Caleb Russell’s windowsill is a greenhouse. Mason jars, clay pots and ceramic vases purchased from thrift shops and craft stores cover every available surface, each one filled with tiny green plants.
Caleb is a freshman theatre and arts management co-major. He lives in Collins Hall as a member of the Celebrate the Arts LLC. Sheets of music paper the walls of his room, and bass thumps from the adjacent dorm as he details the care and feeding of succulents.
“I wouldn’t consider myself an expert,” he says. “But I know what I’m doing.”
Caleb is known to some as “the succulent guy,” a title he garnered from his post on the Miami Class of 2021 Facebook page, back in June.
“Would anyone be interested?” Caleb asked about the purchase of his succulents. And by the dozens of comments and over 100 likes on the post, the answer was clearly a resounding “yes.”
For all his succulent-growing prowess, Caleb has not been growing them for very long; he only started this venture over the summer. But he soon discovered that succulents were not only low-maintenance but also highly profitable. He sells small plants for anywhere between $4-6, and larger arrangements for $15-30.
With little competition on campus — except for MAP’s succulent-planting event during welcome week — Caleb has made enough to pay for a new laptop and all his textbooks.
Caleb got into the succulent business via his girlfriend, Maddie Wagner, although she had no idea that he would take it this far.
“I found them and thought they were cute,” Maddie says of the succulents. “I figured Caleb would like them.”
“And I was like, profit!” Caleb adds with a laugh.
After doing a lot of research and talking to many people, Caleb felt confident enough to start growing the plants by the dozens and giving people advice and tips on how to take care of them. Since they are technically cacti, succulents need to be watered quite rarely — Caleb says one capful of water every two weeks should do the trick. It turns out it is actually rather difficult to kill a succulent.
“Succulents are notoriously known for, if you break off parts, they’ll grow back,” Caleb explains. “And when pieces fall off, they’ll sprout again.”
Caleb’s roommate, Kyle Carson, doesn’t seem to mind the small jungle growing in their room. In fact, he seems to enjoy it.
“We met on GroupMe back in January and pretty much knew we were gonna be roommates forever,” Kyle laughs.
“He gets commission,” Caleb says. “One dollar for every hundred dollars I make.”
Growing succulents isn’t Caleb’s only entrepreneurial success, however. He was also an instrumental part of an improv group called the ImproGuys that put on a charity show, raising over $1,000 for the Ohio Alliance for Arts Education.
“It was a really cool experience; it’s kinda what got me into arts management.”
Caleb’s other unique occupations include being an instructor at Cincinnati Axe Throwing, and an actor at Room Escape Adventures Cincinnati, where he poses as “DJ Dan” in an 80s house party-themed escape room.
To anyone interested, Caleb is still selling his plants and is eager to get rid of them; just contact him via Facebook or e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org).