Sustainable Success – E-Green Services – The Valorous Podcast


[00:00:00] Welcome to the Valorous Circle Podcast, where we interview local business leaders and share their inside stories with you today. I’m privileged to meet with Josh Gerber from E green services. Not only is Josh, uh, a great startup business here in west Michigan. Uh, I guess I shouldn’t say startup Josh it’s been over a year now, correct?

Correct. Yeah, we started in the end of 20. But, uh, I’ve also known Josh for about a decade as a friend as well. And so it’s great to have an opportunity to chat with him here today and, uh, share a bit, Josh, could you tell us just a little bit about E green services to get us started off? Just a little bit of background?

Yeah, absolutely. And I appreciate your, your time today, Jonathan taking the, the time to show some interest in E green. So with EG green services, the idea came back in 2020, and really what we were looking at doing. How [00:01:00] could we create a, uh, lawn care company that would be all electric just to go through and reduce the carbon footprint.

We had done a little bit of research. I had done a little bit of research rather had found that two-stroke gas powered long equipment actually emits 65 times the amount of nitrous O as what a car would. and I thought one great idea to go through and start reducing emissions. So I started doing research, found a couple different companies that had products available and did a little bit more research to see if they could be used on a commercial basis.

And that’s really how we started great story. And from what I understand, a, a very successful first year in business, is that a, a fair state. Yeah, last year was our first full year in business. So from April until December, and it was a great year this year, um, looks a little bit different. We have some more customers and a lot of renewals from last year.

So we’re looking at, um, scaling and adding more clients and some increasing our footprint here. Josh. I know you’ve got a very interesting [00:02:00] story and I know some of the people that watch the podcast here are in the process of either starting a business or thinking about that, but have that entrepreneurial bent and.

One of the things I think makes your story so interesting is that you left a job that you’d been at in corporate America for, for a long time in order to start this venture. Can you tell us a little bit about what what’s been happening in your mind over the last couple years to get you ready to the point that you were willing to again, say goodbye to that steady paycheck in exchange for that entrepreneurial opportunity that you’ve capitalized.

Yeah. And that’s a, a great question. I think with myself and a lot of other companies that started during COVID, there was such a big in terms of folks working from home people, getting different jobs and just so many things that were changing throughout so many people’s lives. The big thing in, in our life was my wife had taken on new position and she had gotten full-time health benefits.

And that was one of the real big things. I have six kids, so we have to have our health benefit. [00:03:00] That had really prohibited me for a while. Kind of the argument I had in my head saying, no, I shouldn’t do this because I’m afraid to take that leap. And this is one of the reasons why, so as soon as that was removed as a stumbling block, that really gave me the motivation to go out and start my business.

And literally the week that we had received health benefits for my wife’s employer, I had contacted a local. And, um, had created my LLC that entire, that, um, particular week. So things started moving pretty quickly and it took about six or seven months for me to go through and start off with this idea to bring it to, um, scale to where we were actually out cutting lawns.

So cool. And I just, I love to hear, obviously having founded dollar circle 12 years ago now, myself, I, I love to hear stories like that. That’s so exciting. Talk to us a little bit about challenges. Obviously, when you start a new business, you can’t foresee everything that’s gonna be coming up. You don’t see every roadblock.

You certainly don’t see every blessing [00:04:00] either. But talk to us a little bit about, are there any major roadblocks that you ran into that were unexpected and maybe how did you. As an entrepreneur get around those or, or deal with those unexpected obstacles. Yeah, that’s great. And it, it’s funny when you talk about unexpected obstacles because they pop up unexpectedly.

Right? So I bought, most of my equipment was, um, brand new that I purchased last year and low and behold when my pieces of equipment last week had failed at a customer’s house. So then I was scrambling trying to get it loaded onto my trailer. And get the piece of equipment, you know, over to a shop. So there’s been a lot of different things that have come up.

