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Young Entrepreneur of the Year: Krista Hedican

This work is emblematic of Hedican’s ability to defy expectations. This is particularly true as a young woman in a male-dominated industry, something of which she is acutely and constantly aware.

What began as a summer job en route to a career in nursing has blossomed into a horticultural heaven for Timmins’ Krista Hedican.

From growing and planting flowers to installing pools, the 26-year-old owner of Pizzale Gardens and Landscaping has her green thumbs planted deep into every aspect of her flourishing business.

“I really thought it would be a part-time thing for me,” said a chuckling Hedican, who runs the only local and privately owned garden centre in the city.

“I didn’t really foresee that I’d be doing it full-time, but that’s eventually what I pushed to do. As much as some days I think, ‘Oh my God, what am I doing?’, I also realize I pretty much have it made as I get to work outside every day.”

This young entrepreneur’s first brush with the business came at the age of 13, when she began working as a summer student for Pizzale Gardens’ previous owners to help fund her fondness for ski racing. After seven summers and an additional year at a rival landscaping firm following the closure of Pizzale, the opportunity arose to snap up the property and the 30-year-old name of her former employer.

As a 21-year-old nursing student with no business training, the idea of heading up her own garden centre seemed foreign to Hedican. Still, running something that could feed nicely into Davidson Earthscape Services, the landscaping firm belonging to her husband-to-be, Alex Davidson, proved too attractive a proposition to pass up.

With start-up loans in hand and guidance from local business leaders, she purchased the four-acre site and associated building, whose upper floor she moved into as a cost-saving measure.

Since then, she’s dedicated to doing things differently than the previous owners, growing everything but trees in her seven greenhouses. She’s also expanded the landscaping services, which now make up half her business through the installation of items such as ponds and fountains from Hearst to Sudbury.

In 2009, the company secured a contract to provide product to the City of Timmins, the first time in 47 years it was awarded to a local greenhouse.

Under Hedican’s watch, the company has also secured similar product and planting services contracts with the municipal housing authority.

Partnerships with other local firms have taken root, leading to participation in a research project with forestry research firm Mikro-Tek to test the ability of cattails to absorb toxic metals from former mine sites.

This level of local activity has led to such rapid growth that Hedican soon found herself competing for the same contracts as her husband. The two companies shared increasingly closer links, each being run out of the same property and making use of the other’s vehicles, despite using individual bookkeepers and marketing campaigns.

In 2009, the two came to realize that “united we stand” is a mantra not only for marriage but for business as well. They merged, and Pizzale Gardens and Landscaping was born.

The company now employs 16 full-time staff through the summer months. This number sinks to six in the winter, when snow removal becomes the priority

In the meantime, the growth of Pizzale Gardens and Landscaping continues unabated.

Last year, Hedican partnered with Fun Swim Pools Inc., a local company selling, installing and servicing in- and above-ground pools. This year, Hedican bought out the partnership and absorbed the company, inspired by her belief in its ability to complement Pizzale Gardens’ burgeoning service offerings.

This faith paid off, with the company having since obtained the contract to install three fibreglass pools for Cedar Meadows Resort’s new Scandinavian spa. This marks the first commercial pool installation in the city in more than 35 years.

This work is emblematic of Hedican’s ability to defy expectations. This is particularly true as a young woman in a male-dominated industry, something of which she is acutely and constantly aware.

Indeed, given her hands-on approach to the business, Hedican has found herself tested by those who perceive her gender as an opportunity to talk down her prices.

“That, for me, has been the biggest challenge, I think,’ says Hedican, who adds the experience has emboldened her as both a businesswoman and a person.