Small business report: A growing business

Lawn and garden company Clean Air Yard Care eyeing the Lower Mainland for expansion

Clean Air Yard Care solar-charges its equipment on location

Victoria's Clean Air Yard Care Inc. is poised to make it big – not only on Vancouver Island but right across Canada. Founded by Barry McLean in 2010, Clean Air Yard Care offers residential and commercial yard and garden services in a sustainable and pollution-free way.

In the past three years the company has been recognized several times. In 2011 it received the Capital Regional District (representing 13 municipalities) EcoStar Award and an honourable mention from the BC Landscape and Nursery Association. And in 2012 it netted the District of Saanich Sustainable Business Practices and Green Energy Leadership Award.

This year, Clean Air Yard Care was a top-five finalist for the Successful You Awards presented by Small Business BC. Small Business BC communications manager Sara Couper said finalists in each category go through a rigorous selection process.

This year, 172 businesses from across the province entered. Once accepted, each business had to get support from the local community. A panel of judges narrowed the categories down to five finalists that made a live presentation at the Small Business BC offices.

Although the business didn't win at the Successful You event, Couper was impressed with

Richard Larkin's pitch for Clean Air Yard Care.

"He came in with a lawn edger and turned it on in the room to make the point of how quiet it is compared to industrial machines," said Couper. "Their whole business is about air and noise pollution. It was great that they did that. They are definitely very passionate about their business."

Larkin joined the company as president and CEO in 2012. He said that being a finalist in the Successful You Awards was strategically significant.

"If we want to be known for something, we want to be known as the best green business. The green category was all about greenhouse gas emission reduction so that was the perfect fit for us."

In addition to running the battery-powered edger to impress, McLean and Larkin also have a PowerPoint presentation and a short video of the alternative lawn and garden machines – noisy, gas and fume-emitting monsters by comparison. "They really get the point," Larkin said.

McLean started the business shortly after arriving in Victoria from Manitoba where his family operated an organic farm. With his background, he wanted to work outdoors and start an environmentally friendly business.

In consultation with We Go Solar, a Vancouver Island solar energy company, he created a mobile trailer with solar roof panels to charge the batteries on his lawn and garden machines. McLean initially targeted residential homeowners for his pollution-free service. Larkin said that strata and commercial clients, like Rogers' Chocolates, quickly came on board.

Larkin and McLean licensed their first franchisee in May in the Gordon Head/Oak Bay area of Victoria. Negotiations are also underway with a second franchisee in Vancouver.

"We're going to start on the Island and the Lower Mainland this year and get at least our first half dozen franchises up and running," Larkin said. "Even in the next three or four years, we conservatively figure we'll have 30 to 40 franchises in British Columbia and, five to 10 years out, a minimum of 100 franchises to about 250 right across Canada." •

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