I would say probably one of the biggest challenges that I’ve had would be in terms of not necessarily having the correct structure for my company. When I first started, I was going, I, I built a, a business plan on paper and I was really trying to follow that to a T, but that wasn’t necessarily the correct way for me to start this [00:05:00] business.

It was good because it gave me my start, but. It wasn’t the direction that I needed to go. So earlier this year I had hired a business coach and I’m really diving more into now having my company instead of centered around being an all electric lawn care company, being centered all around the customer.

So that’s really shifted my entire focusing, my marketing strategy, looking at how we can solve problems for the customer and, um, how we can have them really be the, the main character in the. . Oh, and obviously I’m a huge fan of that methodology. Talk to me a little bit about that change, obviously, you know, I think as most businesses we start thinking about the problems we’re gonna solve and how our business can do that.

But talk to me about that shift in mindset. Again, as you said, from being an all electric lawn care company to one focused on the customer, what type of problems do you solve for your customer? Sure. I think the [00:06:00] obviously being present and being aware, um, of what’s happening when I go out to a client’s home is one of the really big things that can set us apart from other companies we’re not out there just to cut someone’s grass real quick and get in and out.

We do like to be efficient. However, we also like to look for other things that a customer might need, even if it’s something that we can’t provide them. One of the things that we do happen to see on a regular basis would be folks that have gutters that need to be cleaned out. And that can be it’ll lead to a bigger issue.

So we’ll offer services like, um, gutter cleaning while we’re out there, or maybe for their next service. So I think taking the opportunity to see what your surroundings are and if a customer has a certain type of weed, we have an all organic approach to removing weeds and fertilization. Just to name a few different things that we can look for when we’re at a customer’s home.

So if I’m hearing you right, Josh, one of the, the really cool things about what you’re doing is if I’m a property owner, either commercial or residential, [00:07:00] you’re really another set of eyes to be looking at my property. And, and you’re that professional that can help make recommendations as to what I need to do from an upkeep perspective, whether that be to improve or just to mitigate damages, like you mentioned, with the gutter cleaning, uh, it may not improve the, the value of the home.

But obviously avoiding roof issues and flood issues and water damage issues would be monumental in, in value there am I correct? In kind of hearing that’s one of the additional benefits that maybe I don’t think about when I hire E green services, but I’m getting that. Is that true? Yeah, exactly. So we’re looking at, and with your gutters, if, if they’re clogged up and, and not flowing, correct.

That can create drainage issues. You can have issues actually with your yard too. So it’s not just with your home, um, and having water backing up underneath your shingles, but you can have these other issues with your lawn as well. So those are all things that we do to address. I mean, really take a, a holistic approach when looking at someone’s property.

But this year is our first year getting into organic fertilizers as well. [00:08:00] And that’s been really exciting to have that educational. Piece to where I can have a conversation with a customer and explain to them, Hey, if you wanna thicken your grass, that’ll help prevent some of the weeds because then they don’t have a place to grow.

So lots of times we’ll, if that’s something that’s recognized in a customer is on board with wanting us to remedy a lot, that their weed problems I’ll go and take a sample, send it out to a lab and we’ll find out what their soil is lacking or deficient. And then from there, we can figure out how to organically add more to their soil to really go through and remove those.

We. . Mm, awesome. What are some questions as a homeowner that, that I should be considering if I’m saying, okay, I want to engage with somebody like green services. I’m interested in the all electric mowers that you use and the equipment that you use. And I’m obviously interested in some of those organic fertilizer.

What are some questions I should be asking before I start looking for somebody like E green services to, to work. [00:09:00] Sure. Yeah. I think one of the big things that in, in terms of benefits that sets green apart from our competition is how quiet our equipment is. We’re also environmentally friendly, which kind of lends in with the electric, but with so many people working from home with the getting nicer outside, there are people that will work on their patios out in the back in front of a laptop or have windows, um, open windows down and lawn care companies.

