Building is a passion for Nicholas (Nick) Hill.
But for Hill, 33, owner of Ritchie Custom Homes, building relationships with customers, contractors and the community is just as important as building homes.
“It’s working with clients and our employees and seeing their dreams of building a home come to fruition,” Hill said.
“Going on the journey with them, providing that experience and meeting their expectations and putting a smile on their face.
“It’s really cool.”
This week’s nominee to the Penticton and Wine Country Chamber of Commerce Top 40 under 40, Hill said he was grateful for the recognition, but acknowledged the contribution of his employees.
“My success is not just me,” Hill said.
“I have eight amazing employees that work with me day to day. It’s not by any means a one-man show. There’s also a great set of contractors in this town.”
Hill’s journey to being the owner of two businesses did not take the obvious route, but it is the detours that put him where he is today.
A graduate of Penticton High School, Hill spent his first year after high school going to college and traveling around New Zealand.
He then attended Camosun College in Victoria, taking courses in the Professional Golf Management program.
Following a summer of working at a golf course, Hill came to an important realization.
“I realized that’s the last place I want to spend the rest of my life,” he said.
Although he didn’t know it at the time, his next move would eventually lead him to his current journey.
Hill, interested in physical geography, transferred to the University of Victoria to complete a degree in social sciences with a major in geography. He points to one specific lecture in one of his courses that set him down a new path.
“It was a lecture about green building that really caught my attention,” said Hill.
“It showed how we could build homes and buildings better, to a more energy efficient standard, to a healthier standard.
“Doing something better for the earth, for the environment and for people really intrigued me.”
Hill was only midway through his degree, but the topic stayed with him and he kept talking about it.
“I just knew that was where I wanted to go,” he said.
Upon completion of his degree, Hill had two options ahead of him, either travel, or learn the rammed earth construction technique.
Hill chose the latter, and the rest, as they say, is history.
He headed to Osoyoos to take part in the construction of the rammed earth wall at the The Nk’Mip Desert Culture Centre. It is the largest rammed earth wall in North America.
Enthralled with the technique, Hill followed up with additional training in rammed earth construction, partnered up with a friend and went into business, Solum Rammed Earth Builders, with the odds apparently not in their favour.
“We had no business background, we had just learned this trade, there was no industry for this product,” said Hill of the road ahead.
“It was a super exciting dynamic time. We were completely naive. But we were stubborn, believed in what we were doing and just did it.
“Sometimes you just have to believe in what you’re doing.”
But opportunity knocked, and a contract to build a house in Washington state came along, followed by a handful of contracts in the Okanagan.
With a few years under his belt, Hill contacted Ted Ritchie, owner of Ritchie Contracting & Design, looking for work in the winter. It started with a kitchen renovation and then two years later, in 2010, Hill seized an opportunity to take ownership of the business.
“It was an amazing opportunity,” sid Hill
Although he is a busy person, Hill has one priority when he isn’t at work.
“Family,” he said with a smile.
“I have a wonderful wife, Jehanne Fauquier and a 17-month old son, Gavin.
An avid mountain biker, Hill also enjoys spending time on the snow in the winter months
Despite his commitments to business and family, Hill also finds time for his community, including volunteering with the Canadian Home Builders Association South Okanagan, the Climate Action Advisory Committee for the City of Penticton.
Hill has been recognized with several industry awards, and was recently named finalist in four Georgie Award categories – Best Public Private Partnership, Best Environmental Initiative, Best Outdoor Feature, Best Kitchen Valued under $100,000
Penticton Top 40 under 40 is presented by the Prospera Credit Union in partnership with the Penticton and Wine Country Chamber of Commerce and JCI Penticton, with support from the White Kennedy LLP Chartered Accountants.
Nominations should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line ‘Top 40 Nomination.’ Please include nominees contact info and a brief reason for nomination.