A small business in a small community, Blenheim-based Vavasour Landscapes believes in selling visions it can deliver by combining the beautiful with the practical
One of Registered Master Landscapers’ newer members, the business has been creating enticing and liveable areas for Marlborough residents since it was founded by Andrew Vavasour in 2011.
“Our goal is to create landscapes and outdoor spaces where clients can enjoy interacting with family, friends and the surrounding environment,” says Andrew, who worked in agriculture and land-based industries for 15 years before starting his own company.
“It’s not just about selling a vision on paper – it’s about designing and creating an outdoor space that people truly love being part of.”
Love of the outdoors is something Andrew has always related to – his affinity for plants and landscapes was seeded by living on a family farm in the Awatere Valley during his childhood, with school holidays spent helping on the farm or in the homestead’s extensive gardens.
Andrew completed a degree in Agriculture, majoring in soils and plants, and, after finishing a Postgraduate Certificate in Business, he channelled his skills and experience into starting his own company.
Nearly a decade later, many homes and businesses in the Marlborough region have benefitted from his love of outdoor spaces and deep understanding of how plants grow.
Playing to your strengths
While the company is nearing its ten-year milestone, its team is half that number.
“We’re a fairly small outfit,” explains Kate Vavasour, a landscape designer, who joined the business four years ago.
“In addition to myself and Andrew, we have a landscape builder, a landscape labourer and apprentice, plus a part-timer who completes our maintenance. We have a highly skilled group of subcontractors, but we are firm believers in
focusing energy on what we do best and leaving other work to those who have the highest skills.”
This means using an accountant for payroll, and a health and safety advisor.
“It means we have time to focus on the clients and ensuring their projects turn out as they imagined,” says Kate. “Andrew is great with clients because he genuinely loves seeing people’s projects brought to life and he really understands how things grow.”
Kate says initial client visits don’t end when they drive away.
“We are very aware of managing expectations, so we always tell clients that we will go back to the office, review all the details, and ensure it can proceed as discussed. We believe it’s better to let someone know if something might not be feasible early and come up with an alternative, instead of causing disappointment down the road.”
Towards the end of 2018, Andrew and Kate started to look for more ways to invest in their industry.
“Staffing has always been tricky, and we believe the barriers to attracting good employees are two-fold,” says Kate.
“First of all, landscaping isn’t always viewed as the professional occupation it is. People seem to think of it as hard labour, but there’s so much more to it than that – design, soil science, plant biology and even engineering. It’s a lot more mentally stimulating than some think.
“Secondly, because some landscaping businesses are small, they feel they have time to train apprentices, which means there aren’t many qualified landscapers around.”
To play their part in helping to change perceptions, Vavasour Landscapes decided to become aligned with Registered Master Landscapers.
“We wanted to belong to an association committed to promoting the professionalism of the industry. For landscapers, that’s Registered Master Landscapers. We believe it sends a positive message to our clients, who appreciate that we want to be part of, and accountable to, something bigger.”
However, Kate says it’s not all about perception – growing professionalism within the industry means supporting those who want to become part of it, such as apprentices.
“We are currently training Melanie Fisher, a first-year apprentice and we hope that, when she moves on, she’ll take that knowledge with her and train another, starting a ripple effect in elevating the professionalism of the industry.”