The Story of Arborwell: Our Journey to Employee Ownership
Arborwell was born in 2001 in Castro Valley, when Peter Sortwell was let go during a restructuring of an international landscape and tree care company. Peter had worked there for 15 years, and had started their tree division and grown it across the United States. This left him in a quandary; in the small horticultural industry, he could not find another company with which he felt his specialized skills would fit.
Still weighing his options, Peter attended a seminar in Walnut Creek that focused on whether or not attendees had entrepreneurial aptitude. It was the perfect opportunity for him to explore the idea he had been considering for months: opening his own company. Peter wrote a business plan, then went home and laid it out for his wife, Anne. Despite the gravity of the personal and financial risk involved, Anne responded, “Let’s do it.”
With no small-business financing options, mortgaging their home was the only way to turn the idea into a reality.
Peter located a small tree service in the East Bay and worked out a deal to purchase the company. Though it was very small, with only a short roster of residential clientele, the company’s infrastructure was invaluable. With a contractor’s license in place, office space, phone number, computers, two trucks and six employees, Peter had the perfect springboard to hit the ground running.
And he never stopped running; Arborwell now serves all of California and Washington, has 60 vehicles, $26 million in revenue, and over 200 employees.
In 2017, Peter made a decision that determined the next chapter in Arborwell’s story: he decided to sell the company to the employees. This was a decision not only benefitting Peter, but was also an incredible opportunity for everyone that works at Arborwell. As of January 1, 2017, Arborwell became an ESOP, and every employee received shares so they can all further benefit from the continued success of the company. “We Own It!” has become Arborwell’s motto as we move into this next era.
The Timeline of Arborwell:
Peter Sortwell founds Arborwell in Castro Valley
Sacramento office was opened
San Jose office was opened
San Diego office was opened
Orange County office was opened
Seattle office was opened
LA/Ventura office was opened
Company becomes an ESOP