Written by: Brianna Price
Opportunities are unpredictable things. Sometimes they knock right on our front door, while other times, opportunities seem to run in the opposite direction of us. For Jillian Bustos, Office and Marketing Manager of Evolve, her opportunity was hiding behind difficult circumstances. But with the right tools and tenacious dedication, she was able to landscape the perfect opportunity for a successful business.
In 2009, Jillian welcomed her second baby into the world and expected a short maternity leave due to the recession. Upon returning to her job at the Polk County Building Division, she found out that her job had been dissolved. Thankfully, she quickly found a part time job working as a virtual assistant from home. The relief that this job provided was short lived when her husband, Joe, also lost his job. Little did they know, that this difficult situation would plant the seeds for an incredibly successful business to grow.
The underlying theme of this story is the power of relationships. For Joe, reaching out to previous contacts for opportunities was a natural place to state. During this process, he found out that his best friend from high school, Chase Stevens, had just branched out to start his own business as a third-generation landscape business owner. After careful consideration, Jillian, Joe and Chase decided to combine their skills and go into business together.
In March 2010, they officially opened Southern Landscapes of Central Florida, which was eventually changed to Evolve. Jillian said that, “Evolve is the perfect word to describe what we do as a company. We evolve and transform yards and turn vision into reality.”
As they were marketing their business, Chase’s dad advised the team to do some free work for a business in the community to get the word out. Jillian, Joe and Chase felt this was a great idea, so they went to the Bartow Church Center to refresh the landscape. Little did they know, a reporter stopped by and took some photos. Before they knew it, they were in the paper! “No matter how much we grow, we want to always be involved in making a positive impact in our community.”
Jillian also expressed how vital both the Bartow Chamber and Winter Haven Chamber have been to their growth in the community. The connections they have made through these organizations have been priceless. These Chambers quickly became an important part of Evolve’s strategy to be deeply involved in the community. To show their dedication, Evolve helped with the renovation of Main Street Winter Haven’s Gram Parson’s Derry Down with free work so the project wouldn’t be delayed. Giving back has made a huge difference in the growth of their business.
“I have always wanted a career that I love and Evolve has given that to me.” Jillian shared. As the Marketing Manager, she gets to see her visions evolve from beginning to end, has a flexible schedule and truly feels that it’s a dream position. Jillian oversees customer service management, is a contact for larger contractors, manages human resources, cross trains all personnel and ensures that her team is working collaboratively.
Although Jillian loves where she is, it hasn’t been without challenges. As a working-mom, she felt guilty, at times, because she was putting so much time into starting a business and felt that her children would be negatively affected by it. She has expressed immense gratitude toward her parents who have always been supportive of Jillian following her dreams.
To Jillian, being a woman in business means being responsible for growing the people around her. “I value positive leadership. I have had great role models and bad ones and through that, I learned what to do and what not to do.” She feels that she can be a great leader by setting personal and professional goals with her staff and creating an open atmosphere where everyone is welcome to think freely and disagree respectfully.
If you want advice from Jillian, just walk into her office and you will see it in big gold letters on her wall. “A dream written down with a date becomes a goal. A goal broken down into steps becomes a plan. A plan backed by action makes your dreams a reality.” Jillian urges young business women, “Don’t get complacent. Take action! You can always make your dreams come true if you are willing to work at it.” Jillian is a wonderful example of what it means to work hard even when the odds are against you. Without Jillian and her leadership, Evolve wouldn’t be where it is today!