You wanna have your lawn care company out there? Typically during the times when most people are at work, but if your work is at your home, it’s a great opportunity to hire somebody like green, because we’re quiet, we’re efficient. We’re not gonna bother you. If you have your windows open, you’re not gonna smell those fumes coming in from the, the gas equipment, because it’s all electric.

Oh, yeah, that makes a ton of sense. Talk to me a little bit, I’m gonna ask you maybe a little more technical, but talk to me about the brands that you’re using. Obviously we see the electric mowers that we can buy at the big box stores and stuff like that, but I [00:10:00] know what you’re using. So I’ve seen them is very different.

Talk to me a little bit about what type of equipment you’re using and, and why did you choose the brands that you’re working with and feel free to mention. Sure. Yeah. So my brand for commercial mowers, they’re made through mean green mower and that is a company that is out of Ohio. So it’s an American mades company and, or, or brand rather, and those mowers are just amazing.

Uh, they have tons of power, torque, quiet. They cut very clean. They’re very expensive on the front end. So you won’t see them typically unless you see our company. Out using them. Some of our smaller pieces of equipment are those brands that you see at the big box stores. Ego is one brand that we’ve been very happy with.

We have a couple of their backpacks and their stick edgers, weed whips, and another brand that we are using quite a bit to is Huska Barner. They make a line of commercial battery powered equipment. . Mm that’s that’s really cool. [00:11:00] How did you learn about all this stuff, Josh, as you got into the industry, just share with us a little bit about where’d you gain all the knowledge.

You’ve obviously learned a lot about how to do this and the equipment to use the fertilizers. Where did that knowledge come from? A lot of it, I’ve put together by myself. And it’s from research hours of research hours and hours of research online, a lot of companies that do lawn care, especially out on the west coast, California, specifically, they’re starting to prohibit the use of allow two stroke.

And even Fort stroke, um, lawn equipment because of the, um, EPA regulations. So I’ve actually looked at some different websites for companies out there and seen what they’ve used. And then from there done research on the actual products and there’s some products I’ve bought and I thought they would be a great fit and they just.

Haven’t been . So it’s spent a little bit of trial and for sure, with the ation process too, I had a lot of customers asking me about fertilizer last year, and that’s [00:12:00] something I wanted to look a little bit deeper into. So I spent this past winter. Um, actually contacting the, the department, Michigan department of agriculture and finding out exactly what products I could, um, use that would be safe.

And then again, going to several different forums and actually looking at all of the labels on the different products I use to make sure that they’re safe for people, really important stuff. And, um, obviously one of the benefits we get is we can rely on all that research and stuff that you’ve done. We don’t have to do it ourselves.

Sure. Uh, Talk to me a little bit about your customers, you work. I know you work with residential, you also work with commercial customers, correct? Correct. Yes. So our equipment and staff, we can go through and handle anywhere from a very small postage stamp size yard, right? In the middle of the SI all the way up to a large, I think our, our biggest contract that we’ve had, it was, it would be equivalent to about 40 acres that we mow in between all these homes.

Wow. And a lot of common areas. So yeah, we’re really set up to go through and handle. Pretty much anything [00:13:00] that someone comes to us and has a need for. And one of the nice things about us being all electric is we can have that smaller trailer, um, with a smaller truck because we can pack our equipment in and then going through downtown grand rapids.

For example, we don’t have to have a massive trailer. We can have a smaller trailer. We have one that’s a little bit bigger as well that we use on our larger properties, but we spend one huge benefit to store our equip. In a completely different way than most other lawn care companies do. Talk to me a little bit about service area.

Obviously I know you’re based in grand rapids, but what is your kind of geographically, if somebody’s watching this and they’re going, wow, this sounds really cool. I’d love to do this. What type of geographic area do you guys cover? Yeah. And so right now we’re throughout Kent county and the areas that we go to currently would be grand rapids, Kenwood, Comstock park, cascade Alto, Byron center.

