Michelle CaruanaFounder & President

Toughest job?
Being a parent

Favorite quote?
“Saving one dog won’t change the world, but for that one dog the world will be forever changed. “

Interesting fact the average person might not know about you:
I love to scrapbook


  • California Class A Contractors License — General Contractor
  • California C-27 Contractors License — Landscape Contracting
  • Nevada Class C-10 Contractors License — Landscape Contracting
  • Arizona Class A-21 Contractors License — Landscape & Irrigation Systems

Michelle Caruana intended to study veterinary science at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Instead, she found herself drawn to ecology and field botany. “I began to see a glimpse of what an environmental biologist could do, including habitat restoration, and that really interested me,” she said.

Caruana sees it as another way to help animals — by rehabilitating homes for them in the wild.

You can see the passion in Caruana when she talks about habitat rehabilitation — a job that requires perseverance and courage as well as knowhow. “The work we do is grueling.” And the dangers include encounters with rattlesnakes and even bears.

Employee satisfaction

She works hard at keeping employees happy. “Having employees be happy while working here is huge for me,” she says. She’s felt that way from her very first job out of college, which was supervising work crews in the field. “My employer didn’t acknowledge any of his staff at the holiday season,” she recalled, “so I went home, baked cookies for my crews and brought them to the job site on Christmas Eve.”

That attitude has served her well. The foreman from that first job recently retired from Natures Image after 25 years of working for Caruana. “He still asks me at Christmas time: ‘Michelle, did you make me cookies this year?’”

Defining Success

What keeps Caruana motivated? “Going out to our jobsites and seeing a restoration project transition to success. Hearing birds or seeing other animals using the site, and knowing the area will not be developed — that, to me, is success.”

She lives by the philosophy, “Work hard, play hard.” “A veterinarian I worked for at my first job told me that,” Caruana said, “and I have tried to live by that ever since.  I am willing to roll up my sleeves and do things that others may consider beneath them.  No matter where I have worked or how crappy the job, I always tried my best.”


Caruana can point to a number of milestones in her professional career:

“Buying the facility we operate out of now, developing and teaching a training course for field supervisors, offering a 401(k) plan — those were all pretty exciting for me.”

She also has personal milestones that make her proud: “Having my son (Kevin, 18) get accepted into Colorado College, the college he wanted both for the education and to play lacrosse.” She says it was “pretty cool” watching her daughter, high school sophomore Ashlee, score the winning goal in a semifinal game — from her defensive position. “Also being out with my parents, and having them say, ‘This is my daughter; she has her own very successful company.’ ” Her family also includes two dogs, Lifa, a pit bull mix, and Duke, a boxer mix.

A juggling act

Balancing her personal and work lives requires some juggling. “I remember an interview I saw with Maria Shriver years ago, and she said something like, ‘you can’t have it all at once, but you can do all the things.’ Some years I have been a better business owner, and other years I have been a better mom.”

Doing her part for man’s best friend

She may not be a veterinarian, but she still works on behalf of animals through the Compassionate Animal Rescue for Medical Aid (CARMA) organization. “I foster dogs (until we can find their forever homes), work adoptions and write an occasional grant for money.” Lifa and Duke were both fosters before the Caruanas adopted them. In addition to her volunteer work, she likes to hike, ski and travel. But, she says, “I spend most of my free time watching my kids play lacrosse and supporting them in their daily activities.”

Lessons learned

Understanding as much as you can about every job allows you to make better decisions.

I now understand the importance of surrounding yourself with people smarter than you, and I am trying to do that at work and at home.

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