Stacey Marcell, a licensed arborist with over 20 years of experience, founded Northeast Horticultural Services (NHS) in 2008. She never envisioned she would be opening her own business. However, with the birth of her first child, she had to take matters into her own hands.
Stacey had many years of previous experience working for a local Fairfield County tree service. She enjoyed the work and was routinely obtaining great results for her customers. When she became a mom, she felt it was the right time to go into business on her own. She knew if she was able to work that hard for somebody else, she could certainly do it for herself and be more in control of her own destiny. She purchased two trucks with her savings and Northeast Horticultural was born.
Luckily for Stacey, it did not take long for word to get out. She had enjoyed a wonderful relationship with many of the contacts she had with the former business. Many of those customers sought Stacey out and moved their business to her newly-formed company. She also solicited significant new business and, by the end of her second year of business, she had exceeded $1 million in revenues.
Growing her business and revenues also meant growing her team. The small company soon had over a dozen employees. Since some of those new hires had experience in tree care, Stacey invested in a bucket truck and chipper and began to include tree services in her offering.
NHS was handling mainly residential work when they looked into bidding on a landscaping project for the CT Science Center. While they didn’t win the bid, they learned about the State of CT Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) program. This program is run by the State Department of Transportation and ensures a level playing field for economically challenged firms in competing for USDOT contracts. Once qualified for the program, each federally funded DOT project sets aside a certain amount of the contract to be filled by DBE-qualified firms.
NHS began to enter the commercial bidding realm and learned that they still had a lot to learn despite being a DBE-qualified firm. Stacey worked with the Greater New England Minority Supplier Development Council, to learn more about becoming a part of the commercial sector. The very first DBE contract Stacey’s team ever signed was for $1.8M. Over the last several years, NHS has become more involved with state, municipal and commercial contracting.
“Around this time last year, I was in search of a bank who wanted to work with me, who could see the viable business that I ran, and wanted to help me,” shared Stacey. “I had just finished paying off an equipment consolidation loan with my current bank, and I wanted to consolidate my remaining equipment loans to free up working capital. With more state and municipal work, I also needed a line of credit, but my business was not being taken seriously by the financial institution I had been working with. A broker who was showing me properties for my business mentioned Chelsea Groton and shared SBA 504 details. Representatives from Chelsea Groton visited my office, and they treated me with the respect of a valid business person. The Bank was supportive of me, my business and my needs from the very first meeting.”
“We were struck by Stacey’s passion for her profession, passion for her team, and the potential growth of her business,” expressed Jay McGuinness, VP, Commercial Loan Officer. “We wanted to be able to work with her and support her to help her business grow.”
The first step was to set up a C&I term loan in order to refinance the loans Stacey had on five commercial vehicles and one fertilization/pesticide spray system. In addition, Stacey was in need of a C&I line of credit to provide short-term working capital to help with all of her new contacts.
The line of credit “kept the ship afloat” according to Stacey. She went on to explain, “We weren’t paid for the three months at the end of the State of CT’s fiscal year on our large state job. This meant that in June, July and August, while we were taking on the highest expenses in the company’s history to pay for trees, shrubs, employee salaries, equipment, insurance and more, we weren’t receiving a dime. Our line of credit was critical to keeping the business in the black and our team compensated for their hard work, until we were paid in September.”
“The commercial sector is very different from residential. You need access to liquid cash flow,” explained Stacey. “The learning curve on the business side of being an arborist has been very challenging. Planning, budgeting, forecasting, and finding the right team of professional partnerships, including the right bank, makes all the difference as I work to achieve my dreams.”
In addition to the loans Stacey was in need of, she was looking for efficiencies in her daily banking as well. Jay introduced Stacey to Alexis Kahn, Business Services Support & Project Manager at Chelsea Groton.
“Alexis was super helpful. She trained me on everything, and then went through everything with my office manager, all on our site. There is no branch in close proximity to us, which concerned me at first, but Alexis and the team provide prompt, speedy service,” shared Stacey. “My office manager and I are saving time normally spent driving to branches a few days a week; now we can make all our deposits from our office and check our accounts in real-time through the online banking platform. Change is hard, but it’s been so great, that I’m wondering why I didn’t do it sooner.”
NHS Services Today
“Having a good professional team, your bank, accountant, and attorney can make or break a small business. I feel everything falling into place. When you feel like people are backing you, it pushes you to want to do better and show everyone their faith in you is well founded. I’m able to grow as a business and CEO and I can work on those things, because I have the right people in place,” shared Stacey.
Today, NHS is a full-service operation, focused on landscape design, install, and maintenance, as well as fully comprehensive tree care services. The company is an Organic Accredited Land Care Provider through Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA), and is one of only 10 businesses in Connecticut who is accredited with the Tree Care Industry Association.
NHS is currently growing out of their rented space, and is in the process of purchasing two acres in Milford, backed by a 504 loan with Chelsea Groton Bank. Stacey plans to construct an 8,000 square foot office and conditioned warehouse space on the property, and to use remaining land to house materials in order to take on additional commercial projects.
Currently, NHS does most work in Fairfield and New Haven counties, but has hopes for moving east along the coastline and toward Hartford in the future, and they believe they have a big opportunity over the next few years with planned infrastructure updates.
“In addition to wanting to see my business continue to grow, I want my business to be a place where my team wants to come every day. I love what I do, and I want to make sure everyone around me feels just as good about the work they do and their employer. I also hope to offer benefits for young women, such as maternity leave, in order to let women know they have a place in this industry,” Stacey added.