Sean Nutter has determination, passion and design savvy on his landscaping palette. With nature as his canvas.
Surrounded by swaying palm trees and a salt-laced breeze, Sean Nutter creates landscape masterpieces with strokes of opulence and splashes of floral color. “With my work, I’m creating an emotion for the client when they look at their property,” he says. “Whether it is excitement or feeling relaxed listening to a water feature, I make people want to live outside.”
Nutter’s keen eye and contagious ardor for landscaping pushed his company, Greenday Creations Inc. (GCI), through the recession and into Miami, Florida’s high-end residential properties.
Flood of opportunity
Nutter transformed a job mowing lawns into a blossoming landscape business with six simple words: “Let me build you a waterfall.” While working on a landscape restoration project for an art dealer in the heart of Coconut Grove, Nutter began talking about expanding his business to include water features. Since he had never created one before, Nutter offered free labor if the client would pay for the materials. “This was great for us because it gave us a chance to do a practice run,” Nutter says. “We designed a double-sided coral rock cascade and pond, and we never looked back.”
Volunteering his services gave him the experience he needed to take GCI to the next level. Nutter and his wife Karen had taken a few classes at Miami Dade College for arboriculture and fertilization, but they gained most of their knowledge working in the field. So in 2009, Nutter stopped purchasing lawn maintenance equipment and providing mowing, something he had done since he was 8 years old, and concentrated on design/build projects.
“Never be afraid to do something different,” he says. “We are always learning new things in our business to become the best landscapers out there.”
And Nutter is quickly heading toward that goal, growing GCI from $50,000 in annual volume in 1996 to almost $1 million in 2011 with eight employees. After renting in the beginning, he now purchases equipment for his fleet, which includes commercial trucks, front-end loaders, enclosed trailers, flat-bed trailers, tree equipment and lawn maintenance equipment.
His portfolio includes lighting, water and fire features, outdoor kitchens, pergolas and hardscaping for residential properties, where he looks to “create an outdoor living experience. For our homeowners, it’s all about entertaining,” he says. And with a client list that includes Dwayne Wade from the Miami Heat, Nutter understands the demands of high-quality work. “I eat, live and breathe this business,” he says.
“Never be afraid to do something different. We are always learning new things in our business to become the best landscapers out there.”
It’s this drive and dedication that continues to impact his business and clients. “When they see Sean’s enthusiasm, they want everything: pergolas, outdoor kitchens, fire and water features,” says Karen, who handles the project management. “He wants the customers to be as excited about the project as he is. Sean’s the Walt Disney of landscaping.”
But his larger-than-life creativity does not keep him from seeing the smaller aspects. “Sean is so artistic,” says Rosie Castillo, who does the company’s accounting. “And he pays attention to the details. That’s what Greenday Creations is all about.”
In a niche market where “money really does grow on trees,” Nutter focuses on not only the beauty of a landscape, but also its health.
“We try to preserve the natural look of trees,” says Nutter, a certified arborist. “We use hand saws, not electric ones. Other landscapers just come in and hack away at trees.”
If cut too much, a palm tree can send out a chemical distress signal that attracts beetles that can kill the tree, he warns. He also uses native plants in his installations, which he houses at the company’s garden center.
Clients and walk-ins can purchase and view plants there, as well as see a showroom of hardscape pavers, ponds, waterfalls and other services GCI offers.
The center sits on 1 acre of land and has an inventory of plants including Canary Island, roebelenii, adonidia and spindle palm trees and ficus, juniper, ‘Parsonii’ and ‘Trinette’ shrubs. They import beach pebble from Peru and offer specialty items such as phalaenopsis orchids and bonsai trees.
Nutter also uses the garden center to provide jobs for young adults with developmental disabilities by partnering with the Community Habilitation Center (CHC). After meeting the CEO of the CHC while landscaping his yard, Nutter decided to partner with the program. GCI also donates a portion of their sales to the CHC.
Seeing is believing
To help clients visualize his designs, Nutter uses Structure Studios’ software, which can show animation and views such as running water in a fountain and butterflies on flowers.
“When a client comes to our garden center, they just see plants in buckets,” he says. “I want them to see how their yard could look. I enjoy creating fun, cool areas. The software makes clients feel like they’re walking through their future property.”
Whether it’s during the design stage or nearing the end of the project, keeping clients involved and informed is important, he says. It helps them envision the end goal, even when their yard is full of dirt piles and equipment.
When clients are on board, lasting relationships can develop, leading to future projects, like with longtime client Teresita DeBlank. “Everything of beauty needs work,” says DeBlank, who has trusted her lawn to Nutter for 20 years. “He’s got a vision, and he delivers.”
With this confident, fearless attitude and an exuding passion for his work, Nutter shows no signs of slowing down. “We’ve never looked back,” he says. “They sky’s the limit. If you have the drive, you’re going to survive.”
To see his five tips to success, click here.