Women In The Green Industry: Nicolette McCary of Seattle Sustainable Landscapes Wins Up-And-Comer Award

How Nicolette McCary went from oceanography student to sales and marketing guru to owner of a sustainability-focused landscape firm. Here's the story behind the 2024 Women In The Green Industry Up-and-Comer Award winner.

Nicolette McCary and her husband David McCary bought Seattle Sustainable Landscapes in 2022.
Nicolette McCary and her husband David McCary bought Seattle Sustainable Landscapes in 2022.

Up-And-Comer: Nicolette McCary, owner, Seattle Sustainable Landscapes

Oceanography student. Published researcher. Marketing firm owner. Head of sales at a popular media company. Owner of a sustainability-driven landscape company. Youngest board member and marketing committee chair of the Washington Association of Landscape Professionals.

Nicolette McCary has donned many hats during her professional career. And recently, the owner of Seattle Sustainable Landscapes added one more to the lineup: Women In The Green Industry Up-And-Comer Award winner.

“I’m very grateful to be nominated, especially as an up-and-comer, because that feels like exactly where I’m at,” McCary says. “I have a lot of experience in the sciences and in sales, but landscaping is a new industry to me. I learned so much in those other jobs that has translated directly to what I’m doing now. It doesn’t seem like it when you look at it on paper, but everything I do now is science, marketing, sales, managing people, and all of it is making this company thrive.”

Science from the start

Growing up on the Puget Sound, McCary always found herself exploring on the beach and looking at everything through a scientific lens.

In college, she majored in biological oceanography and is a twice-published researcher. Her studies surrounded how humans impact the nearshore environment with runoff pollutants, and the impacts of an algae called Pseudo-nitzschia on shellfish production in Penn Cove and other Washington fisheries.

“As often happens right after college, I ended up not using (my degree) completely and ended up in marketing and sales in e-commerce and retail, but I really wanted to get back,” McCary says. “My husband and I wanted to own a company and be more entrepreneurial, so when we were choosing a company, I wanted something I could use my background and use the research I did to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem.”

The answer: a landscape firm that specializes in eco-friendly and sustainable landscapes that don’t leach into the waterways. 

A new endeavor

McCary and her husband David McCary purchased an existing company in October 2022.

They bought it under the name of Seattle Sustainable Landscapes, but it is a new business entity under McCary Landscapes on the back end.

"It was an asset purchase of the business that included all its existing clientele and brand awareness," McCary says.

Since then, the duo has grown the company by 1.5 times and is on track to hit $2 million in annual revenue for 2024. The company provides full-service landscaping, including construction, landscaping installations, irrigation and ongoing maintenance.

“Everything we do to make someone's backyard beautiful with a redesign or with care is focused on doing things that are sustainable for the homeowner and that's helpful for their family, their dogs and sustainable for the environment and good for the ecosystem,” McCary says. “We’re always very careful about adding things in for pollinators and birds and topdressing with compost rather than spraying down nitrogen on lawns. We put an emphasis on native and naturalized plantings that use less water. Also, we don’t really use chemicals; everything is a manual removal of weeds.”

When the McCarys originally purchased the company in 2022, Nicolette was running the operations on the back end while still working at her other job.

Understanding that working two full-time jobs was not sustainable, she made the hard choice to quit a job she loved and devoted herself full time to Seattle Sustainable Landscapes. As the majority owner of the company, McCary serves as head of marketing, HR and sales rep and oversees three managers.

"Our newer managers have settled into their roles, taking so much work off my plate," McCary says. "I now serve as an overlay across the divisions to ensure projects are completed on time and that none of our employees are overwhelmed with work. At the same time, I run the company marketing, accounting, HR, and all the logistics it takes to run a business on the back end."

In addition to McCary’s enthusiasm for starting in on this new endeavor, she’s always excited to be able to use her Spanish with some of the company’s employees.

“I spent a lot of time and effort learning Spanish in high school and took a few classes in college that didn’t even count toward my degree just because I wanted to continue learning,” McCary says. “I didn’t have much opportunity to use it, but now as the owner of the company, I can prioritize hiring Spanish-speaking highly skilled workers. We’ve both always had such a heart for immigrants and people coming into the country who are super skilled but just don't have anywhere to put that.”

In what little free time she does have, McCary says she enjoys spending time outdoors with her husband.

“I love to get out on my kayak and stand-up paddleboard, walk on beaches and enjoy time outside in nature,” McCary says. “We also do a lot of hiking and backpacking.”


While McCary acknowledges that women still face challenges within the industry, she notes that more often than not, her clients are very open to working with a woman in an industry typically dominated by men.

“I'm also on the board for the Washington Association of Landscape Professionals, and it’s a board room filled with mostly white males, most of which are 40 years old or above, but they've been really wonderful at knowing that there's a bias and being able to work with me on it,” McCary says. “Mostly, I just deal with the same challenges as any other woman living and working.”

However, if she were to do anything in her career over again, she would have had more confidence in her skills and increased her pricing, especially when she worked as a freelancer.

“I definitely undervalued my wages when I was younger in my career,” McCary says.

Looking ahead

Moving into the future, McCary strives to get to a place where the company is a well-oiled machine, has processes in place and all employees are happy, well paid and feeling confident in their work situation.

“We're not looking to become a large conglomerate. We want to have a beautifully processed company that can serve clients well in this area and add more green to the industry by working on boards such as the Washington Association of Landscape Professionals and helping other people to add in more sustainable practices as well,” McCary says.

On the personal side, she’s looking forward to starting a family.

“I want to be able to find a healthy way to run a company and run it well and also be able to have a family,” McCary says.