Going Green

From nurse to business owner, Elle Worsham is making holidays beautiful with Gracious Garlands

by Abby Moore
Photographs by Paige Newton for The Scout Guide Austin
gracious garlands elle worsham austin atx wreath

Elle Worsham is “making holidays more beautiful and less stressful” through her greenery delivery company, Gracious Garlands. Though the company is taking off, running a business was never part of her career plan.

Worsham takes after her mother, diving wholeheartedly into the unexpected. Vicki Worsham, Elle’s mother and the founder of Gracious Garlands never even intended to start the business in the first place.

gracious garlands elle worsham austin atx wreath

The Worshams lived in Nashville, but spent Thanksgivings in the mountains of North Carolina. Since the greens from her hometown tended to dry out before Christmas, Vicki would collect Carolina greenery for wreaths and garnish. Her neighbors admired the artful and lush decor that adorned the Worsham house each holiday season. That admiration inspired Vicki to drop flyers and order forms into neighbors’ mailboxes 20 years ago, officially launching the mom-and-pop delivery service.

gracious garlands elle worsham austin atx wreathAt the start, deliveries were small enough to fit in the back of their Suburban. As word spread, Elle began helping, they upgraded to a U-Haul, and eventually their backyard was filled with an acre of greenery. The business continued to grow, and the need for e-commerce was unavoidable.

By 2014, Elle’s parents had moved from her childhood home and made North Carolina their permanent residence. Vicki’s move, combined with the rapid growth of the business, prompted her to hand the reins over to her daughter.

Location and timing aligned for Elle, who was finishing nursing school at Belmont University in Nashville. The extra funds to pay off student loans didn’t hurt either. Before moving to Austin, Elle utilized her nursing degree in the pediatric cardiac ICU in Charleston, South Carolina. She continued running the business remotely during the busy seasons, but when she moved to Austin, she realized Gracious Garlands should come with her.

gracious garlands elle worsham austin atx wreath“It just dawned on me that there was nothing like it here,” she said, “so we gave it a shot.”

Since moving the business to Austin , sales have doubled each year. The support of Austin locals combined with the altruistic disposition that inspired Elle’s nursing career, urged her to find a way to give back. Three years ago she decided to partner with community organizations, making Gracious Garlands a social impact business.

gracious garlands elle worsham austin atx wreathCurrently, three percent of the proceeds go to Thistle Farms in Nashville and sister organization Magdalene House of Austin, aiming to empower survivors of human trafficking.

“Our long term hope at Gracious Garlands is that we can employ these women once they’ve graduated and offer internships along the way” Worsham said. Though she does not practice traditional nursing anymore, the social partnerships serve as an outlet for Worsham’s compassion. “The problem with healthcare as a nurse at a bedside seems so massive for me to be able to solve,” she admitted. “It seems like I can have a greater impact coming at it from the outside in.”

gracious garlands elle worsham austin atx wreathIn Sheryl Sandberg’s book “Lean In,” she calls careers “a jungle gym, not a ladder.” Worsham’s experience from nursing to running a business reflects that idea, and she continues to find parallels between the two career paths. “I can deliver a service that brings a lot of people joy,” she said, “but now it’s not life or death.”


Read More From the Architecture Issue | October 2018


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