Homegrown: The Story of Hatzis Landscaping and Design

Last year, at his annual Individual Support Plan (ISP) meeting, Paul Hatzis had a dream.

“I wanted to start my own business and do something that would make me truly happy,” he said.

Today, thanks to his dedicated support team, the 42-year-old’ Hatzis is the owner of his own small business – Hatzis Landscaping and Design. His journey was one of the six stories recently featured as part of North Shore Employment Collaborative’s “Showcase of Success”.

Hatzis and his Job Coach, Bryan Ellsworth, have paved the way for a successful landscaping business model based on two simple principles – hard work and customer satisfaction.

“One of my priorities is to do whatever it takes to make the customer happy,” he said. “I pride myself on high quality work to make sure customers are satisfied.”

The journey began two years ago, when Ellsworth started working with NuPath as an Employment Coordinator. He first met Paul while working in the Organization’s outdoor microbusiness.

“Paul had a lot of skills but I could see he wasn’t truly happy,” Ellsworth said. “I talked with him for a little while after work one day and asked what he really wanted to do.”

That afternoon, they had a long discussion about Paul’s future and began to lay the foundation for Paul’s vision to become a reality. “He wanted to start his own business…but was unsure as to how to go about it,” Ellsworth said, as he reflected on the conversation.

DDS Service Coordinator Greg Kurland (left) and NSEC Project Coordinator Kristianne Woodman (right) pose with Hatzis and Ellsworth after their “Showcase of Success” presentation. (Photo: Leigh Wilmot)

Hatzis’ ISP meeting last year presented an opportunity to discuss his plans. Greg Kurland, Paul’s Service Coordinator with the Massachusetts Department of Developmental Services, was impressed with his vision, stating, “we wanted to discuss how we could make this happen and not the limitations that may keep Paul’s dreams from reality.”

The meeting led to a promise – one that would serve as the foundation for the business. “Bryan promised me that if I attended the upcoming Job Camp classes and learned the skills I needed to run my own business, he would support my dream,” Hatzis said, looking towards Ellsworth with a smirk.

Paul attended Job Camp, a nine-month job skills class from October to June, that helps men and women who attend NuPath programs learn vital skills in the workforce including resume-building, interview skills and, arguably the most important skill to Hatzis’ journey, professional conduct.

“Bill (Strazzullo) taught me a lot about how to have professional interactions with people…and wanted me to succeed as much as anyone,” he said. Hatzis graduated Job Camp in late June and immediately turned to Ellsworth, seeking confirmation of the promise that was made to him last year.

“I remember he came up to me and said, ‘Well?'”, Ellsworth joked. “I told him we would take some time to celebrate his accomplishment and go from there.”

A few weeks later, the pair visited a homeowner regarding an estimate for Spring Cleaning he needed done in his yard. As soon as the initial estimate was proposed and accepted on July 5, Hatzis Landscaping and Design was officially born.

Ask anyone around NuPath and they will all say the same thing – they are living proof of the Organization’s motto of ‘Supporting Your Journey.’

“Bryan has given his heart and soul towards Paul’s success,” says Lisa Carriere, Ellsworth’s colleague, with a beaming smile. “It’s an amazing achievement to witness these two fulfill a life-long dream.”

Leigh Wilmot, Director of Day Services at NuPath’s Westford program, has gotten to know the pair in her time supervising the Employment Team and had nothing but praise and awe for the two.”

They really are the perfect match – both hard working, determined to succeed and putting our mission of making life’s journey happier, healthier and more fulfilling for people living with disabilities into practice for Paul and his family,” she said.

“In turn,” she adds, “Bryan should feel immense pride knowing he played an integral role in the ongoing success of the business.”

Hatzis (right-center) graduated from Job Camp in June and has parleyed the skills and lessons he learned into a successful business model that he hopes to expand upon in 2018. (Photo: Leo Gozbekian)

Kurland also recognized the partnership between Ellsworth and Hatzis saying, “Bryan has been instrumental in teaching Paul how to be a successful professional…and continues to support Paul consistently to ensure the success of every contract they take on.”

He also added, “Paul has been successful in all of his initial jobs and contracts…and has made vital connections with his customers that will only help his business grow.”

In fact, Hatzis has retained the services of three customers he has performed work for over the past several months.

“If you asked me 10 years ago when I started at NuPath that I would own my own business, I would have laughed it off,” he chuckled. “Bryan and the team here at NuPath made this all possible and I cannot thank them enough.

However, the impacts go beyond the Organization’s walls. Hatzis’ home life has also been changed for the better – both for him and his wife, Alison.

“I’m so proud of him for everything he’s accomplished over the past year,” Alison said. “He wanted what was best for not just himself, but also our family.”

Hatzis has big dreams for his business next year. He wants to boost his advertising, expand his customer base, invest in more equipment and even become an accredited member of the Woburn Business Association. He knows it won’t be an easy task, but says “he’s ready for the challenges” that await him in 2018.

“There are no guarantees in life…and I know running a business is not easy,” he told the crowd. “I have built a strong foundation that will continue to grow over the next year and the hard work has just begun.”