Vernon’s Nick Moffat comes by his profession honestly. Having grown up in his parents’ garden centre, it was a natural progression for him to work his way up in the industry, first as a landscaper and now as the owner of Nicholas Alexander Home & Garden.
“I worked at the garden centre my whole childhood,” explains Moffat, who leases the same property along the Swan Lake Auto Mile where his parents, Scott and Juanita, operated Art Knapp Plantland for nearly 30 years. “I started selling hot dogs in front of the store when I was 10 because I wanted to buy a snowboard. I did it for three seasons, and then I started in the garden centre in customer service.”
Moffat, now 31, went from sweeping floors and helping customers carry their purchases, to eventually managing the store for four years until his parents closed it in 2013. He says he would have loved to take over the family business then, but adds: “It just wasn’t in the cards at that moment in time to take it on.”
Instead, Moffat and his wife, Jamee, started Nicholas Alexander Landscaping in 2015. To get it started, though, they needed some capital. That’s when the Community Futures Loans Program entered the picture.
“I knew Rob Short (loans coordinator) from previous endeavours and came to him with my business proposal,” says Moffat. “I supplied the numbers and he helped me through it and got me started with a business start-up loan.”
That loan helped the Moffats purchase the landscaping tools, trailers and truck he needed to begin operating. They haven’t looked back since.
“It got us off the ground,” says Moffat. “It was just a really big help because we were growing at such a rapid pace. Even after the first season, we doubled our crew. We needed more tools, more equipment…more of everything. That loan helped us achieve that.”
Rob Short, loans coordinator at Community Futures North Okanagan, says Nick’s passion for his business is exemplary.
“His professional approach to providing solutions to his clients’ needs is paramount to Nick and his team, which, in turn, has resulted in the business receiving award-winning recognition in the market place. Community Futures is very pleased to have been able to help Nick with his ‘growing’ business.”
The business grew to the point where the Moffats needed a place to store their vehicles, equipment and plants. They approached Vernon Kia, which had acquired the property from Nick’s parents, about leasing the land. That eventually led to the idea of reopening the garden centre, which became a reality in spring 2017.
That’s a lot of growth in just a few short years, and the couple credits their supportive team for helping them pull it off. In particular, they were able to re-enlist many of the experienced garden centre staff that had worked at Art Knapp.
“We’re only four years in right now,” says Moffat, the grandson of former BC premier Bill Vander Zalm, who started out in the nursery business himself before entering politics. “The success we’ve had with the landscaping has helped get us where we are now.”
“It’s nice having the garden centre because our landscaping clients can come into the office, pay their bill, book other services and then shop for everything they need for their yard.”
“Our focus is to keep the garden centre as a place where people can come and get an honest opinion. We want them to be successful. We like to learn form the older gardeners and we like to teach the new.”
Both aspects of the Moffats’ business—the landscaping and garden centre—are thriving. In addition to receiving a lot of traffic and high praise at the newly renovated garden centre, Nicholas Alexander Landscaping has earned a pair of industry awards for their work on a high-end construction project. They collected both a Tommy (Okanagan-based) and Georgie (provincial) Award for Best Outdoor Space for collaborating with Bercum Builders on the Bella Vita residential project on Kalamalka Lake.
“Doing those kinds of homes, you get to put your stamp on it,” says Moffat, who operates a crew of 12 landscapers, which includes yard maintenance and irrigation services. “We’ve created a bit of a name for the quality that we’re doing. As a result, more and more of our year is getting booked for these bigger projects.”
Would a business loan help you or someone you know take your business to the next level? Community Futures offers business loans for most business-related purposes, including business start-up, seasonal requirements, working capital, and expansion. Learn more or contact our business services department at 250 545 2215 to see if we can help!