Potomac Brian Rubin of Potomac lives by the philosophy of Winston Churchill: “Never, never, never quit.” His mother, an elementary school teacher taught him to keep trying, no matter how difficult the task. In spite of a diagnosis at age 34 of Asperger’s syndrome and a lifetime of struggling in the classroom and in the social world, he has become a successful entrepreneur.
Rubin is the owner of Maryland Hydroponics, an award-winning business which supplies a wide range of products needed for hydroponic gardening — growing vegetables and plants with water and nutrients instead of soil.
Rubin attended Lake Normandy Elementary, Hoover Middle and Churchill High School, graduating in 1986. He attended Frostburg State University in a program for special needs students. His school journey was both challenging and frustrating. School psychologists and staff thought he might be dyslexic and/or possess a number of other learning disabilities yet his IQ placed him in the gifted range. For Rubin, it was a relief when he was finally diagnosed with high-functioning autism — or Asperger’s syndrome in 2002.
Rubin became interested in plants at the age of 10 when his family visited Disney’s Epcot Center. He observed plants growing without soil and was fascinated. When they returned home, he learned as much as he could about hydroponic gardening and created his own home nursery. He moved to the Netherlands for 10 years where he honed his gardening skills and ran a small coffee shop called the Twilight Zone in Amsterdam. When he returned to the U.S., he was finally identified as having Asperger’s syndrome. With the help of the Department of Rehabilitation Services (DORS), he enrolled in RISE (Reach Independence Through Self-Employment) — a program for disabled individuals who have a desire to start their own businesses but need direction and support.
“Through DORS, I met the most important mentor of my life — Dusty Rhodes. With his help, I was able to take classes that taught me how to develop a business plan and how to interact with and hire people to help me. Accountants, lawyers and bankers need to be sensitive to the unique aspects of Asperger’s syndrome. I’ve still been in contact with Dusty over the last 10 years.”
Rubin launched Maryland Hydroponics in 2003. Within six months, he had outgrown the space. “Business has grown each year and we have expanded to three stores — one in Laurel, one in Falls Church, Va. and one in Negril, Jamaica. “Some of our items include water filtration systems, hid lighting, hydro systems, American medicinal art glass vaporizers and one of the largest liquid organic plant food selections on the east coast,” he said. One motto of his business is that they offer the “Lowest Guaranteed Prices on Planet Earth.” Supplies can be purchased in the store or on the internet at www.dchydro.com.
For the first 24 months while opening his business, Rubin worked 100-hour work weeks. The business grew from a 700-square-foot business space to 4,900. He has twice been honored by the State of Maryland as “Maryland Small Business Owner with a Disability” for 2006 and 2007. The Progressive Gardening Trade Association gave Maryland Hydroponics an award for best TV commercial in 2004, 2005 and 2007.
In his spare time, Rubin enjoys his family, friends, cooking and travel. He is also giving back as a member of the board of directors of the Itineris Foundation. Itineris is a non-profit organization which serves adults with autism in the Baltimore region by providing community-based services to adults with autism spectrum disorders. Rubin also supports Camp Fantastic as a sponsor for the kick-off cook-out given by the Olney Rotary Club for the children and the doctors and nurses from NIH who provide treatment for the youngsters at the camp. Camp Fantastic is a week-long camp for children with cancer. He is also an avid gardener. His azalea gardens are featured on a local garden tour every year.
Rubin’s mother now has a new motto: “If you have a problem, find a solution.” Rubin’s solution was to discover a passion — and start a company doing what he loved. After working hard, Maryland Hydroponics has become both a successful business and an ongoing hobby.
Maryland Hydroponics Falls Church is located at 1061 B West Broad Street in Falls Church, Va. Phone: 866-DC-HYDRO. The Maryland location is 10051 North 2nd Street in Laurel. Phone: 1-301-490-9236. The Jamaican location is Maryland Hydroponics Express, Negril, West End Westmoreland, Jamaica. Phone: 876-485-0713. This store carries a smaller selection as well as smaller sized bottles of plant food.