The Landscaping Business: Plants, Engineering, Marketing, and More
PelotonPosts is a monthly interview with a member of PelotonLabs, a co-working community in Portland’s West End. This month, Peloton’s founder Liz Trice caught up with Keith Stone, founder of landscaping business Pinnacle Landscape and Design, pinnaclemaine.com.
Liz: How did you come to start a landscaping business?
Keith: I got transferred to Maine as a civil engineer in 2004, and wasn’t intending to stay, but really liked it. Later, I took a sabbatical in 2010 to travel in Latin America and quickly got laid off from the job I took when I got back. And I had been thinking about landscaping a lot. I really enjoy it, and when I got laid off I thought I might enjoy working outside for the summer. I really enjoyed it and decided to stick with it.
Liz: What do you like about your work? Where did you learn about plants?
Keith: I enjoy the creativity doing the design, and the problem solving of the engineering and installation part. Sometimes we do installation for other landscape designers, like Soren DeNoird. I worked at a garden center for 4 years in high school, and worked for other landscaping companies. We have collaborated with talented plant designers that specialize in specific types of plants for some projects, and we’re always developing and refining our palate of plants that we like working with and do well in this climate. In fact, 90% of our plantings are native plants.
Liz: How big is your company? What types of projects are you working on?
Keith: The economy was stagnant when we started, so it got a slow start. Just me and one or two guys for a few years. Now I have four or five people working for me. I’ve been focused on becoming more efficient with the people I hire and the equipment we use. Now we focus on design and creation of large scale outdoor spaces for residential projects. A typical project for us takes two to eight weeks, has some kind of hardscape / outdoor living space and incorporates plants and lights. These projects are fun to create and design, and the end result has big impacts.
Liz: In fact, you’ve hired other Peloton members to help you with your landscaping business.
Keith: Yes, we hired members to do market research and social media, and I’ve had conversations that have helped me make good decisions about money, time management and marketing strategy just from bumping into other people. For example, at one point we were considering an expensive proposal to get a new logo, but it wasn’t really going to help us with marketing. Through talking to other members I figured out a better way to go. There are lots of advantages of just working around other smart people. Running a business by yourself without a partner or formal business education is a challenge. It’s good to have someone to bounce ideas off of.
Liz: Ultimately, what’s on the horizon for you?
Keith: More traveling – I like Latin America, and I want to contribute these skills in international settings. Also, we’re often working with architects and builders, so we’re starting to feel part of the network of people making things happen in Southern Maine.