Ahmed Hassan says his presentations this weekend at the Greater Charlotte Home & Landscape will be a big love fest.
Hassan is a celebrity landscaper, green expert and television host of DIY Network’s “Yard Crashers.”
He’s also the owner of Ahmed Hassan Landscaping Services. The 39-year-old said he will share all aspects of his inspiring life story – from his battle with addiction, to his rise to the top as one of the nation’s leading landscape experts.
The hourlong program also will include a question-and-answer period with the audience, as well as tips from local experts.
Since 2008, Hassan and his team have surprised families with customized residential landscapes on the weekend television show “Yard Crashers.” The network created the series to showcase Hassan’s high energy, motivational spirit and love for everything green.
He also has served as a guest contributor for the “CBS Early Show” and NBC’s “Today.” And he’s been a guest columnist for several publications, including the new HGTV magazine.
Hassan and his wife, Tiffanie, 36, live in California and have been married nearly 22 years. They have three kids. Their son, Julian, is 13. Faith is 10, and Camille is 7.
Hassan got one of his first landscaping jobs when he was 15. He didn’t describe it as his worst job, but it was a lonely job. He performed landscape maintenance at a shopping center – where he’d scrape gum off the ground, sweep up litter and cigarette butts, and cultivate and maintain flower beds.
“In life, at some point, you have to go in the kitchen and do the dishes,” Hassan said. “You’ve got to do that lonely job.”
To move beyond just “doing the dishes,” Hassan tells people to figure out what they love – what inspires them – and try to turn that into a career.
“Forget about money,” he said. “Take money out of the equation. Eventually the money will catch up with your passion.”
Hassan said he comes from a long line of drug addicts and alcoholics.
When he was 19, he had a run in with police for selling marijuana. During the days that followed, Hassan said he realized he was just “faking the funk.”
“I was pretending to be someone I wasn’t – trying to be hip, slick and cool – and then I knew it was time for me to make that change,” he said.
He’s been clean and sober ever since, and joked that if there’s a meeting that ends with the word “anonymous,” he’s probably attended it.
“Once I got clean and sober and my brain worked really well… I had all this energy… and I made a decision to do what I loved for a career. And I made a decision, at that point, to become an entrepreneur and run a landscaping business.”
At the time, he said it felt like a lofty, yet substantial dream. Now it’s a dream-come-true.
Hassan said he’s still doing his homework to focus on Charlotte-area issues, but promises he’ll be ready to answer all sorts of questions ranging from pests and soil issues, to design questions and project ideas.
He also plans to “razz” people, kiss babies, hug moms and teach people in an entertaining way.
“People are going to learn a lot about me, they’ll learn something about landscaping – whether they like it or not – and they’re bound to have a good time,” Hassan said.
Hassan answered five questions for Cabarrus News in a recent phone interview.
Q. What did it take for you to consider yourself a success?
“What it took for me was two very tenacious and headstrong parents. As a matter of fact, there actually were three parents, because at some point along the way I had a stepmom – and she was just as tenacious. And it took a lot of self-pride.
“Growing up as a kid, my dad was a black Muslim. And, if you know anything about the Black Power Movement, it was about pride, integrity, respect and transformation in your life. So I grew up exposed to that kind of energy. And I grew up seeing and hearing about stories of transformation, where people would do complete 180s in their lives. I already knew that would be my story, I just didn’t know how bad it was going to be and at what point I would switch my life around.”
Q. As a family man, you must be away a lot. What are some things you’ve sacrificed to become one of the nation’s top landscape experts?
“I do sacrifice quite a bit with my family, but I always seek to balance it out. And I don’t really look at what I sacrifice. The bottom line is that most dads in America have to go to work. … So what I do is take advantage of the opportune times that I get … and I wake up with (my children) in the morning, I make them smoothies and we cook together. Last night, I was helping them all with homework. … Or I take them out on one-on-one excursions. … I make up extraordinary moments when there’s just ordinary stuff going on, and that’s how I balance it out.”
Q. Describe your own yard, your favorite place in it and what you like to do when you have down time?
“My yard… is a very small focus because when I get home, as much time as I spend in other peoples’ yards – as much time as I spend out doing things related to landscaping and my profession, and as much as I love it – I need to connect with my three kids and my wife. Right now, I’m looking at my yard, and it’s kind of a mess. My yard could use a crashing, but it’s not the biggest priority right now.”
Q. What can visitors expect from you at the Greater Charlotte Home & Landscape Show?
“It’s going to be a love fest. I tend to do these events, and people come out and shower me with love – and all I do is mirror that love and give it right back. We’ll have a good time, people will get up close and personal, and there will be a lot of engagement. … They get to connect with that guy who is on the box, and how often do you get to connect with folks who are on TV?”
Q. Talk a little bit about how you fell in love with landscape design and why you keep striving for greater heights?
“That’s the crux of what I share in my personal appearance. It’s a wonderful story, and I’ll take (audiences) on a historical journey of my upbringing: how I became the person I am; how that person parlayed into a landscaper; how the landscaper became a TV host; and how this TV host –and this character who I am – is looking at life and moving forward. I share it all. I’m open about all of it.”
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