Entrepreneurial genius found in smallest of startups

Golden Meadow Lower receives $200 stipend for safety
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Local lawmakers’ pre-filings a mixed bag
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Golden Meadow Lower receives $200 stipend for safety
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Local lawmakers’ pre-filings a mixed bag
March 25, 2010

The smell of fresh cut grass is invigorating, as the suns rays peak through a web of branches and leaves.

This scene is just a small token area small business owners get to enjoy when starting their own lawn care or landscaping service. During spring, the temperatures rise and the grass grows, which means more business for the hundreds of individuals diving into the rapidly expanding market.

“It seems like every other pickup truck has got a trailer and lawnmower in the back,” said Gary Ganier, owner of Ganier’s Southdown Gardens in Houma.

But even with the stiff competition, the most determined can still succeed.

“I think a lot of people are [in the business] because they think there’s a quick buck to be made, but they soon learn, like with anything else, it takes hard work and persistence to go where you want to go,” explained Kevin Babin, owner and operator of Green Choppers LLC, a Houma-based company that primarily services Terrebonne, Lafourche and Assumption parishes.

There are also a few things the successful understand – an unspoken creed of sorts.

“Provide a good service and charge the right amount of money. Don’t undercut somebody,” noted David Daigle, an employee at The Power Shop in Houma. “And there’s so much business out there, the people that are established will give you the jobs that they don’t want.”

So there’s even a slice of pie for the smallest operations. In fact, a lot of the larger companies started with almost nothing, said Daigle.

A shining example would be Green Choppers, which started with one customer and over a 14-month period, took on nearly 20. Although still considered small-scale, Babin is moving things along in hopes that one day he will be able to operate the business full-time.

Currently, the small business owner juggles his customers alongside his part-time job in security.

For many, that’s the beauty of it – it doesn’t have to be full time and it doesn’t have to break your bank account. “It’s a great business to start. With a weed-eater, a blower and a push-mower somebody can go out and get 10 yards per day and make a decent living,” added Daigle.

Push-mowers can start at $299, while commercial zero-turn mowers can go all the way up to $14,000. But with a weed-eater, edger, backpack blower and zero-turn mower you can enter the market at about $8,500 on the low end, he said.

Not to mention, being your own boss isn’t too bad either.

“[It gives me] the flexibility and the ability to determine my own destiny and my own future. I can [also] guide this company where I want it to go, as opposed to where someone else wants it to go,” explained Babin.

However, there are a few obstacles even the keenest entrepreneur must dodge to make it to the top of the hill. Bad weather can hit without warning, leaving a booked workweek looking quite jumbled.

“Last year we had a two-month drought and this year we’ve had a long winter. It’s the middle of March and everybody is just starting. For the past few years, the mowing season was beginning in February,” noted Daigle. “That’s six weeks of missed income.”

To avoid the skirmish, a lot of companies operate on 12-month contracts that allow them to receive a paycheck every month.

During times of heavy rain – like hurricane season – Babin and his crew either shift schedules around or work extra hours to keep on track.

Keeping an eye on the forecast is a must, he said.

Contracts also wiggle their way into the mix by helping Babin and his customers define their relationship. “Not only [do contracts] establish between you and your customers what you’re going to do for them, but it also protects you from litigation,” added Babin.

So as the winter woes prepare for vacation, work weighs in.