Ziggy Talaska is only 25, but he’s worked in the trades for a decade. At age 15, he was framing drywall and building decks. By age 18, he was coordinating jobs for another contractor.
“I grew up seeing my dad and uncle building fences and decks and I got involved,” says Talaska. “Their handiness rubbed off on me.”
At age 22 and armed with a business diploma, Talaska decided the timing was right to start HBC Landscaping Limited with a partner. The Stouffville-based company provides a host of services ranging from property maintenance and snow removal to pool demolition and fence and deck installation.
Talaska had also recently completed the Starter Company (now Starter Company Plus) program, which the York Small Business Enterprise Centre (YSBEC) administers through funding from the Ministry of Economic Development and Growth. The program provides financial help, professional mentoring and other assistance to Ontario residents who want to start or expand a business in the province.
Starter Company proved to be a bit of a reality check for Talaska. With the help of the program’s consultants, he put together a business plan that included two-year sales projections. “That helped bring me down to earth,” says Talaska, “and showed me what it was going to cost to do business—what kind of money I needed to make. It was really eye-opening.”
The program also gave him an opportunity to meet other small business owners. It was at one of these networking events that Talaska met an insurance broker who helped him navigate around the hurdles of getting vehicle insurance. “We were a new business, young guys,” says Talaska. “It was really hard for us. But sure enough, he came through and got us a really good policy. He insures all of our trucks and equipment.”
In addition to its three trucks and three trailers, HBC Landscaping Limited owns a skid-steer loader for clearing and levelling land. And because Talaska qualified for $5,000 in funding through the Starter Company program, the company recently purchased a ride-on lawnmower.
Talaska and his partner also took the big step of hiring because their customer list had doubled in 12 months. “Last year, we were working seven days a week, which was great,” says Talaska, “but it got to the point where we were having to turn down work.” With three more employees, HBC Landscaping Limited is in a better position to expand its commercial clientele, which includes banks, storage facilities, gas stations, hotels and shopping plazas, as well as its residential customer base.
The company has also stepped up its advertising and has plastered its logo on its trucks. In the landscaping field, says Talaska, “there are a lot of ‘fly-by-nighters’.” By increasing HBC Landscaping Limited’s visibility, he says, it sends a clear message: “We’re here, and we’re not going anywhere!”