Imagine a brilliant blanket of wildflowers next to a highway. Or a
vast green field where a coal mine once pitted the land. Interested in the
environment and have a green thumb on a grand scale? You can make a difference
-- and a profit -- with a hydroseeder, seeds, water and a little mulch.
Hydroseeding is the process of mixing seed, mulch and water and blowing
it out of a machine called a hydroseeder. It's used on large areas as well
as residential lawns.
You can see the evidence of hydroseeding everywhere -- from the newly green
hill bordering the highway, to a neighbor's flower-filled backyard. It's also
heavily used in important environmental projects to prevent soil erosion and
reclaim strip-mined areas.
Barren land can be carefully reclaimed for productive uses. What once was
a desolate area is transformed into gently rolling grass, trees and shrubs.
Why is hydroseeding in demand? A hydroseeder can be used when other seeding
methods are impossible or highly difficult. It can effectively cover large
and hard-to-reach tracks of land. "You can shoot hillsides you couldn't even
stand on," says Tom Slusser, owner of Slusser's Green Thumb in Logansport,
Hydroseeding is also a cost-effective method for both residential and commercial
landscaping. Maintenance costs of an area hydroseeded with wildflowers can
be drastically reduced -- a great selling point for larger commercial contracts.
Setting It Up
Although initial investment can be up to $200,000 (depending on equipment
size), prospective business owners can look forward to large city, state and
other government contracts. Landscaping and lawn-maintenance companies will
often "piggy-back" hydroseeding with their existing services, capitalizing
on full-service grounds care.
Greenery and the environment are important to Slusser, who successfully
combined hydroseeding with his existing lawn-maintenance business. Slusser
and his wife Cecilia had developed hot beds and raised plants as a hobby business
since 1963. Eventually, Slusser quit his job at Northern Indiana Public Service
Company and expanded the business into lawn maintenance, landscape design
and a garden store.
Slusser realized his vision in 1976. And his vision included seed, mulch
and water. A pioneer in the seeding and sod industry offered to sell his equipment
to the Slussers, and give them some business. After buying as much equipment
and as many vehicles as the bank would allow, the investment paid off. Now,
Slusser's Green Thumb is still growing strong.
"I think all of our work helps the environment," says Slusser, who is proud
of his company and its contributions. His highway beautification projects
with the state of Indiana (Slusser's slogan is "Keeping Indiana Highways Green
and Growing") have been ecologically minded and profitable.
Slusser's hydroseeding rates can range from the low- to mid-thousands per
job. With the continued development of freeways that require beautification,
and with environmental concerns increasing, hydroseeding is a growing industry.
Before you rush off to get involved, Slusser cautions that hydroseeding
is seasonal work. "You have three months a year that you will not work. Weather
is a very costly thing."
He recommends future hydroseed company owners combine hydroseeding with
other ventures. "Mix it with landscaping, at least for a few years. Don't
rely on it for your only source of income."
Hydroseeding and landscaping can be a profitable mix. Baby-boomer homeowners
want a beautiful lawn without the hassle of maintaining it. They spend over
$14 million on landscape services each year.
Jim Brisebois sees his business blooming. Coastal Hydroseeding provides
services to residential and commercial locations, and sells colorful wildflower
seeds through retail outlets, mail order and distributors.
Brisebois, a self-described entrepreneur, had no experience with this industry
when he started his business. "I had an antique restoration business for 10
years, which I sold, and I closed my kitchen-cabinet business. When this business
came available, I bought it."
How did Brisebois jump into an industry he knew nothing about? Careful
research and a 24-page business plan. He strongly believes that any budding
hydroseeding entrepreneur should follow closely in his footsteps. "Business
plans will tell you the truth. You have to be able to see where you're going."
Coastal Hydroseeding boasts that an impressive 30 percent of its business
is from word-of-mouth advertising. "Eighty percent of business is customer
service. You have to do whatever it takes."
Brisebois will also do whatever it takes to market his services. "I'll
go door-to-door with pamphlets. I'll go anyplace with sod."
This savvy has landed Brisebois large wildflower installation contracts.
His installations have a beautiful effect on neighborhoods, and support butterflies,
songbirds and pollinating insects like bees.
What skills does Brisebois feel are crucial for the budding hydroseed entrepreneur?
"You have to have a strong stomach, a customer service attitude, basic literacy
and some mechanical aptitude."
He also strongly advises that business owners check out their competition
before starting their venture. Too much competition, or companies with larger
and better equipment, can put you out of business in a hurry.
If you want to work hard and help the environment, hydroseeding offers
growing profit potential to the budding entrepreneur. With the right equipment,
a solid plan, and a love for the outdoors, you can successfully start your
venture, market your services to residential and commercial contracts, and
watch your business grow.
You'll always know your skills, talent and service make green things happen.
Why not make money and improve the environment -- one tiny seed at a time?
Slusser's Green Thumb
Tom Slusser and his family business
Professional Land Care Network
Statistics and stories about the lawn-care industry