If You Build It, They Will Come
By Bruce Freeman
Lars Hundley, owner of Clean Air Gardening of Dallas, Texas is well qualified to be running a small business. After graduating with a Masters from Baylor University, he began doing public relations for an Internet company and looking for an idea to launch his own web site. One day, he was cutting his lawn using an inexpensive push lawn mower when he realized that it was good exercise and good for the environment at the same time. He started thinking that people mistakenly believe that push mowers are hard to use and that gas powered mowers are easier to use when this isn’t necessarily true. Lars thought that if people who cared about pollution really understood how to use a push mower, they might be interested in buying one. Besides, push mowers were a good low cost alternative to gas powered mowers. Another factor that played into his thought process was the fact that push mowers weren’t readily available here in the US, so a business selling mowers wouldn’t be facing a lot of competition. Feeling like this might be the right business to start, but believing he really should know more about it, he decided to go back to school. While getting his MBA at Colorado State, he heard about someone who was importing push mowers from Germany. Opportunity was knocking. Deciding to take the plunge and see how it worked out, Mr. Hundley built a web site and made arrangements to purchase just five mowers, which he planned to sell C.O.D.
www.cleanairgardening.com was successful almost immediately. It turned out that many people were interested in push mowers. Mr. Hundley’s biggest obstacle was the site’s inability to accept credit cards, which began holding sales back. Since programming for secure credit card purchases was beyond his skill level, he connected with Yahoo!,which provides a “store” that sits under a web site and takes care of secure purchasing. With the credit card problem solved, he started seeing sales rise immediately and within one year, the site began to provide him with enough income to make it his primary source. Lars Hundley concentrated on selling mowers for the first year, but expanded over time to include other environmentally friendly products that appeal to the “green” niche customer. In addition, he began advertising in gardening magazines, but this proved to be an expensive object lesson. He learned to test ads before committing to a full run and hired a media consultant to oversee the effectiveness of the process. In 2002, Mr. Hundley bought the rights to manufacture a rain barrel which he is currently marketing to individuals on the web and municipalities who wish to promote water conservation among town residents. This year, Clean Air Gardening will gross $800,000, with sales of $1 million forecast for 2005.
Professor Bruce’s Words of Wisdom
Lars Hundley did a lot of things right in getting a new business off the ground. He was smart enough to take advantage of an existing product believed in and used himself. He determined competitive levels and saw an opportunity. He knew he had strengths and weaknesses and went back to school to lessen the impact of his weaknesses. When faced with requirements beyond his skill level, he outsourced the functions. Finally, he saw an opportunity to expand the breadth of his business to include the manufacturing process, which gives him additional experience, profit margin and opens whole new markets to sales opportunity. He started with a small web site focused on one market niche and customers began to come to him.
Find a product you believe in and use personally. Use the Internet to offer the product to others.
Could This Work For Me?
Web site retail sales are not just for techies anymore. You can hire someone for a reasonable fee to get you up and running.