The lawn maintenance industry is proving to be recession-resilient. It takes in 10 to 20 billion dollars annually. What’s exciting in the category is eco-friendly techniques and tools that are providing entrepreneurs with opportunities to make money while helping the environment.
The EPA estimates 5-10% of the nation’s air pollution comes from the small engines where the majority of that is comprised of landscaping equipment.
Clean Air Lawn Care, Inc. has established a rapidly growing eco-friendly niche within this industry where clients will pay a premium for lawn care that delivers the value of reduced air pollution, reduced sound and improved health.
The company was started in 2006 as a local operation in Fort Collins, CO. In 2007, the company tested its model nationally by opening nine more locations strategically around the country to see if the model was viable as a national franchise.
These markets included Seattle, Portland, San Francisco and Denver. After continued success, the company franchised in 2008 and began operating as a franchisor. In 2008, the company sold 17 territories to 12 franchisees. Six other territories are corporate owned.
Current partners include Black & Decker, Neuton, Patagonia, City of Ft. Collins, New Belgium Brewing, and Keen.
During these difficult times, Clean Air Lawn Care is seeing growth through new franchises and new customers in existing markets. In the first six months of marketing the sustainable lawn-care franchise, the company received over 1000 inquiries of individuals interested in owning a franchise. Despite all the chaos in the financial markets, people’s concern for the environment is holding steady.
Clean Air Lawn Care uses clean electric and biodiesel-powered equipment. The vehicles hauling this equipment have mounted solar panels which charge the electric equipment during the workday. The equipment is clean and quiet; the fertilizer is organic; and the business is carbon neutral. The company started out of a garage in 2006 and is now a national franchise.
Clean Air Lawn Care is experiencing internal growth within the recession as well. With the purchase of a new home office, Clean Air Lawn Care officially launched Clean Air Real Estate, a LEED-certified real estate development project. Clean Air Real Estate plans to develop and build green real estate across the country with its national franchise network. This biz is booming.
Anatomy of a Small Biz
The EPA has estimated that up to 5-10% of the nation’s air pollution comes from gas-powered lawn equipment. Through the use of electric equipment powered by renewable energy, Clean Air Lawn Care removed 32,000 pounds of air pollution equaling over 1,000,000 vehicle miles in 2008. The positive impact of Clean Air Lawn Care’s business is parallel with growth. The company’s growth equals a larger reduction in national air pollution.
Three guys walked into a bar: A stockbroker, a tree-hugger and Kelly Giard. Kelly Giard was in the market for a lawn mower and asked the stock broker what kind of mower he used.
“I’ve got people that take care of that for me—looks great.” “Must be nice, Fancypants,” said Kelly, and turned the same question to the tree-hugger, “How ‘bout you, Greenie?”
“I don’t have one, either. I’ll let mine go to seed before I use those noisy smog stacks.” “Okay, Happypants,” Kelly mumbled as she told her tale.
That was 2003. A seed, Clean Air Lawn Care was planted.
In the summer of 2005, a family friend, Katie Van Sant, was looking for some summer work before she headed off to graduate school at the Bard Center for Environment Policy. Kelly turned her loose with a “project.” Her mission: model a profitable lawn mowing crew that significantly reduced air pollution. She succeeded.
By the spring of 2006, Clean Air was up and running in Fort Collins, Colorado. With very little advertising and a late season start, Kelly led a grassroots effort and the rubber met the road. This time, though, it was more like starting a fire than planting a seed.
Embracing his inner tree-hugger, Kelly’s longtime buddy Gerry Keane threw his Manhattan financial muscle behind Clean Air Lawn Care to help fan those flames.
In early 2007, the company brought on Annie Carey and Michelle Holbrook to take Clean Air nationwide. According to their site, “We opened 10 locations to test our eco-friendly lawn service model in markets across the country. The response was overwhelming: Clean Air Lawn Care became a leader in the movement of ‘green’ going mainstream.
“We began forming working relationships with industry leaders such as Black & Decker, Patagonia, Neuton, Juice Energy, New Belgium Brewery, and In Harmony, to name a few. That year, Meisha Pyke joined the team as our resident crazy Kiwi, Chris Cassis came on board as our lead Grassmaster, and Katie Van Sant returned from graduate school with degree in hand. Stephanie Giard retired from full-time momdom and started our grassroots national branding campaign.
“In 2008, our family grew larger as we welcomed 12 local franchise owners into the world of Clean Air. The air is growing cleaner in Washington, Oregon, California, Colorado, Texas and North Carolina, among others. Want to bring some Clean Air to your neighborhood? Buy a Clean Air franchise, get a free estimate, or work for Clean Air today!”