If you reach Alisha Amundson’s voicemail, it says she’s either in a tree or assisting another customer. This sums up the majority of this arborist’s day, but she is also a mother and owner of Tree Girl Designs, based in Orlando, Florida.
Amundson says getting into arboriculture was fated for her, although she didn’t seek out the career to start with. Growing up she had a love for nature and heavy machinery. In high school, she planned on studying interior design but ended up doing cleanup work after Hurricane Charley hit in 2004. She quickly fell in love with tree care as there is an excitement factor of every day bringing a new job and a new customer.
“I like the puzzle of the jobs every day,” Amundson says. “Every day is a different strategy needed to get it accomplished.”
Amundson says she also likes helping bring a vacation to everyone’s backyard by beautifying the landscape and caring for the environment.
“I come to someone’s house, and I don’t help with just the trees,” Amundson says. “I help the whole thing to lessen the impact on our environment. I started in arboriculture, but it’s morphed into more overhauls for people and restructuring everything and helping everything grow and balance.”
As she’s been in the industry, she says her favorite aspect about it has changed. Right now, she enjoys training and helping others. Amundson says she has always been on her own in the industry. She started out working as a freelancer assisting other companies with their tree work.
“I started my own company because no one was giving me the opportunity to progress and show what I know,” Amundson says. “I had my son as well and that was the big ticket. I can’t rely on other people to give me a job.”
Currently, her company wants to grow exponentially but she’s been keeping it small on purpose, so she can still spend time with her nine-year-old son since his father passed away when he was two and half years old.
“I’ve really tried to keep the flame dampened and that’s a personal choice because I’m not ruled by money,” Amundson says. “For me, it’s about helping people who genuinely care about Florida, who care about their yards, who want something beautiful, and I want to help give it to them.”
Even keeping the business small, she is still working seven days a week from early in the morning to late in the evenings.
“My goals with my company would be to educate consumers, and eventually I’ll have a three-part business,” Amundson says.
She wants to take advantage of her horticulture and entomology knowledge and eventually have a biology side of the business that is focused on the health of trees and plants, as well as a separate landscaping crew doing installations.
Amundson employs two men and one woman, currently. She says she is very particular about who she works with as she’s tried to train people who had their own companies, but they’re already set in their own way of doing things.
“It’s really finding the right individuals with the right attitudes because one bad apple can ruin the whole thing,” Amundson says. “One bad apple could take your whole company down.”
Being a female in the arboriculture industry has presented numerous challenges for Amundson. She says she has had to deal with older men who don’t want to hear what she has to say as a younger woman. She says she works the hardest on the jobsite to be an affirmative female figure.
“A lot of people don’t believe I am capable of what I do,” Amundson says. “I have to be overconfident with people all the time. I have to sell myself all the time. A lot of people hire me just to see if I can do it.”
She says that some people still think women aren’t cut out for the business because they see it as a strength and brawn issue. Amundson acknowledges that men and women have different strengths and weaknesses, but they can balance each other out.
“I use leverage, I can pick up just as much as a guy, but I’ll use leverage to my advantage,” Amundson says. “I have a different way of doing everything than they do.”
Amundson is an accomplished tree climber, having won the International Society of Arboriculture Florida Chapter’s tree climbing competition in 2016, 2017, 2019 and 2020.
She says she had to work hard to prove herself to others. Her advice to other females considering joining the industry is you have to love the work.
“If you’re serious about the industry, you’re going to have to push yourself every day as hard as you can,” Amundson says. “Don’t be the one that’s not working. You need to come out there and outwork everybody.”