Alive Structures: A Green Roof Grows in Brooklyn

Scott Ballum
Bryan Sykora
Clara Kennedy

Alive Structures is a unique landscape design firm, grown out of the recent interest in increasing green spaces in urban environments and the long-term benefits of green roofs. We talked with the business owner, Marni Majorelle, about seeing an opportunity to contribute to her city, hiring her first employee, and the determination to make it all work.

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Marni Majorelle: I started Alive Structures three years ago. We’re a landscape design firm, and we focus on green roofs, ecological landscapes, and green walls.

Green roofs presented themselves as a way of really changing the New York City landscape in a way that was new and really exciting, and it felt like it had a big ecological impact and wasn’t just this decorative thing. I love the aesthetic aspects of landscaping, too, but I really felt like this is some way I could really impact the city that I love.

We’re faced with a huge amount of interest, people who are really excited about what we do—and we’re really excited about what we do—but it’s hard to get people to take that next step.

I hired somebody, I started paying someone! The responsibility that that entails, you realize that you’re supporting not just yourself, and that you have a real operation going. I think it’s probably the best investment that I could make in my personal sanity, and in the business.

Victoria: There’s a lot more safety to working with a large company. You know your job’s going to be there, you’ve got benefits. But the independence that you get with a small company, and just the challenge to rise to all occasions because you simply have to—are kind of what have won my heart over.

Marni Majorelle: This winter I had a few different moments of just being really... did I say I never get worried before? I think I did say I never get worried... I got worried financially a bit for us, but then I find ways to make this work. It’s a great time to be doing what I’m doing, and I feel like I started my business at the right time. I’m not scared of taking on big projects even though we’re a small company.

I didn’t care about starting my own business, I just wanted to do cool stuff. But then once I started my own business, it’s really hard to imagine going back and working for anyone else. It’s a bit addictive, the idea that this job is completely yours. We haven’t made a lot of money yet, of course, but I feel really positive about this business. And I know also, I’m not going anywhere.