Thinking Outside the Box

Sherri and Clyde Hutchison discovered the inspiration for the Backyard Safari Company during what they thought were routine strolls with their grandchildren. Spawned by an unwavering entrepreneurial spirit, their products are now found in kitchens and retail outlets across the United States and Canada.

by Michelle Floyd

You never know where your imagination may take you during a stroll through the backyard with your grandchildren. About a decade ago, Sherri and Clyde Hutchison had plans to retire from a chocolate factory—Graffiti Zoo—they owned in Conyers. God had other ideas.

“After a year or two,” Sherri said, “we thought we should be doing something.”

Having lived in Covington with her husband Clyde for roughly 20 years, she often played with her grandchildren in butterfly gardens and did some planting with recycled egg cartons.

“So, my mind works [like this]: ‘Could I do this as a product and sell it?’” Sherri said.

Turns out, she could. Ten years later, the Hutchisons have grown Backyard Safari Company at least tenfold, their products spread all over the United States and Canada through wholesale and retail sales. 

“It’s a fun, fun company,” said Sherri, who admits the previous experience at Graffiti Zoo has served them well in their current endeavors. “Some may have never grown anything; and people who thought they had brown thumbs actually have green thumbs, and it inspires them to grow an even bigger garden.”

“I’m what you might call an ‘adder.’ Every time we have a meal, I add something to it to add more flavor. Most of the time, it’s good.”

Backyard Safari Company Co-Owner Clyde Hutchison

Backyard Safari started with the Sunny-Side Up Gardens, a gardening set for kids that includes seeds, starter soil, identification stakes, instructions, a journal and a pencil—all in a 100 percent recycled fiber egg-carton planter. Sherri won an Atlanta Icon Award in 2012 as a result of her work with the kits.

“You just don’t know how [having a garden] affects their lives later on,” she said. “We sell to a lot of schools and kids who may have never planted before. We have a large presence presence in the Northeast, so they may just have their kit in the window or on a patio.”

Backyard Safari now boasts 15 different types of egg-carton gardens for children and adults, as well as 12 spice mixes and multiple dinner kits, nut seasoning packs and grilling tins.

“We’re always coming up with new products,” Sherri said. “We’re unafraid to create a product and bring it to market. We are very much into nature and simple things, and that has influenced our products.”

The Backyard Safari Company’s food line remains all-natural, gluten-free and uses no additives—“not even an anti-clumping agent,” according to Clyde. “I like fooling with spices,” he continued. “I’m what you might call an ‘adder.’ Every time we have a meal, I add something to it to add more flavor. Most of the time, it’s good.”

When asked about the motivation behind the company, Sherri pointed to the ability to entertain guests and make cooking at home simpler. They want customers to spend more time with their families and less time preparing meals in the kitchen. In addition to the gardening kits that allow customers to grow flowers and vegetables in their own homes, Backyard Safari’s food line includes Dinner Tonight Seasonings that enhance kitchen staples like burgers, chilis and fajitas.

Their gardening kits can be found at Target, Tractor Supply and Harry & David, along with various grocery stores and botanical gardens. Locally, their kits and food items are available at Striplings General Store in Bogart, Farmview Market in Madison and the Bread and Butter Bakery and Café in Covington. The Backyard Safari Company expects to be featured on ABC’s Good Morning America for a third time in the spring. 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Sherri believes “God took over” and transitioned the company’s customer base to more corporate orders. Companies were ordering gardens as gifts for their employees and customers who were quarantined during the crisis. 

“It’s been an amazing journey for us,” Sherri said, “and we are so grateful.” 

For more information on the Backyard Safari Company, visit BackYardSafarico.com or find it on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Click here to read more stories by Michelle Floyd.

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