May 3, 2016

Community Garden Case Study

Petersburg Virginia

This is a case study of a community garden in Petersburg, Virginia which began in the spring of 2012, when Mike Jackson came to Lythos Studios for help with an idea he had for helping children learn the perils of drinking and doing drugs.  Although the final product included a community garden, in Petersburg, Virginia, it was three years before that idea came to fruition.  Mike, a former marine, had owned his own business in Pennsylvania, lost his business and turned to alcohol for solace.  After a long term of alcohol abuse, his wife Evelyn Jackson, turned to tough love to fix the problem.  Her husband was put on a restrictive order to stay away from the home and he violated that order.  So, for the next 90 days, Mike stayed in jail.

While incarcerated, Mike became a source of inspiration to many young men who had essentially ruined their lives.  He realized that he had a greater purpose in life and when released began to formulate his plans for his future.  He approached several advertising agencies about creating a speaking program to talk to young men and women about alcohol and drugs.  All turned him down unless he had a huge budget to market his ideas.


After listening to Mike Jackson during what we call the discovery phase of a project, we realized Mike had a great idea, but he wasn't prepared to speak to groups of people.  He didn't have a name for his business; he had no marketing plan; he had no business plan.  Lythos Studios formed a team of professionals to work with Mike to begin the process of forming a business which in this case would be a non-profit.


We began the search for the name of the entity and with Mike's having deep spiritual roots, we chose the name Think Then Choose Wisely, LLC.  The next step was to teach Mike how to speak in front of people.  Although he had owned his own business in Philadelphia, he had not been in front of groups of children or adults where all attention was focused on him.  We hired May Lily Lee, former host of Virginia Currents to film Mike; edit him with constructive criticism; and present to us a prepared speech geared to teens about the dangers of drinking alcohol and doing drugs.

The website is

Once he was comfortable and his speech gelled, we created a video of Mike and his wife Evelyn, titled a Love Story.  You can view this on Youtube:

Simultaneously, we created a website to house the video; created the mission and vision statements of the newly formed non profit; and how to make donations and schedule group sessions with Mike.

Mike formed a board of directors; hired a team of advisors such as Lythos Studios for the marketing efforts needed; an attorney for his legal needs and various advisors from other local boards.  In particular Mike formed a relationship with the Historic Petersburg Foundation, another client of Lythos Studios.

During the discovery phase of the project, we determined Mike required a larger distribution center than single boys and girls clubs.  At the suggestion of the board and his advisors, Mike decided the creation of a community garden would provide him access to a yearly overturn of children entering then exiting public schools.



After all of the marketing materials were created, we began scheduling talks with boys and girls clubs around Richmond and Petersburg.  Mike also began speaking to those in the City of Richmond jails, which led to talks in the Petersburg Jail and juvenile correctional facilities.  In the spring of 2014, the realization of the community garden occurred after receiving a land lease for a few parcels of property across the street from Peabody School in Petersburg on Wellesley Street. For a year, Mike worked with the agriculture department at Virginia State University and the teachers at the Peabody School.  Interns from VSU, graduate students, and regular students from Peabody helped create, till, manage and harvest the garden.  At the end of the season, the city of Petersburg decided not to renew the lease forcing a search for another property.  Within a very short period of time, Mike was approached by HPF which donated five acres of property to Think Then Choose Wisely; a property that was adjacent to JEB Stuart School in Petersburg.  Again, VSU graduate students, professors, and JEB Stuart School teachers pitched in to create the largest community garden in the Petersburg area.


There are many segments of this project that can be measured.  The first was scheduling speaking engagements for a speaker who had no speaking history. Within a month of producing the video which could be viewed via Youtube, Mike had numerous engagements with the Richmond area Boy's and Girl's Clubs.  The graph below shows the activity of the website from inception through April 30, 2016.

community garden

Google Analytics

The spikes in traffic begin shortly after July 2012 when Mike Jackson appeared on CBS6 Virginia This Morning.  The winter and spring of 2013 experienced web traffic due to a golf tournament advertised on WRVA 1140 AM.  Various press releases were sent and published in the Petersburg Progress Index throughout 2014 and 2015.  As the community garden grew in 2015, the amount of publicity the non profit received grew with noticeable spikes in web traffic from January through July 2015.  After the lease from the City of Petersburg was not renewed, and the new property next to Jeb Stuart school was purchased, more press releases were sent to nearly all media outlets in both the Richmond and Petersburg region.  Television coverage of the community garden occurred on NBC12 in April 2016 which notes one of the last big spikes in this graph that ends the last day of April 2016.


Not all projects are based on making a profit.  This project was funded in part through personal funding by the client and from many supporters who have helped him along the way.  There is so much bad news in the media, especially in Petersburg, but this story is uplifting, compelling, and provided my company the most remarkable project we have been challenged with to date.  We have utilized every connection, every bit of experience, hours of brain power and it has resulted in a project that has empowered an entire community.  Mike Jackson has earned the respect and gratitude of so many citizens of Petersburg, that he quite simply deserves a giant round of applause.