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From Naval officer to business owner in one year flat

Business isn’t just booming for Trista Imrich. It’s blooming, and she has Tidewater Community College to thank.

The TCC alumna launched her own business, Wild Works of Whimsy, after earning her Career Studies Certificate in Landscape Design in May 2016.

“I absolutely credit TCC with helping me gain the skills needed to start my business,” she said. “I got more than I expected at TCC because it wasn’t the traditional college experience with reading, studying and taking tests. I learned skills that I could take directly and apply.”

TCC’s horticulture program is the only one in the region. Imrich studied landscape design with Professor Kristina Bezanson at the Chesapeake Campus.

“I learned a ton from Kristina,” she said. “She is very focused on conservation and green techniques and a lot more forward thinking than many in the industry. She was encouraging and accessible while maintaining her professionalism. I think of her as a mentor.”

After TCC, Imrich earned two certifications: Virginia Certified Horticulturist and Chesapeake Bay Landscape Professional. “My TCC education absolutely provided the background needed for both,” she said.

Imrich specializes in conservation landscaping, habitat restoration and stormwater management. She shares her time with Lynnhaven River NOW, a restoration partnership to preserve and protect the Lynnhaven River.  

Her pro bono work for Wild Works of Whimsy includes a project for the Cape Henry Lighthouse designing a low maintenance landscape using native plants.

Imrich also spruced up Norfolk Tug Company by completing shore line restoration, planting a meadow and building a dune in the parking lot. She added trees and greenery to the property for employees and visitors to enjoy.

Imrich earned her bachelor’s in anthropology at Ohio State University where she started as a Navy ROTC student. She served six years as an officer in the Navy aboard the missile destroyer USS Arleigh Burke and the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower. Shore duty took her to Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek – Fort Story and enabled her to earn a master’s in environmental policy from American Military University.

“The Navy brought me here, and this area piqued my interest in conservation landscaping,” said Imrich, who used her Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits to pay for her associate degree.

Imrich is married to Virginia Beach veterinarian Chris Imrich. The couple hopes to one day work together on Wild Works of Whimsy projects and include installations as part of their services.

Her advice to budding TCC students in horticulture is this: “Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and try something different. And never turn down an opportunity to network.” 

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