Co-owner and CEO of Seattle Tree Care
Green Industry Pros: Can you talk to me about how you got into the green industry?
Kelsey Gruenwoldt: I went to college and studied environmental studies, but I really loved my forestry classes. I fell in love with trees, and then I also happened to fall in love with a tree climber during that same time period. We got together, and I helped him with a business that he had started a couple years prior (Seattle Tree Care). We really took it and ran with it together with a complementary skillset. That was about 15 years ago.
Green Industry Pros: Tell me more about your company.
Gruenwoldt: We are primarily a tree care company. We do about 60 percent tree pruning, and the remaining is composed of removal and stump grinding, and then maybe about 5 percent of other services. Our customer base is 70 percent residential, and then we also do some work for construction companies as well as municipalities. We started in 2007 and work in the Seattle area only. We’ve got a great fleet of equipment and trucks and state-of-the-art technology, everything we need to make sure our jobs go smoothly, efficiently and as safely as possible for our team. Right now, we’re at about 38 employees.
Green Industry Pros: What have been some of the challenges and successes your company has experienced over the years?
Gruenwoldt: Safety is always top of mind because what we do is inherently dangerous, and we’ve done a lot of work toward that, but I also think that’s one of our successes too because we’ve maintained a safe workplace and kept our people safe. It’s challenging because as owners, we're not out there with the crews anymore. So, it’s about instilling that mentality and leadership through the layers of the company to ensure that everybody stays safe out there.
Green Industry Pros: Have you personally experienced any challenges being a woman in a male-dominated field?
Gruenwoldt: Definitely. For me, especially being part of a married business partnership, there's a lot of assumption that the male is the head of everything. That assumption can be made both within our own personal networks and at professional events, where I’m seen as more of a spouse than a business partner. But then again, I think it’s changing, and I’ve also been really excited to bring women on my team. The technology is improving so some of the physical limitations women had in the past are going away.
Green Industry Pros: What’s been your favorite part about being in the industry?
Gruenwoldt: I still love the trees and what we’re out there doing every day, but for me, it’s all about the people at work and supporting their own personal growth and development. It’s been so fun to work on training programs and incentives and just support the team as they come to us oftentimes, with no experience whatsoever. Within a few years, they’re competent, professional climbing arborists.