How K&D Landscaping planted success in their own backyard
What started as a part-time lawn mowing gig back in 1986 has now evolved into a thriving, family-owned and operated business on the Central Coast. K&D Landscaping’s success story is one that is built on core company values and local community connection.
Professionalism, Teamwork, Humility, Hunger, Safety, and Respect.
These are the core family values that K&D Landscaping was founded on thirty-four years ago. Kendel and Dawn White’s hard work and persistence became the backbone of the values that K&D exemplifies today. Three decades and over 90 employees later, what started as a part-time lawn mowing gig has blossomed into a homegrown business success story and a landscaping industry leader.
What guides and motivates this expanding team is its commitment to a set of the six family core values. These principles are embodied in every aspect of K&D: from hiring to offering free training and advancement for employee growth.
Take Jessica Wendt, for example. Wendt, Kendel and Dawn’s niece, has been involved with the company for over six years. She started as an office assistant and has worked her way up to become the head of the administrative department, a role in which she oversees HR, finance, and customer service.
In fact, Wendt spearheaded K&D’s COVID-19 response plan and has been instrumental in keeping employees and clients safe. When the coronavirus began to gain momentum in California, Wendt understood that a swift and proactive response was the only option. She quickly began to work with the leadership team to develop new safety protocols. She recalled,
Almost overnight we had to close the office and all work remotely. I was worried about how the team would respond, but everyone did great. I think it’s due to our strong culture and teamwork that has helped us transition so smoothly to working remotely.
— Jessica Wendt
K&D’s CEO Justin White quickly established a weekly conference call with over 15 local landscape companies through the California Landscape Contractors Association (CLCA). As the local CLCA chapter president for the last three years, White guided a weekly call discussing how to keep employees safe, how the shelter-in-place order affects operations, and how to deal with environmental challenges like wildfires and smoke.
As a second-generation CEO, White has built upon his family’s legacy of landscaping success, along with his siblings, Shane and Kelsie White. The key: carrying on the company values K&D was first founded on.
Pre-pandemic, there were multiple BBQs, parties, and children-friendly functions throughout the year. The hope was for every employee who puts a K&D shirt on their back to feel part of one big, supportive family.
Shane explained how his parents embraced this mindset and how it has been carried down to them, “This philosophy has treated us well and helped us become very successful. We understand that people are the most important part of any business.”
From the moment we interview a future employee, to their five, ten or thirty-year review, they are considered family.
— Shane White, Maintenance Department Leader and second oldest of the White siblings
K&D’s mission to “raise the bar” also means creating a positive impact through community beautification projects. Throughout the year, K&D works with schools, centers, and non-profit organizations that are in need of landscaping services, donating materials, and labor costs to help them complete projects.
Most recently, K&D partnered with a Santa Cruz local Girl Scout Seri Thompson, to build an outdoor oasis for the Siena House, a non-profit organization that provides housing, resources, and teaches self-sufficiency skills to pregnant and new mothers who need a safe space during a crisis. Thompson, a 17-year-old Santa Cruz native, recognized the opportunity to help by providing a sanctuary where women can retreat to meditate and relax. Thompson approached K&D with her vision and asked the company to donate services to construct the oasis at the Siena House.
From the moment I toured the Siena House, I knew I could create a project there that would inspire me to earn my Gold Award. I felt like I could really make an impact. Everyone has been so gracious and understanding of my cause and helped provide these donations. K&D Landscaping really stepped up to the plate.
— Seri Thompson
This is K&D’s largest community beautification project to date. The transformation includes a new irrigation system, decomposed granite, Arizona flagstone rock, artificial turf, and native plants that provide different textures and colors to the outdoor oasis.
A Siena House resident stated “the garden brings me so much joy. I appreciate the effort that was put into creating this beautiful environment for us to enjoy at the Siena House. It shows the peaceful atmosphere of Santa Cruz and helps us feel happy and healthy.”
The Siena House has dedicated the space to Peggy Keirs for all her years of service provided to the Siena House. “The culmination of this project is something we were excited to be a part of,” said Justin White. “Seri’s vision inspired us and we felt the Siena House deserved a beautiful haven for these women. We are honored to contribute in aiding our community.”