By guest author Hema Kalsha
While a lot of the discussion about how to reduce fuel emission centers on cars – either trading them for public transportation, car pooling, or more fuel-efficient cars – another common gas guzzler may be overlooked: the lawnmower. There are about 30 million acres (~121,400 square kilometers) of lawn in the United States alone. Caring for these lawns causes a lot of pollution; running a lawnmover for one hour may pollute as much as driving a car for four. Compounding the problem is that traditional manual mowers have the reputation of being heavy and awkward, and their blades need frequent sharpening. Ecomowers is an e-commerce store trying to change the way people think about environment friendly lawn mowers.
Growing up in Vermont and living in places surrounded by nature encouraged founder and CEO Andy Humphrey, who enjoys hiking, swimming, mountain biking, and skiing, to create Ecomowers to help protect and preserve natural areas for future generations. Humphrey got a degree in hortiulture and landscape architecture from Montana State in 2001 and started his career as a landscape architect at Chapel Valley Landscape Company, where he became interested in water conservation and the effects the green movement was going to have on the landscaping industry. He found desk jobs boring and took up sales, to both learn how to sell and to earn more money. While working at Netafirm USA, which makes irrigation products, he learned how polluting lawnmowers were. Using his marketing and computer skills, he learned the ins and outs of e-commerce and started by creating a business that sold Christmas lights. He eventually founded ecomowers.com along with three other e-commerce businesses.
Americans buy almost 400,000 manual push mowers a year, growing at a 20% CAGR. This is up from about 50,000 a year in the 1980s. Ecomower’s top target segments are garden centers, hardware stores, green bloggers, and “eco”-oriented shops.
The company sells new and reconditioned mowers from a variety of maufacturers, including Fiskars, NaturCut, RazorCut, Scotts, Bermuda, and American Deluxe, at prices ranging from $75 to $400. These mowers are lighter than 20th-century push mowers, weighing about 17 to 25 pounds. It also sells wrenches, grass catchers, and its own brand of decals and t-shirts.
At the time of Ecomower’s founding, there were three to five companies selling maual, or reel mowers, which use blades mounted on a cylinder, online. Humphrey believed that none of these companies was strong in marketing, and they were simply the only companies in the space. He realized the potential and decided to stand out by developing his brand. Focusing solely on mowers and not on similar products helped him to capture market share; Ecomowers has about 5% of the market. At present, Clean Air Gardening and YardLover are two e-commerce sites that focus on yard equipment, and Amazon and eBay also sell manual mowers.
Ecomowers is completely bootstrapped. Humphrey began with $500 and financed everything with the profits from the business. Because Humphrey had a full-time job at the time he was starting Ecomowers, he was able to reinvest about 90% of the profits. Ecomowers is now looking to raise at least $150,000 in the next six months. The ideal investor is marketing oriented with manufacturing experience. This person(s) must also believe in the green movement and share a passion for the business.
Ecomower’s revenues are about $350,000 with 120,000 visits to the site per year. PPC and SEO generate about 30% of the traffic, and the rest is organic or through referrals.
Humphrey’s growth strategy is to continue building the Ecomowers brand online and to introduce labeled products into brick & mortar stores, because this is where people generally buy lawn mowers. He also wants to complete the management team.
The exit strategy is to license the Ecomower brand to a major manufacture and industry player, and then continue to build the online retail store (ecomowers.com) for a later acquisition by a larger e-commerce company. He also wants to promote entrepreneurship, adding, “I’m passionate about the environment, and I believe entrepreneurship is the ticket to the new economy. I started with only $500, and I feel strongly that we need to educate more people on how to start their own business.”
Ecomowers presented at the roundtable on August 26, 2010; the recording is here [02:30 to 12:30]. Sramana and Andy discussed how to use SEO to its fullest potential, given that there is plenty of low-hanging fruit in the market.
This segment is a part in the series : 1Mby1M Incubation Radar 2010