C3 Industries outgrew its backyard shed in months; now it employs a staff of 20
When Martin and Trish Hahn took over the landscaping business C3 Industries in 2017, they decided to run it from a small shed in their backyard.
It only took about three months for them to realize they’d underestimated the local need for their services and the company’s growth potential.
“We didn’t think it was going to be as big a business as it turned out to be,” said Trish. “We ended up kind of exploding that year and had very kind neighbours who dealt with trucks and trailers on the street and in driveways.”
A year later they took over the lease of their present location, which previously housed Westminster Rentals, and last June they bought the building.
For five years before the Hahns took over C3, it was owned by Collin Kirtzinger and his wife, Ashleigh, who ran it from their home. In fact the name “C3” originally stood for “Collin’s Creative Concepts.”
When Kirtzinger’s wife, an RCMP member, was being transferred, Martin expressed an interest in taking it on. He worked with Kirtzinger during the 2017 season and the Hahns purchased the business in November 2017.
“We found out very quickly in that first year that there was such a need for the service,” said Trish. “For lawnmowing, for cleanups, for hedge pruning, and irrigation.”
At the time, she said, there wasn’t a larger, established company providing these services.
“There’s lots of guys with pickup trucks and some equipment in the back,” she said, adding that some of those people have since retired in the past five years.
Early on, the Hahns were approached by Spirit Ridge for a maintenance contract. Since then, they’ve also obtained a maintenance contract with the Watermark Beach Resort, as well as contracts with some of the larger stratas.
This past fall, C3 Industries obtained a contract to rebuild the 1.5 km boardwalk at the Osoyoos Desert Centre.
They’ve been able to handle the demands of these contracts by attracting and retaining excellent staff.
“We just seem to have the capacity to attract the staff and hold onto them,” said Trish. “We have a couple of people who have been here with us since the beginning, which is really interesting for seasonal work.”
Martin, 53, was born in Austria and came to Canada at age 12. He lived in Calgary, moving to Osoyoos in 2000.
Trish, 46, grew up in Fort Nelson in BC’s north, and she also lived in Alberta before coming to Osoyoos in 2009.
The couple met in Osoyoos, a community they both love.
While neither was directly involved in landscaping, Martin worked in forestry and as a park ranger, where he learned about plants and botany. He has experience with renewable resource management.
“It [C3 Industries] seemed like a good fit [for Martin],” said Trish. “He’s a handy guy. He can fix anything and has an eye for detail.”
Martin also owned Meadowlark Picture Framing for a number of years, a company he sold last fall.
Trish, who looks after administration, has a very different background. She was trained in psychology and adult education and worked in mental health for children and adults before moving to Osoyoos, where she did a stint in the wine industry.
Today they employ about 20 people full-time during the season, which officially lasts from March 1 to October 31 for commercial contracts, but depending on weather, can last considerably longer.
Their services include residential properties, commercial properties, irrigation, fencing and railings, and work with retaining walls and patio stones.
The contract for the boardwalk at the Desert Centre was a step in a slightly different direction, although Martin had worked with boardwalk building at parks on Vancouver Island.
“We saw it as an opportunity to keep our business going throughout the off-season and to give some employment to the guys who wanted it,” said Trish. “And to have a legacy community project.”
There were challenges. They couldn’t start work until late October after the Desert Centre shut down for the season. Then, in one of the coldest winters in many years, there was a time when the ground was too frozen, and it was too cold for outside work.
Only thanks to “the amazing crew” were they able to make up for lost time and get the work done not too long after the scheduled March 31 completion date.
The biggest challenge, however, was removing and replacing the boardwalk on environmentally sensitive land. They couldn’t just bring in a truck. They had to work within the footprint of the old boardwalk.
Instead, they removed the 1.5 km old boardwalk and brought in new materials by helicopter. Trish believes they got the contract because of Martin’s ingenious solution of working with Oliver-based Transwest Helicopters.
The 23-year-old pressure-treated wood was carefully removed, and in its place, C3 Industries used concrete blocks, wood framing, and a Fiberon composite decking.
“For the community, the Desert Centre is a way for us to show off the uniqueness of where we live,” said Trish. “It’s such a unique space in the world, for locals and tourists.”
The publicity has also been a big boost for C3 Industries, she added.
“I know that we’re going to be getting calls to do decks as soon as that’s open and people see what we’ve done,” she added.
The project has also enabled the couple to take on a renovation project in the upstairs of their building to develop some staff accommodation – something they say Osoyoos is lacking.
For now though, the focus is on intelligently managing the company’s growth while maintaining safety and continuing to do a great job.
“Martin’s tagline is ‘it’s never good enough,’” said Trish. “We don’t want to ever hear that from anybody, ‘that’s good enough.’ No it’s not. It needs to be great.”
Story and photos by Richard McGuire
C3 Industries Landscaping and Property Maintenance
6015 Lakeshore Drive
Osoyoos, BC V0H 1V1