Alejandra Rodriguez Boughton of La Flaca Urban Gardens talks about owning a small business and leaving the corporate world behind.
By Madison Matous, Photos by Riley Krauss
It might be strange to think of starting a farm in the middle of a city, but that’s exactly what Alejandra Rodriguez Boughton, owner of La Flaca Urban Gardens, is doing. On just half an acre of land, Rodriguez Boughton has managed to grow more than 200 varieties of herbs and heirloom vegetables.
“Millennials aren’t moving out to the country any time soon,” Rodriguez Boughton says. “So, the only way we can get our generation into farming is to bring farming to the city and blending those a little more.”
Before Rodriguez Boughton started La Flaca, she had an impressive career as an investment banker. She was finishing her business degree when she had a startling realization: She no longer wanted to continue down the corporate path but didn’t quite know what she wanted to do next.
Thus, Rodriguez Boughton started cooking, something that had brought her comfort in the past, but she couldn’t find certain ingredients she needed for her Mexican recipes. Therefore, she began growing her own peppers and herbs on her apartment balcony.
“One of my favorite things that I was trying to recreate was mole tamales, for which you need a very specific pepper that only grows in Central Oaxaca,” she says. “I couldn’t source the peppers, so I started growing them.”
One day, it occurred to her that other home cooks and even restaurateurs may also be searching for particular ingredients that can’t be sourced locally.
“I did some market research, reached out to chefs and other people in the business, and they confirmed that there was an opportunity there,” Rodriguez Boughton says. “So, I took it from there.”
Rodriguez Boughton found a plot of land in South Austin, and La Flaca Urban Gardens was born. The decision to go from her steady corporate job to a new venture was risky, but it was a decision she was willing to take.
“When I was in my 20s, I was mainly working for money, you know, to travel and have nice things, but when I turned 30, that’s when my priorities shifted,” she says.
It was clear to her that while she was doing well at her current job, the corporate world wasn’t for her. Rodriguez Boughton realized that beyond just making money, she wanted to do something that gave her purpose.
Her background in business and finance was helpful in getting La Flaca Urban Gardens on its feet, and continues to help her make smart business decisions.
“[My background] helped a lot in doing my due diligence and getting all my ducks in a row, doing paperwork, getting permits and doing my market research,” she recalls. “Our business has been going for a while, so being able to have really specific metrics and financial goals is really helping to build the business and move it forward.”
Today, La Flaca Urban Gardens supplies restaurants with unique peppers and herbs, and sells its crops at the Sustainable Food Center market each Saturday morning.
“I’ll always be able to look back at the impact we have had on our community, our neighbors and the restaurants we work with,” Rodriguez Boughton says, “and know that what I’m doing is totally worth it, even on the toughest days.”