Member Stories

Abby Santos, No Ka Oi Landscape Services

Abby Santos moved to the Hawaiian Island of Kauai in the 1970s with plans of becoming a nurse. Plans changed. She quickly fell in love with the breathtaking plant life the Garden Island was known for. She also fell in love with a local named Frank whom she'd met in college. The two would eventually become not only husband and wife, but also business partners.

"Frank was working in a restaurant when I met him," Abby says. "The restaurant had a lot of indoor plants that employees would water with ice cubes. Frank asked, 'Why don't you let me take care of the plants?' I often helped him and fell in love with it. Interior plants were a big thing at the time. From there we began servicing many of the hotels and restaurants in the area. That's how it all started."

Being self-employed afforded the flexibility a career in nursing wouldn't. "I had also become a mom and wanted to take care of my babies," she says. "I used to drag my children around with me when we were doing plant rentals. We loved it."

Over the next several years, commercial development on Kauai took off. The Island blossomed, as did Abby and Frank's business. No Ka Oi Plants evolved into No Ka Oi Landscape Services. Abby says one of the smartest decisions she ever made was investing several thousand dollars in that rebranding effort. It was around the 2009 timeframe when the economy was slipping into recession.

"I could see the development taking place on the island, and knew there was going to be a lot of demand for landscaping services," Abby says. "We needed a brand that clearly said who we were and what we did. So we hired a professional and changed it. When other landscaping companies were pulling back and struggling, we started to grow. I think I had to use my credit card to help pay for that rebranding, but it definitely paid off."

Another game-changing decision was when Abby decided to join the NALP. "We love their Safe Company Program and got into that right away," she says. "Doing so has helped get our workers' comp modification rate down to like 0.8, which helps us save money on insurance."

Abby has also benefited from NALP's "Business in a Box" suite of management resources. "We utilize the proposal format which I know has helped us get jobs," Abby says. "We also use their job descriptions."

Events have also proved beneficial. "We've gone to the LANDSCAPES conference five times now," Abby says. "I'd always wanted to go, but it can be expensive traveling from Hawaii to Louisville, Kentucky. We decided to try it and it was amazing. We learned so much and met so many great people, including a wonderful consultant we later brought into our business to help implement a quality control program. Looking back, I'm so glad we finally decided to attend that show. I just wish we had done so a lot sooner."