, filled with the most unique arrangements and gifts, is the product of years of hard work, vision and perseverance. After earning her degree in sculpting, Shannon put her artistic talents to work with a popular Austin florist who gave her bits and pieces of unused arrangements. A resourceful creative with a knack for entrepreneurship, she started selling flowers and arrangements from an ice cream bike turned mobile flower cart. After trial and error, she eventually found that most people didn’t want to buy flowers in the Texas heat…so she turned to the next best (maybe even better) thing—succulents.

People on the streets of South Congress would gasp when they saw her succulent creations and set up. The newly invented cart was a HIT! She kept her momentum going, managing her Etsy shop in between cart days, eventually leaving her other jobs to go all in on her business. Her original best seller, the laser cut Texas planter, was validation she had something—selling by the handful! Fast forward four years and thousands of arrangements later, she earned the keys to a brick and mortar location on East 5th street. It had been her long term goal to open shop, and she final made it happen in 2016.

entrance sign to succulent native plant shop

“My house was exploding with rocks, dirt, succys and containers. It was hard to move around the mess with my helpers without breaking things. And it was always a goal of mine to open a shop; to curate, buy and sale handpicked items. People buying my stuff is so exciting.”

Patrons who visit the store, leave with a little pep in their step, new friends and new arrangements but it wasn’t always easy. In the beginning Shannon had to close the shop to take the cart out when foot traffic was low, and some days are better than others. Her loyal customers and the challenge of owning her business is what makes it all worth it.

woman purchasing new plants from succulent native shop

“I learned the best advice early on. You will come up with five unsuccessful products before you find one successful business. HUSTLE LADIES! It looks like an easy job running your own biz, but I sat outside on a street corner with my cart every week for 3 years before success hit. You work every day when you’re self-employed so you have to have the ambition and work ethic to succeed.”

Now Shannon’s succulent bike and shop is a permanent part of Austin’s unique charm, a must-see location for visitors and a local favorite for arrangements, weddings, and just plain awesome succulent advice. Go visit Shannon and her succulents at 5501 N. Lamar blvd! You won’t leave empty handed.


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