Mark Aquilino’s first job at Outdoor Pride Landscape and Snow Management was picking up trash.
At 12 years old, he would go to corporate campuses with his father on weekends and spend afternoons collecting and bagging trash. He was paid per bag, and his dad would inspect his work at day’s end. If Mark had done well and the grounds were spotless, they would get to stop for an ice cream on the way home.
At 13, Mark graduated to weed-whacking and laying brick walkways.
Now, he is president of a Manchester-based company that employs 75 people year-round and 300 during winter snow-removal season and that was recently named to the Forbes Magazine “Small Giants” list of the nation’s “Best Small Companies of 2019.”
Mark’s parents, Dale and Michael, started Outdoor Pride 31 years ago with one Kubota tractor, a dump truck, some mowing equipment and a small-business loan.
“They instilled a work ethic in me, big-time,” said Mark, who took over as president of the company five years ago. “It was fun to grow up in an entrepreneurs’ household, and to see how they leaned on each other.”
They also instilled in him a sense of responsibility to the wider community: Always thank a veteran for their service. Always look for places where your volunteer time could make a difference and pitch in.
Last year, the Aquilinos started a corporate donor-advised fund at the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation to formalize and expand their giving to the community.
“We knew we wanted to do something, but we didn’t know how to go about doing it the right way,” he said. Working with the Charitable Foundation “helped us realize that we could do this.”
A natural fit
One of their first significant grants was to the Boys and Girls Club of Manchester to support a literacy program to help combat “summer learning loss.”
Children from struggling families, who have fewer opportunities for enrichment activities during the summer months, often start the school year in September with lower achievement levels than they had when school ended in June. The program at the Boys & Girls Club’s Camp Foster keeps kids reading during the summer as part of their summer camp experience.
“We want to help enrich lives,” Mark said. “What can’t we conquer when we come together as a community?”
Mark said the company plans to add a minimum of $25,000 into the fund annually — and to give an additional $25,000 in other ways.
The company’s long ties to Manchester make supporting efforts in that community a natural fit.
Mark said the company plans to create a group of employees who will help make decisions about grant recommendations from the fund. Grants may focus on an array of community needs, perhaps dovetailing with other company priorities, like environmental sustainability, support for recovery, support for early childhood education and help for veterans. Outdoor Pride has been working to reduce its impact on the environment as part of its business practices — using a brine solution to replace salt, for instance, and electric mowers and propane to replace some gas-powered engines. The company participates in a national program to take care of landscaping and snow removal for deployed local service members whose families need a hand. And Outdoor Pride is working on achieving official state designation as a “recovery-friendly workplace” to support and employ people in recovery from substance use disorders.
They have chosen to have their philanthropic fund invested in the Charitable Foundation’s sustainable investing pool, in which investments are screened for environmental, social and governance criteria.
Part of what earned Outdoor Pride a spot on the Forbes list was its employee retention, which has risen from 45% to 85% in the past five years.
Mark Aquilino stands in the equipment yard — the single tractor and dump truck replaced now by 50 loaders, 50 skid-steers, 50 plow trucks, more tanker trucks for brine and some 50-60 pieces of equipment for clearing snow from walkways.
People want to know that the company they work for — and hire — cares about the community where they live, he said. Outdoor Pride’s commitment to giving makes that statement.
“We hope this shows what type of a company we are,” he said, “and the impact we’re trying to have throughout the community in which we live, work and play.”
A version of this article originally appeared in the December 19, 2019 issue of New Hampshire Business Review as part of the “Greater Giving” series, a partnership between New Hampshire Business Review and the Charitable Foundation that promotes a culture of giving in New Hampshire’s business community.
To learn more, contact Richard Peck, vice president for philanthropy at the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation, at 800-464-6641 ext. 265, or at email@example.com.