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The boulder business

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Kevin Engelmann, owner and operator of Engels Lawncare in Frankfurt, IL, says that finding an additional business or service that would complement his landscape company has always been in the back of his mind. When he came across some information on Boulder Designs, he knew he had found the perfect fit. As a company that develops custom, made-to-order concrete boulder products, Boulder Designs had a lot of potential tie-in opportunities with Engelmann’s landscape business.

While many of the Boulder Designs franchisees are developing commercial business signage with the product, Engelmann saw an opportunity for using the boulders in landscape design and getting them on to residential properties. The product not only offers a unique alternative to traditional business signage, but it can be a beautiful addition to both commercial and residential landscape design.

“I’m a small landscape company and wanted to find something that was an add-on that I could still do myself,” says Engelmann who is now also the owner of Boulder Designs of Will County franchise. “I thought this was something neat—and a little different—so I gave them a call and things went from there. It’s something I really enjoy. You get to make something from nothing and end up with a beautiful product that customers love.”

Traditional man-made boulder products typically utilize chicken wire, Styrofoam and a concrete mixture and as a result are not always very durable. Part of the appeal of the Boulder Design custom-made boulders is that they utilize specially enhanced concrete and are 100 percent solid. This not only gives the boulders the same characteristics as the “real thing” but also ensures the product is strong enough to last a lifetime. The secret to building these unique boulders is of course proprietary. Franchisees are walked through the process and then build their own boulders at their own site.

Engelmann says that in addition to the step-by-step secret of building these beautiful boulders, the company also has been extremely helpful in their marketing support. But he says the very best marketing has been word-of-mouth. “It’s really a see/touch/feel thing,” says Engelmann. “Customers need to see the product in person to appreciate how neat it is. So I find the more I get out and sell, the more new customers I pick up because when people see the product they love it and want one for themselves too.”

Besides selling to new customers, Engelmann says that this new add-on business has also been an opportunity to go back to former clients and pitch something new. And he says that it’s been a great upsell for his current projects. “The possibilities are endless when it comes to using the product for landscaping purposes,” he says. “A new product we’re working on now is benches, which are really sharp.”

Now that he has the boulder business, Engelmann says it’s another way to keep revenue flowing. “You might get a call for a landscaping job and then give them a brochure for the boulder business and wind up with that sale too,” he says. “Or it’s happened that maybe I didn’t get the landscape job but I still sold them a boulder.”

And he says the learning curve for building boulders was manageable and something that any hands-on landscaper would be able to easily pick up. “Of course it helps to have an artistic side—which many landscapers do,” he adds. “But it’s something that isn’t too hard to learn. And I felt that the cost investment was relatively low for the opportunities you have to make that money back. For me, it’s really been a great decision.”

 

Add-On Business: Boulder Designs of Will County
Why Boulders? “I was looking for something unique that not everyone else was already doing,” says owner Kevin Engelmann. “There’s not a lot of competition for this and there are protected territories through the franchise.”
Primary Business: Engels Lawncare
No. of employees: 2
Clients: 90 percent residential; 10 percent commercial
Services: 80 percent maintenance; 20 percent design/build

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Casey Payton

Payton is a freelance writer with eight years of experience writing about the landscape industry.

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