Beyond the Boardroom: Amy B Gardening’s Amy Bohn Cannon

Chicago
By Chicago 9 Min Read

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Amy Bohn Cannon in her yard in Urbana.

Robin Scholz/The News-Gazette

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Life is “never boring” for AMY BOHN CANNON, who lives in Urbana with husband Mark, her 92-year-old mom, June Kraft, and what she calls “our zoo” — Lilly, Wilson, Violet and Boo the dogs and Cassidy, Willow and Cecil the cats.

“I love this community. It’s a great place to call home,” says the namesake of Amy B Gardening, a Watseka native who moved to C-U in 1990 to take classes at Parkland College and decided to stick around awhile.

Thirty-three years later, she’s still here — a successful small business owner with a legion of fans, who named hers the second-best landscaping outfit around in The News-Gazette’s 2023 People’s Choice awards.

The green-thumbed former bartender took time out to answer questions from Editor Jeff D’Alessio in the 198th installment of our weekly speed read spotlighting leaders of organizations big and small.

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“I really didn’t set out to become a small business owner; there is so much my husband and I have learned since starting Amy B Gardening. It’s rewarding work, but I’m stressed out a lot, too,” Amy Bohn Cannon says.

Robin Scholz/The News-Gazette

I can’t live without … my favorite gardening tool — my Hori Hori knife. My first one was gifted to me by my dear friend, Ceal Allen, when I started this business. That and my Felco hand pruners.

My philosophy on meetings is … I personally like them. Most of the service industry jobs I had in the past, meetings were very rare, but I think open communication is always a good thing.

I feel like my staff and I share our thoughts and ideas about work stuff daily, so even if it’s not a formal meeting, we are always talking and sometimes it’s useful banter.

The three adjectives I hope my staff would use to describe me are … hard-working, diligent and compassionate.

The hardest thing about being a leader is … for me, keeping everything afloat. I really didn’t set out to become a small business owner; there is so much my husband and I have learned since starting Amy B Gardening.

It’s rewarding work, but I’m stressed out a lot, too.

When it comes to my single favorite moment of all-time in this job … picking a favorite moment is hard, but honestly every time we make someone smile, to see someone get excited about their new, improved landscape is just instant gratification for us. It always feels good.

On the home office walls of my bookkeeper/husband, you’ll find … tons of books, pictures of family, his grandpa’s military flag, all his Final Four ticket stubs and Grateful Dead bootleg cassettes.

He also framed my People’s Choice second-place certificate and my Central Illinois Business cover girl shot. Hah. He has been amazingly supportive and an important part of my success.

Starting a small business was … a leap of faith. I can’t say I knew it was what I wanted to do, but as it began to grow, I became more and more interested in learning and getting better, becoming more ambitious. That’s when I knew I needed employees to be able to physically keep up.

It’s been an amazing ride thus far. My mother has always been an avid gardener and I think I must have picked up some of her talents along the way, thankfully.

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“My mother has always been an avid gardener and I think I must have picked up some of her talents along the way, thankfully.”

Robin Scholz/The News-Gazette

If I had to single out a professional role model … I’m not sure I can name one but our community is full of so many wonderful and unique small businesses and small business owners.

I understand the dedication it takes and I’m in awe and inspired by lots of people.

I’m frugal in that … back to that guy that keeps the books: Yeah, he would say I don’t have a frugal bone in my body, but I’m showing improvements.

The single-most important question I ask job candidates during interviews these days is … do you have license and do you own a truck?

The first thing I do when I arrive at a job most days is … do our “walk through.” This is where I share what I went over with the client at the consultation and I walk my guys around and we discuss what needs to be done and get a good work plan in order.

As far as lunch goes … the downside of working for a former bartender/server is I have never really had a lunch break, so it’s not really a thing in our work day.

We will stop at a “nice” gas station for a restroom break and snacks, but landscaping is a bit difficult to do with a full stomach, in my opinion. We do like to go out after work sometimes. We hit some of the local places like Bunny’s, Baldarotta’s or Po’Boys since we all live in Urbana.

I wind down after work by … getting a nice, long shower, a big glass of ice water, food and usually a nap. Or if no nap, I usually go to bed insanely early.

The last luxury in which I indulged was … a trip to the Dominican Republic with my husband. It was supposed to be a trip for my 50th birthday, but got delayed because of COVID. It was a very low-key, relaxing getaway.

When it comes to the most beneficial college class I took … I am not sure this was at all a beneficial college course, but one of my favorites was the Sociology of Deviant Behavior, taught by John Batsie at Parkland College.

It was an interesting class and Professor Batsie was a great instructor.

I thought I would do something in sociology when I was young, but I became a bartender instead. Take that as you will.

I’m up and at ’em most days between … 5 and 6 a.m. When it’s hot, we try to get out and at it early.

My exercise routine is … what I do at my job. I purchased a treadmill a couple of years ago, but it only gets used in winter.

The first job I ever had was … doing small tasks at the restaurant my parents owned when I was a kid — The Oasis, just outside of Watseka in Pittwood.

The worst jobs I ever had were … detasseling corn or baling hay. I had those jobs when I was 12 and 13. I got my appendix out to get out of detasseling.

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