No matter the season, owning land typically means you’ll need someone to mow the lawn. There are expensive options, but forget trying to get the neighbor’s kid to do jagged, half-finished work. Hiring a professional on-demand is just the next extension of the “Uber of X” trend.
Nashville-headquartered GreenPal has the lawn care business covered. Pairing homeowners with unruly lawns with lawn care businesses, GreenPal has made neighbors and local businesses — except for that neighbor’s kid — happier. Through the mobile app, GreenPal facilitates the connection and transaction, while charging 5 percent of the transaction from the lawn care business using Stripe.
On the business side of things, the number four comes up a lot lately but won’t forever. Four years after founding, the four cofounders have expanded into a total of four states and 13 markets, with plans to grow — like grass — even further. Cofounder Gene Caballero spoke with PYMNTS about the impetus of this lawn-cutting business, why the team spent $90,000 on a minute-and-a-half video and the most fulfilling part of launching and running this platform.
PYMNTS: What is GreenPal, and how does the marketplace work?
GC: GreenPal is the easiest way to find, schedule and pay your lawn guy. Sign-up takes less than 30 seconds. Our vendors that are in the area will basically bid on that property based off of Google Street View and the details of what the homeowner provides.
On the vendor side, we give them an operating system that they can allow their business to run. We give them lead creation, scheduling and payment. So, we provide the full gamut to help them run their business from their cellphone.
PYMNTS: How does everyone get paid?
GC: We’re basically a platform for services. We don’t charge the homeowners anything. We take 5 percent of anything that goes through our system. So, if John Smith gets his lawn cut, he pays the vendor for the lawn care, and we take a 5 percent fee from there. We don’t own the appointment. Basically, we just facilitate the transaction.
PYMNTS: How did the business get started?
GC: One of my really good friends growing up, who is now a cofounder, he had one of the largest landscaping companies in middle Tennessee. When he exited that company about four years ago, he knew there had to be a better way for homeowners to find lawn care professionals. His company mostly did commercial jobs, and every day, he would have 30 or 40 homeowners call, and he would give referrals. But then, they would complain that they didn’t show up or never called back. And then, at the time, Uber and Airbnb were starting up and gaining traction, so we knew that the demand and the trust could be there online. That was 2012. Now, we’ve been in business for four years. We’re in four states and 13 markets.
PYMNTS: What does Uber of X mean to you?
GC: Once you get down to it, we’re probably closer to the OpenTable for Lawn Care. I say that jokingly, kind of. When I try to explain it to somebody, I’ll say, “We facilitate transactions between homeowners and vendors that will cut their lawn.” That sounds a little silly. But when I say, “Uber for Lawn Care,” they go, “OK!” See, we don’t have vendors riding around with $30,000 worth of equipment. Perhaps they’re in the area — and that’s happened hundreds of times — but most of the time, it’s scheduled. But as for “Uber of Lawn Care,” we have been coined that way.
PYMNTS: How much funding have you received?
GC: We are self-funded. We have actually had the opportunity to take investor money, but we deferred it, and we will keep deferring it until the perfect partner comes along.
PYMNTS: Can you share a battle scar in the four years of starting up?
GC: Well, there are actually four cofounders. One of us knew the landscaping business, but the rest of us didn’t really know even the technology side. In our first year, we paid a local shop to build the website and mobile app for us. We thought it was going to be a plug-and-play type thing, where you build this website and people come to it. Well, we paid $90,000 for them to build us a website that was barely usable, and the only thing we kept from it was a minute-and-a-half video. That was our first big mistake. But it also it also let us know that we needed to have a technical cofounder in with us. So, one of our cofounders ended up going to a software school for six months, and now, he’s our CEO, and he built the new 2.0 website. We still have the video, which we still use to this day, which cost us $90,000.
PYMNTS: What else have you learned in this business model?
GC: As a cofounder, it takes time and sacrifice. You’re on call 24/7, and you kind of have to stay on top of the vendors and be sympathetic to homeowners who didn’t get their lawn cut on the day they wanted it done. It’s just a lot of hard work to make something like that happen. Any tips I would give is to be ready for the sacrifice it takes to build something great.
PYMNTS: What’s been the best highlight since launching?
GC: The highlight has basically been when the vendors tell you, “Thank you for building something that makes my job better.” We have a lot of vendors that have basically taken their analog customers and brought them over to the platform. They don’t want to chase checks or use a pen and pad to schedule routes. So, about once a week, we get a text message or an email thanking us for bringing them more business and making life easier. So, we appreciate that we’re doing the right thing.