Sustainable Urban Gardening in Chattanooga, Tennessee

Header announcing an interview with Cath Shaw Truelove of Bees on a Bicylce


Can you tell us a little bit about your background/history that has led you to this point?

Bees on a Bicycle is a culmination of many different pursuits. As a creative person, I had to be versatile in how I made a living. Happily, our garden center brings my design, communication, organization and administrative backgrounds together all in one place. 

As a child, I grew up traveling with my parents to engineering projects my Dad was working on all over the globe. This travel allowed me to realize that often you don't need to travel far for great adventure and community. Your home and life is what you make of it, often right beneath your feet. 

How does sustainability play a role in your brand/product development? How important has this been to consumers?

At Bees on a Bicycle, we developed our brand around sustainability. We choose products and services from other companies that also adhere to this way of doing things. When I appear on TV or get interviewed, I talk about our children and rivers. We here in Chattanooga, TN have a large river running through the center of town and people can relate to that.

Much of this is reflected in our product lines. We offer plants that are alternatives to invasives clogging our waterways. We offer grain fiber pots as alternatives to plastic pots that eventually end up in a land fill. We are about to introduce a line of organic plant additives that are alternatives to harmful fertilizers. We sell compost and manure that support good plant growth, lessening the need for pesticides because a plant isn't thriving.

Image of succulents and the inside of Bees on a Bicycle's store in Chattanooga

Imagine that 25 years from now you are looking back on your life, what would be the legacy that you would hope for your brand to leave behind?

Gardens would include plants that support pollinators that in turn support our food supply. Gardens would have substantially less plastic containers and landfills would have less plastic pots as a result. One generation would teach the next about how best to garden in sustainable ways without pesticides, chemical fertilizers and other chemicals that filter down to our water table and into our rivers.

Images of various plant and potting classes at Bees on a Bicycle

What message do you have for those starting their own business in regards to sustainability and innovation?

As businesses, we are leaders for customers seeking what we sell. Our decisions influence not only the people that work at the company but many, many others as you reach out and serve your market.

To me, sustainability is necessary to preserve future generations' time here on our planet. The number of pollinators we loose each year has gone from concern to crisis. This impacts our food supply. Never mind World War III...we could starve if we don't get our acts together to stop eliminating pollinators. People say "Oh, I'll just eat beef." What do you think pollinates all the grass those cows are eating?

Image of the Bees on a Bicycle storefront from outside, featuring reds walls and lots of greenery

Do you have a quote, saying or poem you find inspirational and what is it?

Often in business, it is just about sticking to it and perseverance. I love this perspective from Calvin Coolidge: "Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb."

Collage of various images from inside the Bees on a Bicycle shop, including planters, flowers and other colorful outdoor decor

How important do you think transparency and authenticity in brands is to consumers ?

Bees on a Bicycle is the fourth business I have built. As with my branding agency that had open books for all the employees to see, this company has transparency at the core of its mission. We are community-focused, open and honest. Transparency comes naturally as a result. I think for companies to be trusted and be integral parts of people's lives, transparency is necessary and good. If you are doing the right thing and have nothing to hide, it shouldn't be a problem as your company grows and changes.

Authenticity is also a key part of our brand. We write in a vulnerable and honest way in our social media posts. Our customers asked for more and encouraged me to write a book. This book is a best seller now as a result and follows my journey from corporate life to loss to building again. We have visitors that come to our store each day because of this authenticity that they found in our writing and sharing.

Final two images of a planter shaped like a rhino and outdoor trays with mushrooms on them

Can you tell us something about your product/brand/personal journey that might surprise us to know?

This is my fifth career. I have been an interior designer, a teacher, co-owner of a branding agency for 15 years, and now run a garden center.