'I followed my heart': Alta. man starts X-mas lights business after losing oilsands job

Even though many jobs in the oilsands have dried up, an Alberta man with a bright idea says he is thriving thanks to his new business dedicated to spreading holiday cheer.

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After losing his position working in the province's oilpatch, Andy Hill decided to strike out on his own and create a company that saves people the yearly chore of setting up their Christmas lights.

But it wasn't easy.

"I followed my heart, and there were days that were really, really hard," Hill told CTV News.

Despite the seemingly short peak season, Hill says his phone has been ringing off the hook since August, and he has been branching out from residential homes to commercial ventures, such as show homes.

"(The) phone doesn't stop ringing – it's great," he said.

"I'm pretty sure things are going to be good."

After Hill lost his job, he said he needed to think outside the box, and his thoughts turned to the holiday he's always loved: Christmas.

"You think about it: Everyone smiles when they see lights," he said.

Hill's first big step towards independence was his purchase of a retooled firetruck from the 1970s.

The vehicle's 17-metre ladder was necessary to get the business off the ground, so Hill and his team could put lights in hard-to-reach places.

But the investment wasn't initially an easy sell to his wife, Terri Hill.

"When he came home and told me that he was buying a firetruck I said: 'Are you crazy? We don't have the money to do this,'" she recalled.

"He said: 'I promise I will make this work.'"

But Hill remembers the moment differently.

"I said: 'If we sit and wait, the money is going to run out before work comes back,'" Hill recalled.

"I said: 'I'm going to try this.' She was pretty supportive."

So far Hill has been successful, and he hopes that he can make the business work year-round.

And even though his paychecks aren't as hefty as those he earned for his work on the oilsands, Hill says his new business offers him other rewards.

"I'll never make the money I made in the oilfields, but you know what? I'm happier," he said.

With a report from CTV Alberta bureau chief Janet Dirks


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