Meet the staff of HostasDirect, Inc. & IDeal Garden Markers
Courtney & Jennifer Smalley
Tom Carlson, Founder/Owner
HostasDirect, Inc and IDeal™ Garden Marker's entrepreneurial owner, 57 year old Tom Carlson, is an avid gardener and a hosta lover. A 17-year member of the American Hosta Society and Minnesota Hosta Society, he is a frequent speaker at garden clubs. Tom worked his way through school by providing gardening services and developed a passion for hostas. His own garden in Roseville, MN currently contains over 450 varieties of hostas.
Tom is also a 15-year veteran of the business forms, label and printing industry. He started Innovative Printing Corporation in 1988 and later invented, manufactured and licensed four of his identification card products to two printing corporations in 1995. He recently invented the IDeal Garden Marker, a breakthrough in garden marker technology, which was introduced in February 2010.
Tom, who is 6'8", played basketball for Gustavus Adolphus College where he received a business degree in 1977. He took a brief detour from business in 1978-79 to play professional basketball in Germany and Sweden.
Tom says he wants to be of service by:
1) solving the problems he has encountered in gardening and offer those solutions and ideas to the public via HostasDirect's e-newsletter, blog, video, power point presentations and websites.
2) offering the very best hostas and heuchera plants and garden marker stakes, nameplates, engravings, labels and pens to the public at affordable prices.
3) providing very innovative services including online design and ordering options for engravings and labels.
4) helping gardeners maximize their garden's potential by offering great information so they can easily make their best decisions.
5) provide detailed plant databases such as HostaSearch(TM) and HeucheraSearch(TM) that allow hybridizers, gardening enthusiasts, customers and the media to research plants and by their unique characteristics with an easy-to-use customized search engine loaded with valuable information and pictures.
6) create as many jobs as possible.
7) create valuable work and internship experiences in internet marketing, sales, computer sciences.
Joseph Husby, Senior Vice President
Joe has been our Senior Vice President at HostasDirect since the age of 17. That seems very young to have that title, but it is well deserved for he is such a key part of our company. Owner Tom Carlson says, "Joe is the most amazing guy I have ever met." Joe was valedictorian at Roseville Area High School in the class of 2007. He graduated from high school with a perfect 4.0 GPA. Joe then graduated summa cum laude with high distinction from the University of Minnesota in the Institute of Technology Honors program. He is a Computer Science major with Math and Business Management minors. Additionally, he went 16 straight years with perfect attendance in school (he missed one day in Kindergarten but subsequently never missed a day of school or class in college)!!! Joe is well-versed in every aspect of computer technology, including computer repair, software programming, web design, database management, networking, security, and everything else.
Here are some of his achievements, which benefit HostasDirect and its valued customers:
- Built both the Hostas Direct and IDeal Garden Markers websites from the ground up
- Custom programmed online software to design your labels and engraved markers
- Manages all of the systems that keep the website, office, and shipping operations running
- Constantly tweaks and improves our websites
- Customized our database of over 7,000 hostas, along with Jeff VerSteeg, Pat Mora, and Luke Weinhagen
- Improved our customer service operation
- Monitors all website security systems including the shopping cart and payment systems
- Created the information sheets with pictures that we sell online and can be printed at our customer's location
- Improved our credit card system
- Improved our shipping label & software programs
- Created internal reports
- Originally designed our e-mail newsletter
- Provides good decision-making and leadership skills
- Takes photos and video for the website
Joe has also built his own website of his family's beautiful garden. In addition, he is heavily involved with computer operations at his church and has improved their website. In his free time, Joe is a unicyclist, outstanding saxophone player (he plays in the Minnesota Gopher basketball pep band), an actor, and has his own computer consulting business where he has over 50 customers. You can often find him working on HostasDirect projects well past midnight, including weekends and holidays.
Though very driven and a hard worker, Joe is still humble and a lot of fun! He cracks us up!
We are very fortunate to have Mary Alexander on staff at HostasDirect. Mary lives across the street from owner, Tom Carlson. Her husband Jon, an engineer at 3M, is a former high school basketball teammate of Tom's. Originally from Michigan, Mary was a top student majoring in math at Alma College where she met Jon. Mary and her family have trained over 30 service dogs for the physically disabled, deaf or hard of hearing with Can Do Canines Assistance Dogs (www.Can-Do-Canines.org). She has also been involved with helping autistic children and her kids' schools.
Mary has three children, two in graduate school and one working for Target. Son, Chris, graduated from lllinois Wesleyan in 2008 and is now at William Mitchell College of Law. Daughter Jennifer graduated from The College of Saint Benedicts in 2010 and just began a Ph.D program in physics at the University of Iowa. All three have worked for HostasDirect to earn money for school and other needs.
Working with plants is a passion for Mary. She has created beautiful gardens of her own. Mary is involved with almost all aspects of HostasDirect including: selecting the plants we sell (we do it as a team), business strategy, proofreading, and the very important job of caring for our hostas.
Casey joined us in the spring of 2011 as our horticulturist. She also helps with customer service, and will manage and write on our blog. Casey has a horticulture degree from the University of Minnesota, and previously studied architecture at Tufts University.
She also works in landscape design, loves to swim, and stays busy with her family - husband, new baby, and old dog.
Karen started working for Tom in the spring of 2011. She retired from a career in banking and was looking for something completely different. Being outside and not behind a desk were two of her job objectives.
“I love working at Hostasdirect. I am learning many of the aspects of the business - both the care of the plants and the details of the plant-selling process. The staff is great to work with and Tom excels at being flexible, encouraging, generous, funny, and many other great qualities you would want in your boss”.
In her spare time Karen volunteers for numerous organizations, works out at the gym and looks forward each year to working at the Minnesota State Fair.
