Sunday, June 28, 2009

My Husband the Entrepreneur

Steve has a true entrepreneurial spirit. And he's the best kind of entrepreneur because he not only loves "making" and "doing" what he does, he is also energized by the idea of marketing these goods and services. He believes in "great untapped markets" just waiting to find someone who can make them a good clothesline, restore their yard to prairie, provide them with big trees. He has loved five years of learning the business of lawn seeding and doing not just lawn seeding but also whatever landscaping plan he can see once he's on a property. He can also "sell" the plan to the homeowner, usually, with his vision and his enthusiasm. He loves being in his tree nursery, pruning trees and weeding and watering, and he loves making the fliers to sell the trees. He also loves machinery.

This year marked his movement into the tree business in a big way. He has been growing trees in his tree nursery, about five acres on the west side of the property, since he quit teaching high school to start this new self-employment adventure five years ago. He doesn't have many trees in his nursery yet that are big enough to sell, though he does have arbor vitae that are in good shape. This spring he bought a tree spade, a giant hydraulic attachment for his skid loader that can dig up large trees. He went out to a nursery where they sell mostly plants and also small trees. They don't have a tree spade, so once the trees are too big for buckets, they can't sell them. They had a grove of Sienna maples, a beautiful fall tree, that were too big to sell, and Steve bought them at a cut rate. He went out, dug them up, balled and burlapped them, and carted them back here.

A local farmer named Hooper who has been in the Christmas tree business for decades is now transitioning into the yak farming business, so he has lots of red pines for the taking. Steve bought them-- part of the agreement was he would come back and fill in the holes with topsoil-- and now they're out here for sale as well. Several groups of people have come out to "see the trees" in recent weeks, but so far no sales. But Steve insists once people "see those big trees" they have to have them. They can't resist.

I think it's a guy thing-- and it is true that the people who have seen those maples-- the guys-- are talking in numbers. They want three or four for their property. And I didn't really see the grandness of them until Steve planted one just off our screen porch. it reaches all the way up to that second floor loft and the birds are in it all day. I love it. It's well-placed to shade our eventual back deck and provide glorious autumn color.

And he made this flier, which will no doubt entice people to buy the trees. A damn good flier, with the usual requirements: a photo of Steve on machinery doing some kind of work, and a photo of the product in a great setting. (He Photoshopped out all the other trees for effect).

He's truly the best kind of entrepreneur, because he didn't just decide to do something he would enjoy-- he wants to go out and SELL it. I really have no patience for people who think their ideas or talent is so great that, "If I build it, they will come." And as someone who has mostly not done what she loves because I can't figure out a way to make money at it and I'm too darn practical to be an "artiste," I appreciate that he doesn't think marketing is a dirty word or somehow reduces the quality or reputation of what he does. I don't think he'll ever make a fortune, but I don't care about that. I'm just glad that on so many levels, what Steve does works.

Next year, he has his heart set on a drill seeder, that will make it possible to put the seeds of prairie plants directly into the ground without tilling. Tilling, you see, just agitates the weed seeds and the natives have a hard time establishing a hold. And just think of the untapped market out there. "No one does this, not for ordinary customers. Just wait..."

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