SOME childhood habits die hard. 18-year-old Matthew Richardson of Shelburne, NS has never quite managed to outgrow his love of climbing trees. In fact, he recently turned his passion for the woods into a thriving business.
Founded in April 2005, Richardson’s Yardwork provides a range of landscaping services with a specialty in tree management - from pruning and thinning to planting and felling.
While the company started out offering traditional yard services such as lawn mowing, Matthew soon saw opportunity in heavier tree work. “Not many people offer the kind of service I provide,” he says. “It’s something that makes my business a little different from everyone else’s.”
The leap from yard work to tree work was a fairly simple one for Matthew. Growing up, he was no stranger to trees. He began working at a local Christmas tree farm at the age of 14. Through his work, he learned how to properly plant, fertilize and prune trees, and safely operate dangerous equipment including wood chippers and chain saws. And perhaps most importantly, he discovered a passion for the woods.
“Working outside in fresh air, surrounded by trees – there’s nothing like it,” Matthew says. “I never watch the clock. I really enjoy my work.”
His former boss was so impressed with Matthew’s business that he put him in touch with a tree farm operator in Ontario. In February, Matthew temporarily closed his business and began a two-month apprenticeship in Elmira, ON. Working closely with the tree farm operator, Matthew literally learned the ropes of tree management.
Since the pruning of mature trees often requires tree workers to trim branches and limbs up to 20ft in the air, some of Matthew’s early training was in harness construction and safety. He learned how to create the special knots and cinches that allow him to hoist himself up and down trees and safely prune unwanted branches – no matter how high they are.
Beyond the basics of tree management, Matthew says that shadowing a successful entrepreneur exposed him to the harsh realities of running a business. Two weeks after he began his apprenticeship, his crew was heading to their first job of the day. While en route, one of Matthew’s co-workers - who was driving a brand new $50,000 wood chipper, hit an unexpected snow bank and flipped over, causing extensive damage to the machine. The driver was uninjured, but Matthew says his boss was faced with a heavy repair bill.
“That really taught me that in business, you have to be prepared for the unexpected,” Matthew says. “At the end of the day you only have yourself to rely on, so you better have something saved to cover the expenses you never thought you’d have.”
Matthew says the Students in Business program has been essential in assisting him cover the heavy costs of starting a business. From tools and equipment to business training, the program’s financial assistance made it possible for him to get his business going.
“My business wouldn’t have grown as fast without SIB,” he says. “I just wouldn’t have been able to access the equipment I needed.”
Matthew says he sees entrepreneurship as an integral part of his future. “I love being able to make my own decisions and make my own way,” he says. While he’s gearing up for another successful summer season, he’s also looking forward to hitting the books (and trees) again this fall, when he starts a Forest Technician program in New Brunswick.
Looks like tree climbing is one habit this entrepreneur will never have to grow out of.
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