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  • Equip Exposition brings together diverse voices from across the country. Here’s why three leaders keep coming back.

    By Lindsey Getz

    Contractors from across the country come to Equip Exposition to network, learn, and grow. We recently caught up with three of them to learn why they go, and what attending the show means for their businesses.
    Donna Vignocchi Zych

    In the Chicago market, which sometimes has an “old boys’ network” feel to it, Donna Vignocchi Zych, president of ILT Vignocchi, says that she has had to work harder to earn the same amount of respect over the years. In fact, there was a time when she just needed to take a break from attending industry events, as there was really no place for women to be involved. Now, she says it’s exciting to see so many women at the Equip Exposition.

    Currently in her 29th year in the business, Vignocchi Zych’s industry story begins just out of college with a degree in telecommunications and a plan to go into broadcasting. But Vignocchi Zych says she was nervous—so instead she asked her father for a job.

    “I got started doing the ‘gruntiest’ of the grunt work—even cleaning the toilets,” she recalls. “It taught me an enormous amount of humility. But my dad was kind enough to let me apply some of my marketing knowledge, and my goal was to get the business into the high-end residential arena. It was just the right timing because the stock market boom was beginning.”

    It was around this time that Vignocchi Zych also started getting more involved in attending shows and connecting with the industry on a more national scale. But she was discouraged by the lack of diversity at the time. There were very few women working in landscaping—and even those that were, weren’t coming out to the shows.

    More recently, she came back—speaking last year on a panel about what it’s like to be a woman in the industry. She says the experience was refreshing and reinvigorating. Still, she says the intimidation factor can linger.

    “When you come to this big show in Louisville, the demographic is still dominated by men, and it can be intimidating for women who are new to the field,” she says. “While the reluctance is understandable, the show holds so much potential for all of us.”

    Vignocchi Zych says that she is looking at how she can be “better and more efficient” with new equipment while attending the show. But she adds that networking is her other key goal.

    “Human interaction is what makes the world turn and makes you better as a person, and there is nothing like interacting with other people at the show,” she says. “We tend to miss out on these opportunities a lot and get stuck in the way that we’re doing things. But the show is a chance have some of that interaction that we’ve been missing and make genuine connections. We all have so much to learn from one another.”

    Julio Lopez
    At age 13, Julio Lopez ame to the United States in search of a better life. That ultimately led him to the landscaping industry, where he worked his way up from pulling weeds to learning design/build work. At the time, he didn’t speak a word of English.

    But Lopez enrolled himself in school, earned a diploma, and went to college. He then served eight years in the United States Navy as a Petty Officer.

    Today, he says he uses that discipline and training to run his Los Angeles–based business, Cadre Landscape, which serves the commercial sector—and worked with the TurfMutt Foundation on its latest broadcast television work with CBS/Hearst’s
    Lucky Dog.

    “Cadre is a name we use in the military, and it means a highly trained group that is able to take charge,” Lopez explains. “We are a group of thinkers, and we always want to learn and improve.”

    Lopez says that continual learning is what brings him to the Equip Exposition.

    “There’s a lot to take in, but it is one of the best opportunities to try new equipment,” he adds. “Those who plan to attend the show need to make a plan so that they can get the most out of their days. Look at the vendors and determine who you want to see. Walk every aisle but make your planned stops and ask lots of questions. There is always something to learn.”

    Marlo Purkey

    For Marlo Purkey, the landscape industry is all about family. She and her husband, Greg, started California Aqua Pros, to be able to spend more time raising their children. Now, their grown son Jared is joining the business, which began as a swimming pool service company and has since grown into expansive outdoor design/build work.

    “We started in the swimming pool business because that’s what we knew,” Purkey says. “Greg’s father was in the industry. But we just kept expanding and taking on more. Now, 30 years later, we are a full design/build company.”

    For the first 20 years of the business, Purkey says they intentionally controlled the growth. Because of that, they were able to be highly involved parents. But in the last 10 years, they’ve been intentional about expanding—and now, with their son involved, the future is full of possibilities.

    That’s made attending the Equip Exposition even more valuable.“We are big on education, so besides walking the floor, we also appreciate the seminars—particularly in areas that we aren’t experts in,” she says. “We even took a class in robotic lawn mowing last year, even though we don’t offer lawn maintenance right now. We are always interested in learning more, meeting experts, and expanding our knowledge.”

    Why do YOU attend Equip Expo?

    “Attending Equip Exposition gives us an opportunity to network with others in the industry, learn from leaders, and test drive equipment in the outdoor demo area. We always like to keep a close eye on innovation, and this event allows us to see all our manufacturers and vendor partners in the equipment field and understand what improvements from technology are headed to the market soon.”
    Greg Franklin, director of fleet, facilities, and safety for Ruppert Landscape, headquartered in Laytonsville, Maryland

    “Today’s equipment manufacturers are doing an amazing job, and everything is so efficient now—so much different from when I got started in the industry. The show is the best opportunity to see all of the new equipment and get to try it out. I like taking some of our younger team members and seeing them get excited about what’s coming out.”
    Chuy Medrano, owner of CoCal Landscape in Welby, Colorado

    “We enjoyed learning about the new technology that companies are working on to help make business owners more successful and increase productivity. We ended up switching the software we use for our day-to-day operations, which has improved communication between our office, our customers, and those out in the field.”
    Matt & Dana Powell, owners of Vision Landscaping in Simi Valley, California


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