In October 2017, Jason and Danielle LaRose were just dreaming of getting their business, Queen City Silviculture, off the ground. Five short months later, they have successfully completed their business plan, launched their business, and secured the capital they needed to start growing their business. We sat down with Jason and Danielle to learn more about their story and what led them to their profession, the area, and our great local community.
“I chose to be an arborist, actually arboriculture really chose me.”
How did you get started in your field of arboriculture?
I chose to be an arborist, actually arboriculture really chose me. I was a line cook and chef in my previous life, until I had my daughter at 23. Working the second shift was awful so I got into landscaping and tree work and I really loved it. I loved working outside and using chain saws…it was dangerous, but I didn’t realize how dangerous it was until I got away [from my previous employer]. I love tree work and I think it fits my personality. I’ve met a lot of big personalities [in my line of work] and its been great working with those guys. I look up to those guys. The technicality and the foundation of arboriculture really caught my attention.
When did you start taking steps to become a professional arborist and start Queen City Silviculture?
Probably 2010. I really started to put energy into figuring out how to really get good at [arbor culture]. I was getting my hands on any publication I could find, getting into the online stuff, going to tradeshows. I became a certified arborist in 2013 through the International Society of Arboriculture. There were only 5,000 certified arborist in the states at the time. It all started there and never will stop. I want to keep continuing my education. The burgeoning field of arboriculture has been around for less than 100 years and in its modern form for only 30 years or so. …It has changed the way we look at trees, how [trees] adapt and how they overcome wounds. People were pouring concrete in holes because they just didn’t understand . It will be pretty cool to look back and see that I’m on the precipice of understanding the largest organism on the planet.
You’re at the beginning of a new movement, where do you see Queen City Siliviculture going?
One of things that we notice as we do our market research in the US, is that there really isn’t anyone else approaching tree care holistically, meaning without chemicals. Even in places that you expect to find it, look out west in California and Oregon, they are still treating with pesticides and herbicides. They [other tree service providers] still say that they use the chemicals sparingly. So, we feel that we are on the precipice of something new here…we’re on the leading edge. We’re excited to be thinking in the way of using no chemicals on the land, ever. 40% of most tree companies revenue comes from chemicals, and these are chemicals that can kill people. For us, the only safe amount of chemicals to use is zero.
What are you doing to educate those around about silviculture?
We just hosted our first workshop with Shenandoah Institute for Permaculture. Jason did some climbing and also did a verbal workshop to instruct on basic tree biology and tree climbing. Education is something Queen City Silviculture is dedicated to doing even when it doesn’t make business sense for us, but it makes total sense for our community.
Why did you choose the Shenandoah Valley?
I [Jason] moved here from upstate New York when I was 20 and this area has just become home. The area is beautiful, the people are amazing, and the community we have here…we just don’t want to give that up. We think the area itself is ready for a shift in paradigm thinking for the way we treat the land.
What led you to get a loan with SCCF?
To be honest with you, we took the BPC [Business Planning Course] and it was great. We were able to set objectives and look the economics and really start thinking like business owners. I’m really good at doing tree work and Danielle is really good at the permaculture aspect and we have this blend of vision, but we didn’t have the business knowledge we needed. With that being said, we went down other avenues first that were not as stringent with what we had to present. We went to the bank, we went to the person we bought other equipment from and we were denied at all of those places. They kept saying come back when you have a little more time under your belt.
We really needed a chipper in order to, you know, grow. It was like wall, wall, wall. We started thinking about SCCF then saw the information on the tenth anniversary fund, and we were like, ok, I guess we are going to go for it. We put our heads together and got all the information together like the projections and the rest of the business plan. We just got the chipper, thanks to the loan, on Saturday…its been running for 3 days and has already paid for itself for this month. So the economics really worked out and the Loan Review Committee saw that. I’m glad it went the way it did because we are all about building relationships.
…I feel like you all advocated for us and supported us through the whole process. We hope that one day we can be one of the people that gives to someone else trying to make things happen like us.