And [00:14:00] I believe that’s it. So you guys do rock corners of Ken county right now. understood. Do you guys do Rockford or not yet? No. I haven’t gotten any business in Rockford. The farthest north we had right now is Comstock. okay. All right. Awesome. Awesome. Would you just outta curiosity if, uh, homeowner up in Rockford or 10 wanted to, to work with you, is that something you’d consider?

Absolutely. Yeah, because that would be on the day that we’re going to Comstock park. We could easily go to Belmont Rockford that area. Oh, awesome. Awesome. That’s great. Talk to me just a little bit about the future. Tell me where do you see E green services going in the next year or two. And what are your plans?

And then what does that look. sure. So really my plan is to go through and scale and continue to build out the, the company to where we have, um, several different locations that are being handled here, um, in west Michigan, not just in Kent county. So we would like to go through and have a good concentration in several different parts of Kent county.

And then also go through and move potentially, [00:15:00] maybe not next year, but the following year over to OWA county. And continue to increase our great plans and great plans. I, no doubt based on where you’re, you’re headed, you’re gonna achieve that as well. So one of the things we love to ask Josh along the way is any interesting stories from the.

Electric lawn care business or, or whatever that obviously family friendly, but any interesting stories you can share about experience, usually run into the person not supposed to be in the backyard that was there when you were mowing or anything. Again, that’s family friendly that we can share of that might, might bring a smile to people’s faces.

Interesting. And family friendly. We, yeah, they don’t always go together, but we need to. We have found a lot of hidden things in people’s yards, especially the first cut of the year when the, the grass is to that point where it needs to be cut. And it’s the first cut. We’ve seen some crazy stuff, but I don’t think most of it is family friendly.

fair enough. Fair enough. In other words, watch what’s in your yard, right? Exactly. Yeah. yeah. Yeah. I can only imagine. So the [00:16:00] other thing, and, and again, Josh, I so appreciate your time today. Totally random. And I don’t prep you for this cause I would just want to see where you come up with, but just a totally random question.

And that would be if you had the opportunity to be governor of Michigan and it’s not meant to be political, but just that’s the random question that came up. Would you take that opportunity and why, or why. Ooh, that’s a tough question. I think I would take that position just for the simple fact. I see that there is so much good that can be done and not that good things aren’t happening, but there’s a lot of changes that I feel that we could make for Michigan that haven’t been done yet.

A few weeks ago, I spent the day down in Detroit and for anyone that’s drove through. The, um, Detroit area, we were over by eight mile, um, looking at property down there. I was with an investor, um, and he wanted just some, someone to ride along with him. And I said, Hey, I’ll, I’ll come down there with you.

That part of Michigan just needs so much help. And they’ve made [00:17:00] some good strides, um, over the past couple years, but there’s been some, a lot of backsliding as well. So it seems like there’s a lot of improvement, um, that we could see, not just here in west Michigan, but especially in the Southeast part of the.

Good response. Thanks for that. Candid share and advice for someone that’s particularly in your situation where you were a couple years ago, they’re in corporate America. They’ve got that job. They’re, they’ve been dreaming for years, and I know you’ve done for years about your entrepreneurial aspirations.

What advice would you give to that person as they’re watching the podcast today and saying, wow, I, I want to do what Josh has done. What, what advice would you give. Yeah, that’s been probably the best part of this journey for me is the aspect of networking. I would say, get yourself out there and start to go meet different people that are in either a similar industry or maybe a completely different industry, but have gone out and started, um, a company on their own, having people [00:18:00] as resource.

And utilizing those resources and those people, most people are very open and helpful to assist other entrepreneurs that are just starting out. And really that networking piece is amazing. And that would probably be my biggest suggestion for anyone starting. Good advice. Good advice again, Josh. I really thank you for your time, especially in this case, just, uh, putting the schedule together and everything else that your time is greatly appreciated.

So exciting to see you grow and to see your business grow and best wishes as, and many blessings to come in the future as you continue to serve the community here in and around west Michigan. So thank you so much for your time. Thank you, Jonathan. I appreciate the opportunity.