The season gets under way when merchandise starts showing up on store shelves right after Hallowe’en. Gradually it gains momentum and this week Port McNeill is positively buzzing with activity. Bucket trucks have been stringing lights downtown, imaginative displays are going up at local businesses and the special red post office box is ready for our letters to Santa.
Nothing beats Port McNeill’s small town, big spirited kick off to Christmas
Between now and December 25th there’s plenty to fill your calendar including: craft markets with artisans and food vendors, holiday movies at Gate House Theatre, official tree lighting ceremony, a parade, free skating sessions at Chilton Arena and plenty of chances to chat with Santa.
Rain or shine, come and help count down Christmas “light up” in front of IGA tomorrow night. Three local mompreneurs from 19 North Apparel are creating a decorated shelter with comfy chair so Santa can stay visit and have his picture taken. Bring your own camera — there’s no charge.
Don’t miss this special night of great deals, door prizes and sweet treats. Participating stores include:
Island Dawn’s Gift & Consignment
Shoprite Logging, Marine & Outdoor Sports
Tia’s Cafe — MJM Apparel will have a booth set up at Tia’s
The North Island Gazette has been raising funds for Christmas Hampers since 1980. With the strike between WFP and Logger’s Union now into its fifth month there are more North Islanders than ever struggling financially.
A new group called North & South VI Logging Communities United is also taking registrations for Christmas Hampers this year. Visit their website at: https://looniesforloggers.com/ This group has held numerous beer & burger fundraisers up and down the island and been collecting cash and food donations. Their trailer has visited Port McNeill once already and will be back again before Christmas.
Don’t miss Port McNeill’s biggest craft show of the year. Treat yourself to homemade treasures like jewelry, soaps & candles, clothing, paper crafts and edible delights by more than 50 vendors. At the Scout Hall next to the Old School have a browse through the annual fundraising garage sale and enjoy sweet treats & hot chocolate. We won’t make you guess who the special guest is — it’s SANTA. With another opportunity to tell him what’s on your list this year and have your picture taken.
Lunch includes Julia’s homemade peroghies and cabbage rolls — trust us when we say — delicious !!
For more information about events in other North Island communities have a look at this ultimate winter fun guide on Vancouver Island North Tourism’s webpage.
Always on the hunt for the next story I asked a friend if she had suggestions on which local business I could approach. Her immediate and enthusiastic response was Kirstin Baron from Green Baron Gardening. And then that thing happened. It happens to me all the time. That new name now on my radar keeps cropping up — on Facebook and in conversations.
Busy people, busy lives. It just wasn’t working out for Kirstin and I to meet face-to-face so she kindly answered my questions by email. Horror of all horrors they were lost in space the first time she sent them. I’m grateful she gave it another go — second time was the charm !!
A wonderful example of entrepreneurial spirit, I’ll let Kirstin tell you in her own words how a serendipitous gift gardening of tools, tremendous community support and an encouraging business mentor have all resulted in success.
Why are you in this type of business?
Because I had the schooling and work experience, and I saw a real need for it in our town!
What is your background, education, work experience?
My education background is in horticulture. I took 3 years of the Horticulture Apprentice course at Kwantlen College, focusing more on the greenhouse industry than landscaping. I also worked for a few nurseries during that time, in Surrey, Aldergrove and Nanaimo.
Can you provide me with a description of your business?
Yes, we are primarily a landscaping business, but have included other exterior services such as gutter cleaning and pressure washing homes and driveways.
How long have you been in business? In this business? In other businesses?
This is our second year in business as the Green Baron Gardening, and our first business!
How did you get started in this business?
I actually received a gift for a birthday a few years back that included some gardening tools and a wheelbarrow, as I was thinking about starting a gardening business at that time. So I used what I had and started slowly working casually for friends and family.
How did you get the background and skills necessary to run this type of business?
I believe a lot of it came from my schooling and work experience in the greenhouses. Some of it I learned as I went, and a few skills may have been bred into me, as my grandfather, mother and her siblings all have a green thumb.
Do you know who your competitors are?
Yes but I don’t consider them competitors. So far I have had a wonderful relationship with them, and we work together to help each other.
How do you market your business? How are people aware of your business?
Our main form of advertising is through our Facebook business page, but I have found that word of mouth may have been the biggest form of awareness for us!
Where do you see your business in the next year? In the next five years? The next ten years?
I see our business growing and diversifying to meet the needs of our clients on the North Island. It’s already changed so much from what I thought it would be. I also see my daughter taking over in the next 10 years — at least that’s what she wants. She has her mind made up already!
Whom do you seek advice from for your business?
First and foremost my business mentor. He’s been a great source of knowledge and encouragement. I also seek advice from my aunt who owns a large nursery in Lone Butte, my mom who is incredibly knowledgeable about all things garden, and my dad and 2 brothers who are also entrepreneurs.
Do you have employees? How many?
Not at this time, but we had 5 employees over the spring and summer. They were all wonderful!
Can you describe your customers?
Most of our customers are busy business owners themselves or work full-time and just don’t have the extra time to tend to their gardens or home exterior. Some are new moms or people who have injured themselves and need some extra help. I find a lot of our customers have one or 2 overwhelming projects that they want our help with.
What are the biggest issues for running this business?
Weather is probably the biggest issue! There are a few things we can still do in the rain but it makes most of our work very difficult.
What is the future for this type of business?
I think the future is bright as long as we work with our customers and their budget to provide quality services. There seems to be a need for these services.
What has been your greatest moment of success?
I really feel most successful when our customers are happy, and loving the work we’ve done.
What do you do to recharge when you’re feeling drained?
Taking a whole day off here and there to just relax is what I need! This type of work is hard on the body!
Can you share strategies for making the best use of your time?
Turn off the tv and close Facebook!
On October 20th at the Port McNeill & District Chamber of Commerce Recognition of Excellence Awards Gala I was taking pictures for the Chamber of Commerce. Jon Lok from Strategic Natural Resource Consultants was the presenter for New Small Business of the Year Award.
“This business is said to show excellent workmanship, care of their clients and great community spirit. This business has grown in the past year and now has several employees. They deliver quality work and always looks to layer new products to their business in order to remain sustainable. They understand the concept of starting small and growing with demand. The winner of the New Business of the Year award is: The Green Baron Gardening Services.”
Since I first approached Kirstin about this article, her husband Matt power-washed & removed pounds of disgusting gunk from our gutters. Two more names to add to their expanding list of happy customers !!
Their services include: weeding, mowing, spring & fall clean-up, pruning, landscaping, yard waste removal, sod, lawn care, sweeping & line painting of parking lots, pressure washing buildings & driveways.