Giving Yards A Certain Look

Abby Santos with son Kanani and granddaughter Sarah. Coco Zickos photo

By Abby Santos
Owner, No Ka Oi Landscaping Services

Please tell us about your business.

We are a locally owned business in Hanapepe that was established 30 years ago. My husband Frank and I started it. We do commercial landscaping and property ground maintenance. We also do interior plant rentals for parties, hotels and restaurants.

When and why did you rebrand your business?

We rebranded the company three years ago with a new logo because I wanted something different than everybody else. We used to be No Ka Oi Plants. Our focus has become more of what our name is. No Ka Oi means “the best” in Hawaiian. So we wanted to be the best landscaping service company on the island.

What is your key to success?

We have a really good team of 30 people and we strive to be the leader. We want to be known as the leaders in this industry, especially in the maintenance industry. As far as professionalism, we have uniforms and clean vehicles. We apply for National Safety Awards and we’ve won five years in a row for a perfect safety record. Those kinds of things are really important to us.

What are some of the properties you take care of?

We have five crews, and three of them report to the properties we take care of, such as the Sheraton, Kauai Beach Resort and Kauai Beach Villas. I have a mobile crew that reports here in the morning with eight people who go out and do condominiums, homes in Kukuiula and restaurants like the Beach House.

What sets your business apart from others?

The properties we take care of look different from properties other people take care of. I have very high standards and personally do quality control. Monthly, I check all of the properties and look for upgrades that need to be done or things that are not right. So the owners don’t need to do that; the property is in our hands. We also believe in paying our employees higher wages. That way we think we can attract better talent.

How did you get started in this business?

We started back in the 1970s and we could see there was going to be growth on the island. There was a lot of potential, but nobody was offering the services. So we started as a plant rental company and just kept adding services if people requested them.

Why did you get started in this business?

I’m the kind of person who, whatever I’ve chosen to do, I want to do it all the way and do it obsessively. When we chose this, it just became a passion for me learning everything I could about plants and how they grow.

Do you have a business motto or philosophy?

We really believe in the right plant for the right place.

What are you doing to “green” your business?

Our philosophy with the right plant in the right place is the first step in sustainable landscaping. We also reduce chemical usage, clippings, green waste and herbicides. It makes our cost go down. If the right plants are in the right place, then it’s not so much work trying to keep them healthy and nice.

What is the value of landscaping for visitors?

For the visitors who come to the island, it’s really important for them to see beautiful landscaping. If people see a beautiful garden, they’re more likely to come back than if the garden isn’t being taken care of. That, to me, is huge.

What’s the most rewarding aspect of your business?

The employees are such good people, we’re so lucky to have them. Everyone is so dedicated and have all seemed to embrace the philosophy of being the best. My customers are also great. They’re really good to us.

What’s the most challenging aspect of your business?

Earning the trust of new clients.

What are your plans for the future?

I’d like to see us continue to grow. We like to work on the south side and there are some properties I would love to take over. They need No Ka Oi. 335-5887