Laura is originally from Barrington, Illinois. She was an intern for us between her junior and senior year while she was at the University of Minnesota - Carlson School of Management. Now, we are fortunate to have her full time. She is the key person in a wide range of activities, including writing, editing, research, business analysis, improving and optimizing our website, marketing, advertising, public relations, customer service, trade shows, SEO (search engine optimization), Google AdWords and managing our former retail operation. She also knows many software packages, including In Design and PhotoShop. She has personally made many wonderful improvements to our company. She played club volleyball at the U of M, is a budding golfer, and is a huge University of Minnesota Gophers and Chicago Cubs fan. In working here, she has become exceptionally passionate about plants. You may have seen her as the lead story of the WCCO news during the winter of 2008 being interviewed about mass transit at the U of M or helping out with promotions at University of Minnesota sporting events. She has a great sense of humor.
Simba, company mascot and rabbit hunter extraordinaire
Simba is Tom's absolutely wonderful, 16 year old orange male orange tabby cat. Tom had another wonderful orange male tabby named Morris, that lived to be 22 years old. These tabbies are different from many cats. They run out to greet new visitors, like to just "hang out" with people, are incredibly friendly, and will even hunt rabbits. We think his scent also keeps rabbits away. Simba was a product tester for the IDeal Garden Marker, because he loves to scratch his chin on markers. Our new IDeal Garden Marker stayed anchored and passed his test!
Chris has been working for HostasDirect since its inception as he lived across the street from Tom Carlson. Chris graduated with a double major in chemistry and business from Illinois Wesleyan in 2008 and started William Mitchell College of Law in the fall of 2009 and is now a practising attorney. Chris has been involved with our computer operations, photography, video, retail sales, customer service, and engineering. He can do just about anything and as a weight lifter, does our heavy lifting.
Jeff Versteeg (HostasDirect alum)
While the 6' 6" Jeff was a senior at Northwestern University in Roseville he custom programmed our shopping cart software to integrate with our HostaSearch™ database, server, and about 9 other pieces of software. It was a huge, complicated project. Jeff rose to the challenge while still a student! Jeff was both an Academic and Basketball All-American at Northwestern College in Roseville, graduating in 2005. After graduating he passed up foreign basketball opportunities to work at KPMG LLP. Jeff's sister, Pam, is married to Matt, Tom's first cousin's son. Jeff is married to his college sweetheart, Whitney, and they had a baby in 2009.
Danielle is a senior studying plant genetics at the University of Minnesota College of Food, Agriculture and Natural Resource Sciences, just one mile from our headquarters. In her spare time, Danielle worked at the Unniversity of Minnesota doing research in barley. She is now working on her PhD in plant genetics. She has also worked in shipping and plant research.
Pat Mora, Database Creator
Pat Mora, a hardworking, knowledgeable and generous hosta lover, is the researcher and founder of our search engine and database. A past President of the Kansas City Hosta Society, and a frequent visitor of many garden tours and conventions, Pat has made an enormous contribution for gardeners worldwide through setting up and developing her database. Pat is the recipient of the 2005 Presidents Award from the American Hosta Society.
Since 1994, Pat has been collecting and entering data into her custom-designed computer software. The HostaSearch™ Database and Search Engine can organize tens of thousands of pieces of data about hostas that can be searched by a computer. In other words, you can find a needle in a haystack. When there are over 6,100 different hostas with an abundance of different plant characteristics, this database is a wonderful development. If you are looking for particular characteristics, simply select your options from one or more of the 70 categories and click search. Like magic, all of the hostas meeting that criteria show up on your screen.
Pat hopes her database and search engine can help gardeners in a variety of ways. Gardeners can select their plants intelligently to fit their special needs, learn more about the wide variety of fun and beautiful options for hostas; hybridizers can use this database for their development efforts, and researchers can use the database for genetic uses for disease resistance and more.
Carrie Austin & Cory Thomford
Minneapolis Home and Garden Show 2005
Carrie graduated from University of Wisconsin-Stout in 2009 with a major in golf course management, following in the footsteps of her father, Scott. After living in Whitefish, Montana, for four years, she is back and managing our Minneapolis Farmers Market Annex operation.
Cory graduated from the University of Minnesota in Mechanical Engineering in 2009 and does Resarch & Development for a medical device firm in the Twin Cities
Bill & Andrea McKee
Posed here with H. 'Fatal Attraction' in 2004.
This couple keeps work fun with their great sense of humor.
Bill formerly managed probation officers in St. Paul. He is also a well-known and highly respected basketball coach presently coaching women at Augsburg College in Minneapolis. The Minnesota Twins' Joe Mauer, American League Most Valuable Player and batting champion, and the NBA's Pat O' Bryant were lucky enough to play for Bill when he was their high school coach at Cretin and Blaine High Schools. Tom Carlson was Bill's assistant coach for one year. Bill was starting guard for the the famous St. Thomas basketball teams in the early 70s and then coached at St. Thomas College, Cretin, Blaine, Anoka Ramsey Jr. College
Andrea is a master organizer. The only trouble is she organizes by throwing your things away! Guaranteed a laugh a minute but watch your stuff!
Both have very helpful in a variety of ways to HostasDirect.
Bill and Andrea's daughter in 2004 here. She is now a freshman at Bemidji State University where she plays on the women's varsity basketball team. During the summer of 2012 she worked in our pick and pack packaging operation.
The Minneapolis Home & Garden Show, 2005
One of our first shows, and we and our visitors had a blast! From left to right, Carrie Austin, Cory Thomford, Tom Carlson, and Mary Alexander.
We try to keep FUN a high priority while we work and visit with customers. After all, gardening should be FUN and FRIENDLY.