Carolle Huber, our NJMOMpreneur of the Week, has always loved spring in NJ since watching the world green up is her idea of excitement. It’s no wonder, then, that she’s been a successful Landscape Architect for more than 35 years. But, when the pandemic hit, she found herself on a lot more Zoom calls with clients instead of face-to-face. That sparked an idea from her daughter Ruby, a visual artist, to combine their skills to reach a wider audience. Together they created Aster Plans—an online landscape design service—and in less than a year have been successful in helping DIY’ers on a budget who want sustainability and exceptional design. We chatted with this Morristown mom of one on how Aster Plans makes hiring a landscape architect affordable for all, her passion for sustainable landscaping, and the local arboretum that feeds her soul.
Please tell us a little bit about your family.
I live in Morristown, NJ, with my husband of 31 years, Max, and my dog Garçon. My daughter and business partner, Ruby Huber, 26, presently lives in San Diego. I grew up in Morristown, and my husband and I moved back when we were newlyweds because it’s such a great place to call home. I love that it’s easy to walk or bike everywhere, including town, the grocery store, the movie theater, and restaurants. And Garcon and I start our day right with morning walks at Speedwell Park in Historic Speedwell. Even though Morristown has grown some since I grew up here, it still has a small-town feel—we always bump into people we know in town.
Please share your career background and how it played a role in launching Aster Plans.
I have a degree in Environmental Science and Landscape Architecture, and I’ve been a practicing landscape architect for 35 years. My daughter, Ruby, worked in Los Angeles and came home to Morristown when the pandemic hit. After working for me for several months and watching me do all of my meetings on zoom, the idea for an online business was born, and Aster Plans was something we wanted to do together.
What sets Aster Plans apart from other landscape businesses?
We’re an online landscape design business for DIY’ers and anyone interested in good design on a budget. Our clients do all the leg work on-site, like photographs and measurements, so that we can offer great designs at prices that are affordable for everyone. We are environmentally conscious and create sustainable landscapes, one home at a time, culminating in great spaces for our clients but also for pollinators, birds, and your dog.
How do you and your daughter split up the business responsibilities?
With Ruby’s background in visual arts, she created our website and continues to adapt it as we move forward. She is on the operations side and starts the process by gathering information from our clients. Once that’s done, I step in and design, have a zoom meeting with the client to review, and finalize the designs. Ruby then creates a booklet for the client that includes the plan, plant list, pictures of the plants, and some installation notes. The client then has a beautiful and informative booklet to keep and use as a guide for installation, whether it’s all at once or done over a few years.
Are there any causes you’re particularly passionate about?
I am passionate about native plants and sustainable landscaping, which is so much more than just the plants — it’s about using fewer resources, buying local materials, and staying away from toxic ones. It’s also about managing rainwater with rain barrels and rain gardens. Ruby is passionate about animal rights and environmental justice. We donate a percentage of our profits to Grow It Green Morristown, which I co-founded, and The Gentle Barn, a farm animal sanctuary that Ruby volunteered at while living in California.
What do you hope your daughter has learned from seeing you run your own business?
It is very gratifying to me that Ruby even considered working with me. As she was growing up, she saw and heard me discuss the importance of sustainable landscaping—it was ingrained in her as if it was the only way things were done.
What is your biggest reward and your biggest challenge when it comes to running Aster Plans?
We’re less than a year old, so our biggest challenge is getting the word out — social media is still a bit of a mystery to me, but that’s where Ruby comes in. And our biggest reward is the enthusiasm we see from clients that are working with us. It’s just as exciting for us!
Please share your proudest business moment?
It was definitely when we got our first client that didn’t come through our contacts. She found us on Instagram, and we both did a little dance!
What are some of your favorite local NJ businesses?
SmartWorld Coffee is my go-to. Aside from the fact that it tastes great, the owner, Dave, has always run it as a sustainable business—even the cups are corn-based. I’m always going to support a company that believes what I believe in. I’m also a big fan of Fairview Farm and Flowers, an extraordinary local organic flower farm. The owner, Samantha Rothman, is also one of my co-founders of Grow it Green, so we’re like-minded in that regard. And, I’ve been practicing yoga for about 16 years and J. Howard Holistic is the absolute best. Jeannette Howard happens to be my sister, but she’s also my favorite yoga instructor, partly because her practice focuses on balance and stretching, which is why she has a cult-like following for those 40 and up.
What are some of your favorite things to do in NJ?
We love the Morristown Farmers Market, which has incredible vendors and live music when the weather cooperates. We’re also fans of the Frelinghuysen Arboretum because it’s so beautiful, peaceful, and very, very special.
What is the best piece of advice you can share with another NJMOMpreneur just starting out?
Find something that you can do from home. Being a landscape architect was ideal since I could run my practice and work from my home office. When you work for yourself and from home, you can take a break when your child gets home from school and start up again after bedtime, plus you get to rearrange your schedule for school events and school holidays.