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From Teenager to Landscaper
The motivation to open my first company came from working a summer job in a vitamin factory when I was 15 years old, shipping out vitamin orders to health food stores. It was the year 1977. Every day at lunchtime, I would come outside to have my lunch, see the sunlight, and think, "what am I doing working inside all summer"! I loved being outdoors. So, at 16 years old, I started a landscaping company so I could enjoy being outside while working.
The following spring, I started a company called Student Grooming Company. First, I made up an advertising flyer and dropped it in the mailboxes of all the houses near where I lived, saying that I could fertilize their lawns. My neighbour was in the same business, and I asked him how much I should charge, and he even supplied me with wholesale fertilizer.
I got quite a few customers from this, and at one weekend, working 12 hours a day, I fertilized all my customers' lawns using my mother's car. I made enough that weekend to buy an old van the following week to take my lawnmowers and gardening equipment in so that I could advertise my lawn and garden maintenance service. Working for oneself can often bring great rewards compared to working for someone else.
At the end of the first year of my lawn and garden maintenance company, a client asked me to plant a hedge for them. I told them that I had never done something like that, but they said they were sure I would figure out how to do it and that they had confidence in me. I again asked my neighbour who had the landscaping company for help. We did the job together, splitting the profit. I enjoyed planting more than I did taking care of lawns and gardens, so I decided that day that I would start a landscape construction company the following summer. I named the company Sabra Landscaping.
My mom knew of someone that worked at a landscape nursery and was studying to be a landscape architect. I called her up and hired her part-time to design my future clients' gardens. I then put a flyer in people's mailboxes in an area where they had just built new houses. The phone started to ring, and before long, I had many customers hiring me to put in walkways and plants at the front of their new homes. Now that I had all these clients with booked jobs, I had to hire people who knew how to install these landscapes because I had no idea how to do it yet.
I put an ad in the newspaper and at the University of Guelph, where they had a landscape architecture program that I was hiring for landscape installations. Soon after, I hired three people who knew how to do this work. While in high school, I would visit clients after school and into the night, study between 9 pm and midnight, go to school during the day and check on my workers at lunchtime and after school. It was a full day for me. I had this business for four years, even while going to University. (Article below about this time)
1982 Article in North York Mirror
Through the next roughly 10-12 years after University and after I closed Sabra Landscaping, I worked for a few successful landscaping companies. Eventually, I started another company 28 years ago, the company I still run today, Green Apple Landscaping.