EPPING, NH – Choosing what you want to do for a career at a young age can be overwhelming for some. When asked what interested her during her high school days, Erica Levengood had some idea of what she wanted. Coming from a family of nurses, being in the medical field was an obvious choice for Levengood, but she wanted to do something a little different from the rest of her family. While writing a paper for the honors society, she did some digging into the differences between Physical Therapy and Occupational Therapy with the help of her teacher. Levengood set up a job shadow for a day at Alice Peck Day Hospital in Lebanon, NH, and was immediately hooked. She first observed a Physical Therapist and was intrigued, then observed an Occupational Therapist who worked with kids.
“I knew then, that that was what I wanted to be and changed my focus,” said Levengood. “I had always babysat as a kid and genuinely loved kids. I had even started a swimming program in Meriden, NH for the town summer program.”
Levengood got her Bachelor’s of Science in OT with a minor in Psychology from the University of New Hampshire in 1999. From then she went on to do her nine months of internships and took her board exams. She landed a job at Portsmouth Regional Hospital’s Pediatric Rehabilitation Program as an Occupational Therapist in 2002.
After over 16 years as an Occupational Therapist, Levengood made a big career change and opened Erica’s Garden LLC in 2018. Deciding to change careers was not a decision Levengood took lightly; becoming a single mom in 2013 to two children and she needed to find a better way to provide for her family.
“During that time, I had met with my Rehab Director and she went over my career trajectory with me. She laid out where my salary would be capped off unless I went back to school to get my Master’s Degree. At this point, I couldn’t financially go back to school, nor did I ever want to work in Management. I enjoyed teaching one of the Pediatric Labs at UNH, but would also have to go back to school to get a Master’s Degree to further my career there. I felt stuck. I continued to take students who were landing jobs making more money than I was after years of experience.”
A few years after talking with her Director, Levengood met her now-husband and they discussed their discontentment of working for large corporations and the politics that came with it. They began brainstorming goals for their future that would be filled with less stress and more time spent as a family.
“I told him that I loved flowers and gardening. I used that as my sanctuary growing up.”
As a young girl, Levengood loved helping her grandparents in their garden. She would sit and listen to her grandfather tell her about life as he taught her how to prepare and grow the perfect vegetable garden. After spending countless hours in their garden, Levengood realized she had a strong passion for flowers and growing things.
Despite missing her old clients and work colleagues, she is in love with where she is now. She still keeps in touch with some of them to this day.
“I am still helping people and feel fullfillment but in a different way.”
Erica’s Garden LLC provides beautiful arrangements for weddings, birthdays, births, special occasions, and funerals. Levengood has the opportunity to become even closer with her clients through classes she holds at her shop.
“Owning my own business is a ton of work. It isn’t for the faint of heart. I have a better work/life balance. I get to create my own future. I have recently let my license go but I am looking towards the future.”
Sbe hopes to expand her business someday and do horticulture therapy with her clients, combining her two passions.
“I can’t imagine being anywhere else. It feels like home.”
Check out everything Erica’s shop has to offer at 285 Calef Highway in Epping, NH and on her website!