Rivercity Tree Services was the big winner at last weekend's Te Manu Atatu Māori Business Awards - recognition of the hard work Siobhan and Joe Marshall and their growing team have put into the company over the last 13 years.
Mike Tweed talks to them about the secret to their success.
Tree work is now just one component of Rivercity Tree Services.
"In the last three or four years our growth has been pretty substantial, especially after Covid (19) hit," Siobhan Marshall said.
"We kept 10 of our staff employed over that time, and after that we were fortunate enough to bring Joe's brother Pete (Ashford) onboard, who has a background in civil construction.
"There was an opportunity to expand into civil works and building roads, so we took the risk."
On Saturday night they won Best Māori Business-Trade Services, the Environmental Excellence Award, and the Westpac Supreme Award at the War Memorial Centre on Saturday night.
Joe Marshall said the expansion happened almost by accident.
"I needed Pete's help for a job up State Highway 4, and while we were there I just happened to ask why we were moving the trees," Joe Marshall said.
"It was because the hill was getting dug back to make the road wider, and Pete gave me the elbow and said 'ask him if we can do the excavation work too'.
"The engineer asked Pete a few questions and he was able to give him the right answers.
"That was our opening."
Ashford has stayed on as Civil Projects Manager, and the company is now a 'one-stop shop' for tree work, traffic management, earthworks and civil construction.
Rivercity Trees currently has 25 staff members, 90 per cent of whom are Māori.
"It's been great to hire a lot of our own people," Siobhan Marshall said.
"That's the best way we feel we can give back - to hire locals and train them up.
"We want to hire young people as well, even though they might not have much experience yet."
One worker was 15 when he stared at Rivercity Trees, Joe Marshall said.
"He was getting into a bit of mischief but it's been pretty amazing watching the big turnaround he's gone through.
"He carpools back up the river with me and he's got his head in the books, right up to the point he starts getting car sick.
"When he's 20, wow, he's going to be pretty good."
Ashford said maintaining high environmental standards was a key aspect of the business.
"When we leave a site we always try and go well above the standards of other contractors," Ashford said.
"That goes back to our dad's old saying - 'what you leave behind is your advertising'."
Siobhan Marshall said Rivercity Tree Services had been well supported by other local companies over the last 13 years.
"We do our best to support smaller businesses out there, because we know how hard it can be.
"There's lots of pockets of awesomeness in the business community here in Whanganui.
"We all try to support each other."
Ashford said every worker at Rivercity Tree Services was "treated with a name, not a number".
"We believe in second chances too. People who are just out of jail have been employed here, because once you've done your stint that's a clean record for us, we don't care.
"There are companies here that won't touch people like that and we find that to be unacceptable for us.
"Not everyone is fortunate to be born with a silver spoon in their mouth, and I think they are stoked to have a second chance.
"We're not the hui hui people, we are the doey doey people. If you fall over, just stand up and have another go."
Covid-19 regulations last year meant the company could only have two workers per vehicle, Joe Marshall said.
"We had to purchase more vehicles to meet requirements, but now they're all being used and we still don't have enough.
"Since Pete's come into place everything is moving really quickly.
"We get thrown some pretty tricky jobs along the way, like abseiling down bluffs and pushing off loose boulders, or getting lowered out of helicopters into trees to set up a landing pad."
"It's never just one kind of job, there are lots of special projects to do out there."
Joe Marshall said the company was now moving into road tarring and sealing, but tree work would remain a key part of their set-up.
"That's where we started and that'll always be a part of our business.
"We've come a long way, because my office used to be our bedroom.
"It started with a truck and a chipper in the driveway, then the driveway was full with trucks and the staff had their cars parked all down the street.
"Now we've got a really busy yard."