More than 20 years ago, Michael Cartwright planted a seed in his son’s subconscious, simply by doing yard work in their Columbia, Maryland, lawn.
“He was always a big believer in meticulousness,” Jeff Cartwright says of his dad, who died in 1999. They spent hours pruning, mulching and mowing when he was a teenager, and now that’s what he does for a living after a decision to give up a career in corporate law.
One too many Saturday night work calls, as well as a growing child, made Cartwright return to his roots in January 2011, launching Cartwright Landscaping out of his 150-square-foot shed. “It was the transition time of my career,” he says.
Living in the near West End, Cartwright noticed that the yards within a 5-mile radius of his home could use an expert landscaper. Eventually Cartwright and his managers — Kevin and Tony Evans, who are brothers — have hired a reliable team of employees who design yards, plant foliage, build patios and create exterior lighting.
In fewer than four years, the business has grown to more than 500 clients, mainly in the Richmond area but also in North Carolina, Maryland and New York. But the work isn’t always for a paycheck. Cartwright has made it a priority to support such local nonprofits as the Richmond Treatment Center for Children, the Faison School for Autism, Sheltering Arms Hospital and Habitat for Humanity’s Church Hill projects.
Ironically, he works more hours now than he did as a lawyer, particularly in spring and fall. Up before dawn, the bearded Cartwright often meets with clients until 7 or 8 p.m. But his more flexible schedule than those lawyer days allows him to spend more time with his wife, Lauren, and their daughter, Emme Grace, a first-grader at Mary Munford Elementary.
The 6-year-old hasn’t started doing serious yard work yet, but Emme likes to tag along with her dad on jobs. The fruit doesn’t fall far from the tree.