LawnPop: Playing On Their Own Turf

LawnPop: Playing On Their Own Turf

by Kylie Ora Lobell, August 2016

Right now, parts of the western United States are experiencing a water shortage. The cost of water in the region is rising, and residents are told to cut back on their water usage.

Maintaining a green lawn is a big way to waste water, because grass requires a large amount of it to survive and thrive. For every square foot of a lawn, you need .62 gallons, or one inch, of water. That means if your lawn is 1,000 square feet, you have to utilize 620 gallons of water.

Tanner L. Shepard recognized the need for alternative lawns in his home state of Texas, which has a history of drought and water shortages. The Texas Tech University graduate, who received a degree in landscape architecture, decided to address the drought problem and start a landscaping business called LawnPop in 2012. The company puts down synthetic turf for its customers, saving them money, time, and water.

“Traditional grass lawns are one of the biggest consumers of water," Shepard said. “Going into these droughts, it's super important we're not using our most precious resource, which is water."

How LawnPop Increased Its Sales and Client Base

Over the past four years, Shepard has successfully established LawnPop as a leading provider of landscaping in Austin. He's grown his customer base, taken on more workers, and continues to augment his revenue.

Shepard runs the business with his wife Angie. In the beginning, he was doing every single job, but now he employs three full-time workers and a number of contractors. This allows him to delegate the day-to-day tasks and focus on the big picture, which is to expand the business. “I need to be selling and meeting new clients," he said.

Thirty percent of LawnPop's customers are commercial, which includes businesses, churches, and schools, and the other 70 percent are homeowners.

Since 2014, Shepard has tripled his revenue, mostly through word of mouth. “All of our clients refer us to new clients, which is the perfect compliment," he said. “That's why we've had so much growth."

Marketing to Leads Online and In-Person

Prior to starting LawnPop, Shepard founded and ran his marketing company Ranch Road Design & Printing, Inc. Through that experience, he learned about search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM), and applied the same principles when he was trying to get the word out about LawnPop.

Shepard also sponsors local events where water is the focus, like a recent gathering for the Coastal Conservation Association. He participates in these events so he can connect with the community and raise brand awareness. “We sponsored that because it was win-win," he said. “We did a good deed and got exposure at the same time."

Aside from Texas, there are many other states also experiencing droughts. Shepard said that, in the future, he hopes to grow his business in additional cities and continue to “provide a good solution for homeowners and businesses."

Establishing LawnPop Legally

When trying to figure out how to set up his business legally, Shepard was considering an S corporation, which helps companies circumvent the double taxation issue. After further research, however, he decided to go forward as a limited liability company instead.

Applying His Experience and Growing a Culture

Although he's not a first-time small business owner, Shepard said he is still learning how to navigate the challenges of running his own company. Through these struggles, he's figured out some solid advice that other small business founders can learn from as well.

“There's no blueprint that tells you how to do this," he said. “I'd tell other small business owners to stick with it. You have to have that desire and drive to go after it and believe in what you do. You can't give up. There are going to be pitfalls along the way, and it's okay to fail. Accept it as a failure, and then move on to the next solution."

He also hopes to keep his employees happy. “I want to have a business that employees want to work at," he said. “I want to have a great company with a great culture."