Environmentally friendly lawn care franchise launched

In the summer of 2006, Kelly Giard decided to start Clean Air Lawn Care in Fort Collins, CO, an environmentally friendly lawn maintenance company. A little more than one year later, he's franchising the idea on a national level.

Two business models are available:
1) Contractors seeking to own a four-crew company servicing roughly 150 accounts for an estimated annual gross revenue of roughly $200,000
2) Contractors seeking to run their own crew and gross roughly $80,000 to $100,000. For both models, pre-defined market areas are established.

According to the company's website, Clean Air Lawn Care is seeking contractors who are part businessperson, part tree hugger and part pioneer. Target customers are busy, affluent and environmentally conscious residential properties. Franchisees pay a $35,000 fee and 9-percent revenue royalty. In exchange, Giard says

Clean Air Lawn Care provides:
• A proven business model
• Marketing and public relations support
• Sales process training
• An eight-day training school
• Accounting and technology support; Clean Air handles receivables
• Corporate level partnerships where 100 percent of discounts are passed along to franchisees
• Experience and expertise in a developing niche industry anchored by a highly trained staff in Fort Collins, CO.

EQUIPMENT AT THE CORE OF THE BUSINESS MODEL

When Giard began looking into the idea of an environmentally friendly lawn care company a couple years ago, he was surprised nobody else was doing it. At the same time, he could see why. The idea was solid, but some of the equipment wasn't. After finding the right equipment, then modifying the business plan and fine tuning the logistics of scheduling, Giard says he's devised a successful, proven business model.

Clean Air Lawn Care uses clean equipment including electric mowers, edgers and blowers, as well as 36-inch walk-behinds and ride-on mowers using biodiesel fuel. The company trucks have mounted solar panels to charge the electric equipment during the workday. The equipment is clean, quiet and strong enough to get the job done, according to Giard. The entire business is carbon-neutral. A partnership has been formed with Black & Decker, including joint marketing and product development.

"Our standard for equipment is quite simple," Giard points out. "It must be clean, preferably quite, reliable and easily serviceable."

Giard says franchisees purchase some of their equipment directly from the manufacturer through Clean Air Lawn Care, as in the case of Black & Decker electric-powered equipment. Biodiesel-fueled mowing equipment from Kubota is purchased through a local dealer. Clean Air is actually a dealer for HUGR biodiesel-based small equipment (hugrsystems.com). Also, Clean Air carries an inventory of Patagonia uniforms the franchisee can purchase from. With Toyota trucks, a pre-negotiated deal has been struck, which franchisees execute at their local
dealership.

Scheduling logistics is another key component to Giard's business model. "Managing batteries and biodiesel fuel, and their limitations during a work day, has been something that's taken a lot of time to perfect," he relates. "There is still room for improvement. Our issues are not as simple as stopping by the gas station, since reputable biodiesel is not conveniently located around the country yet. Batteries take time to charge properly. Learning how these alternative power sources behave in different conditions and areas of the country has been a steep curve to climb. Our partnership with Black & Decker is a benefit when it comes to successfully executing scheduling logistics."

GREEN IS GROWING

Before founding Clean Air Lawn Care, Giard was a reputable stockbroker. But even before that—some 20 years ago—he had a thriving lawn care business in Walla, Walla, WA. Before he was confident about offering Clean Air as a franchise a couple months ago, Giard wanted to make sure the service was viable across the country.

So far, the reaction across geographic areas and clientele has been better than expected. "People are thirsty for a green alternative, and our franchises are designed to give them that choice," Giard says. As of mid-December, Clean Air Lawn Care had nine offices across the country. Giard is hopeful that there will be plenty more by spring.

"Our core business is high-end residential," Giard points out. "We can service most any property, though. For example, we service condo associations in Seattle, a low-income apartment complex in Portland, property managers in Austin, and here in Fort Collins, a Colorado State University facility and the New Belgium Brewing campus."

For more information on Clean Air Lawn Care, visit cleanairlawncare.com.

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