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Design thinking and horticulture: Interview with A.M.A.’s Ally DiMenna

A.M.A. has a new addition to our talented team. Join us in welcoming Ally DiMenna! Ally is bringing her design thinking, digital media, and customer service skills to our team as our Marketing & Customer Service Associate. She is currently attending Ryerson University for Business Management with a major in Entrepreneurship & Innovation. We sat down with Ally to learn a bit more about her and why she thinks design thinking and innovation are important for cultivating the future of horticulture.

Ally, welcome to the team! Tell us a bit about what led you to the Entrepreneurship & Innovation program at Ryerson.

I have always been interested in discovering new products and services, ideas, and solutions to everyday problems. Ever since I was a kid, I have watched Dragon’s Den and aspired to create a startup. Through the Entrepreneurship & Innovation program at Ryerson, I have learned that entrepreneurship doesn’t just occur in the form of a new startup. Entrepreneurship can also occur in the form of intrapreneurship within an existing company. I hope to bring my innovative and entrepreneurial spirit to A.M.A. Horticulture to develop new solutions from a marketing and customer service standpoint.

I have also learned a great deal about design thinking at Ryerson. Design thinking is a relatively new process that the Entrepreneurship & Innovation program at Ryerson is centred around. Design thinking focuses on a problem-solution-fit model and allows the entrepreneur to maintain constant contact with their target groups to correctly solve problems they may have or pivot to different groups or problems. Design thinking and the Entrepreneurship & Innovation program at Ryerson University have taught me to “get out of the building,” a concept that our capstone professors, Steve Gedeon and Charlene Nicholls-Nixon, instill in us as students. This concept allows entrepreneurs to continuously validate their ideas, as well as discuss future solutions with potential customers.

You’re from Leamington, so you’ve been surrounded by horticulture your whole life. Tell us a bit about that experience.

I am from Leamington, or as I tell my friends from Toronto, ‘Tomato Town!’ Growing up, I have been immersed in the horticulture industry. My dad has been working in produce for as long as I can remember. I’ve heard more about tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers than I could possibly recall. From my perspective, the horticulture industry, specifically in Leamington, has always represented and required extremely hard work. I have witnessed my dad working long and hard hours, but they have paid off!

Much of my family is involved in the horticulture industry, including my aunt and uncle’s local business, Ruthven Nursery. I also have vivid memories of my grandma’s backyard greenhouse, where fresh fruit and vegetables are always growing.

Why do you think design thinking and innovation are important for cultivating the future of horticulture?

I think that design thinking and innovation are important for any industry, but specifically in cultivating the future of horticulture. Horticulture has typically been more of a legacy industry in the past, with many family horticulture businesses worldwide. These family businesses have had to adapt to various technological obstacles over the years. My specific entrepreneurial and design thinking methodology is what led to my job here at A.M.A. Horticulture. A.M.A.’s recent re-brand involves their new solutions-focused business model, where working alongside companies to ensure and maintain long-term success is emphasized.

I am happy that our values aligned, as I am very excited to be part of the A.M.A. team while finishing up my undergraduate degree!