When Shalanda Cofer gets home from work, she doesn’t bother going in the house. Instead of unwinding with a glass of wine or TV show, she checks on her yard, deciding which shrubs she’ll prune or what weeds she’ll pull. Cofer, who works as administrative specialist managerial on Robinson’s College Technology Services team, spends practically all her free time tending her yard—or someone else’s. For the past five years, she’s run Yard Diva Planting Services, a landscaping business completing design, maintenance, and installation jobs for clients across metro Atlanta.
Cofer grew up watching and helping her mother care for the fruit trees, vegetables, and flower beds that sprawled across their property in College Park, a city just south of Atlanta.
“My mother’s yard was full of crepe myrtles, begonias, canna lilies, hostas, and impatiens,” Cofer said. “It was beautiful to come home to that every day as a child.”
Cofer became officially hooked around age 8, when she planted and looked after the cucumbers in the family’s vegetable garden. She felt an enormous sense of pride watching them grow. She now resides in Hampton, located approximately 30 miles south of Robinson’s downtown campus. Strangers often request to walk through her yard, and her security camera captures people sauntering through without asking. The constant compliments paired with her desire to transform every bare lawn she sees inspired Cofer to turn a hobby into a side hustle. A steadily growing demand forced her to hire a seven-person team and stop advertising on Facebook.“People book me a year in advance because they know my schedule is limited,” she said. “My crew gets every project close to completion, and on the weekend, I put my final spin on it.”
Cofer is self-taught and uses her own yard as a practice space. For example, she perfected the “island” concept on her personal premises: a gravel walkway leading from the patio to an intimate hangout area with two chairs, an umbrella, and tropical plants including a banana tree, a palm tree, and crotons. The test run enabled Cofer to deliver on a client’s request for a tropical backyard. Called “St. Michele Island,” the design is advertised on the Yard Diva website, along with other options Cofer has refined over the years. “Ayesha Chill Spot” comprises simple hardscaping, seating, and a fire pit; “Missy Island” consists of rows of flowers, shrubs, and small trees in a large mulched bed; and “Bessie’s Garden” (named after Cofer’s late mother) contains canna lilies surrounded by begonias.“Customers who don’t know exactly what they want can look at the named designs on my website and use them as a starting point,” Cofer said.
Two Yard Diva clients have won awards. One landed first place in her neighborhood’s Yard Wars competition, while another couple earned “Yard of the Month” and “Distinguished Lawn of the Year” recognitions by their subdivision’s HOA. Yard Diva also handles seasonal maintenance for three subdivisions.
Cofer credits her parents with ensuring their 13 children developed multiple skills. One sister sews, and another bakes incredible cakes. All of Cofer’s brothers play an instrument.
“I was raised with old-school values,” Cofer said. “My parents went above and beyond to prepare us because we all have that go-getter spirit. My siblings and I know how to get things done.”