The meaning behind the name of YME Landscape, the Richmond company owned by Earl Gary ’08, arose from his desire to take control of his destiny after 15 years of working in engineering and managerial jobs: Why not me? 

Last year, YME won its largest and most high-profile contract: relandscaping the Monument Avenue circle that for more than 130 years was dominated by a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. 

For Gary, the politics was less important than “increasing the visual acuity” of the site, which covers nearly three-quarters of an acre and now features 6,000 trees and plants. 

“To be able to do a project of this size as an independent contractor is amazing,” he said. “I think it turned out pretty good.” 

Gary grew up in Richmond. After he graduated from high school, he spent two years in the Army, fixing radios and repairing helicopters. 

He enrolled at Old Dominion University in 1996 thinking he’d major in electrical engineering. But Gary switched to electrical engineering technology, which was more hands-on. “I liked creating stuff,” he said. 

Gary had four coops with Philip Morris in Richmond while he was a student. He stepped away for a while, returned and graduated in 2008. 

His jobs included radio frequency engineer at Cox Cable in Springfield, assistant chief engineer at Courtyard by Marriott in Dunn Loring and industrial engineering supervisor at UPS in Richmond. On the side, he was doing lawn work. “I’ve been cutting grass pretty much my whole life,” Gary said. 

He added homeowners’ associations to his clientele (“Those people have to keep things up”), and he formally created YME in 2007. He went full-time with the business in 2012. The firm’s other landscaping jobs have included a megachurch in Chesterfield and a police shooting range in Caroline County. 

Gary and Jermaine Jackson ’00 partnered to establish another business, Fulcrum Engineering Solutions, in 2016. Both felt the importance of creating a minority-owned firm. At his other jobs, Gary said, “I did not see a lot of people like myself or owners like myself.” 

Jackson, a civil engineer who met Gary when they were students, said, “Earl has always had an entrepreneurial spirit and has always encouraged friends around him with an entrepreneurial interest to own their own businesses, too.”  

Ultimately, Gary would like to blend the work of the two businesses: “We can design a building and build it out and then do the landscaping for you.” 

He envisions employing interns and graduates from universities including Old Dominion. “I want to provide them with the opportunities that I was given to go even higher,” Gary said. 

He’s also hired former inmates for jobs with YME. “Maybe they didn’t have the advantages I had. They have to eat and take care of their families, too. I have no problem giving them an opportunity.”