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Faces of the Industry: Antonio Zeppa

Antonio Zeppa always wanted to run his own company, but he didn’t know mowing his neighbors’ lawns would turn into a career in landscaping.

In high school and college, Zeppa would mow grass part-time along with his brother, Andre. After earning their degrees in business and geoscience, respectively, the brothers started Zeppa’s Landscaping Services, full-service lawn maintenance and landscaping company based in Louisville, Kentucky.

“I didn’t know 16 years ago that we’d be still doing landscapes, but it’s definitely expanded, and it’s provided us a good living,” Zeppa says.

The company added services one by one and even added a sister company, All Lit Up, which installs Christmas décor. Zeppa says his favorite thing about working in the industry is turning nothing into something.

“You have a blank canvas and just turn it into a backyard masterpiece,” he says.

He is inspired by traveling the world and seeing different plants in different regions.

Zeppa says his biggest challenge is focusing. He says he’s always trying to do too much and will start one thing and then start something else.

“Luckily, I’ve been surrounded by good people to help take these ideas and run with them and create a system and stuff like that,” he says.

He says Fred Haskett with The Harvest Group has been a mentor to him for at least five years now.

Currently, Zeppa is responsible for the sales, marketing and recruiting side of the business while his brother handles the operations aspect. Zeppa says he would eventually like to get the company to double its current size and where it can run by itself with the general manager. In five years, Zeppa says he sees himself not having to work on the day-to-day business.

Zeppa says they’re trying to build a line of systems that take the guesswork out of jobs.

“We’re constantly thinking about efficiency and constant improvement, even when it’s good we’re trying to figure out how can we do this even better,” he says.

Zeppa says he would like for the industry to become more business savvy.
“The general landscaper, I don’t think he knows where he’s making money or losing money,” Zeppa says. “There’s a lot of running around and quoting and looking at work for no reason. We’re trying to change that. We charge a consultation fee to visit with somebody. We charge for 100 percent of our design work and people are still doing this work for free. Our industry needs to be forward-thinking. We’re no different than a plumber or an HVAC person. You can’t get an HVAC person to come out to your house just to give you advice for less than $100.”

Zeppa believes the time for free estimates and proposals are over. While they sometimes get pushback from customers who point out nobody else charges, Zeppa’s company donates 100 percent of their consultation fees to a nonprofit, Blessings in a Backpack.

“We donate thousands of dollars a year,” Zeppa says. “It’s a beautiful thing to feed children.”

Zeppa says the industry should continue to be forward-thinking and look for ways to do things better.

“We should look at our competitors as peers rather than competitors,” Zeppa says. “Together we can learn from each other and do a lot of awesome things. There’s far more stuff we can help each other with. Just friendly competition, we’re an open book. We let anybody come in and see our operation and hopefully, they can go take some things we’re doing and use them. I’ve been very fortunate to go site visit tons and tons of really successful companies, arms wide open, doors wide open and just learn as much knowledge as possible. That’s been really cool for me.”

This article was published in the March/April issue of the magazine.

Jill Odom

Jill Odom

Jill Odom is the content manager for NALP.

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