Every season, we have customers who want to learn more about GrowinGreen – from how the company began to how we became the local authority on everything related to lawn care. Here’s a 2013 article by Triad Business Journal reporter, Matt Evans that may answer some of your questions about our company.
GrowinGreen Sets Itself Apart in Crowded Market
It takes more than an occasional mowing to grow a good-looking lawn, and more than luck to grow a successful lawn and landscape business. Jonathan Rigsbee, founder of the independent commercial and residential landscape maintenance firm GrowinGreen knows about both, having grown it into a $2 million firm in the past 13 years.
What does GrowinGreen do? First things first, it doesn’t mow lawns or trim hedges. GrowinGreen takes care of grass, trees and shrubs using various systems of fertilizers, sprays and natural treatments meant to eliminate weeds and promote healthy growth. Rigsbee says four members of his management team, including himself, have academic degrees in turf management and horticulture (his is from N.C. State). That expertise allows them to customize their approach to unique problems or situations, including completely organic and biological programs for LEED-certified green buildings. About 2,600 of GrowinGreen’s 3,000 customers are residential houses, and the company’s annual revenue per household averages about $800, Rigsbee says.
How did it start? Like a lot of people in the business, Rigsbee got his start in the industry working with national lawncare powerhouse TruGreen. He worked there and at similar companies while thinking he wanted to become a golf course superintendent. But then he shifted gears to go to work for agricultural chemical company Ciba (later Syngenta) before deciding to go in with a partner to start a company called Turf Appeal in Greensboro in 1995. Rigsbee learned the entrepreneurial ropes there before striking out on his own to launch GrowinGreen in 1999.
Toughest obstacle early on? In an industry dominated by national franchises and chains, getting the name of a young local company out to potential customers was difficult.
“It was a bit of an identity crisis,” Rigsbee says. “But what really helped was being able to use my connections from being in the industry previously and at N.C. State to help us get some big commercial contracts, and that really got us going until we could build up a residential base.”
Long-term goals? For growth, the company is looking to the Triangle market where it has established some commercial accounts. It won’t open an office there until it has a good residential base, and fuel costs have GrowinGreen’s crews staying in hotels there rather than commuting.
Best decision? Moving out of a cramped older facility in Greensboro and into a nicer building in Kernersville that was twice the size. Employee turnover is high in the industry, so recruiting is key, and Rigsbee says having a more impressive and professional facility makes it clear to potential employees that GrowinGreen can play with the big guys. Also, having a Greensboro address made it really difficult to penetrate the Winston-Salem side of the Triad.
“Anybody in this area understands how territorial it can be, but being in Kernersville opened up the market. We’ve been able to grow our Winston-Salem routes by four times since we moved.”
Biggest source of help? Rigsbee says he’s gotten a lot of help out of relationships he’s built by serving boards such as the N.C. Turf Grass Council, as well as from Bank of Oak Ridge and his employees. He tries to pay special attention to his suppliers, he says, because he knows he needs their help to negotiate for prices and terms that are competitive with the larger players in the industry.
“The first thing I can do for them is make sure they get paid on time,” he says. “I can’t negotiate better terms if I’m not paying.”
Matt Evans covers technology, entrepreneurship, higher education and financial services. Contact him at 336-370-2916.
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