TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - The smallest business eligible won the Pima County’s 2019 Rural Small Business Award.
With just one employee, being the company’s owner Charlene Westgate, Westgate Garden Design in Green Valley took home the award for its dedication to creating spaces with nature in mind.
Westgate, a 65-year-old Oklahoma transplant, worked in Phoenix for a construction design firm before settling in Green Valley.
After struggling with desert landscaping and watching many of her neighbors do the same, she started a business three years ago to help the neighbors out.
But it was off to a rough start.
“I killed my share of plants trying to figure it out,” she said. “I was close to shutting my doors.”
But she decided to go to school, learn about it and press on.
"I'm known around the area as the nature harmonizer," she said. "Because I help people create beautiful landscapes in harmony with nature."
Since then, she has designed 60 backyard gardens with the customer in mind.
"When I was able to articulate to people the difference it makes working with somebody who understands nature, that's what really turned things around for me," she said.
She received the small business award in part because of her community service commitment to the relatively new Desert Meadows Park in Green Valley.
The 4-acre park was conceived in 2015 on the site of a vacant lot.
Since then, it's been converted to a nature park where people walk their dogs, relax and picnic, read or just commune with nature.
She designed a drainage system which kept the main trail from flooding and washing away but also attracts butterflies and hummingbirds.
So, for Westgate, rather than taking it easy in retirement, she’s undertaken a new business venture which she hopes to expand in the near future.
“I have been working hard and will work hard,” she said. “I am leaving a legacy.”
When asked she said the legacy will be “that we take better care of the earth.”