Kyle Flanagan’s roots are in lawn care – the Florida native started mowing lawns in his parents’ neighborhood when he was just 11. He moved to Athens in 2002 to attend the University of Georgia and worked for a regional chem-lawn company to pay for tuition.
As he built connections in the community and prioritized strong customer relations, he decided to leave the company and start one of his own. Business grew rapidly.
“We were really looking to create a regional footprint,” said Flanagan. “But after about five years, I had taken it as far as I was able to go on my own.”
At that time, Flanagan had the opportunity to purchase three Scotts Miracle-Gro franchises. He reached out to the University of Georgia Small Business Development Center (SBDC) to secure a loan to buy the franchises.
He successfully purchased the Scotts franchises in Augusta, Columbus and Alabama, and stayed connected with the SBDC. Early on he learned about budgeting, finances and scaling the business. Flanagan also attended the SBDC’s Signature Series course GrowSmart, learning how to use marketing research, analyze financial conditions and create a timeline of growth for his business.
“I came out of GrowSmart a whole different person,” Flanagan said. “I would have paid almost anything for what I took away and implemented in our businesses.”
In 2016, the Scotts brand was bought out by another major competitor, Tru-Green.
Flanagan had three years of his non-compete clause to wait out and immediately set plans in motion for starting his own competing business.
For Flanagan, keeping his team together was a top priority. During the three-year wait, he was able to continue operating the Alabama franchise, allowing him to keep the operational team employed while preparing for his new brand Lawn Ace’s launch.
With guidance from Rick McMurtrey, the SBDC area director in Augusta, Flanagan created a marketing strategy to distinguish his company from competitors.
“Kyle had all of the industry knowledge and experience needed to start his new business,” McMurtrey said. “What he didn’t have was a strong grasp of how to create a brand from scratch and the type of marketing needed to do that.”
Through McMurtrey, Flanagan found a marketing firm to help build the Lawn Ace brand. In fall 2019, Lawn Ace was officially founded.
Flanagan again relied on the marketing principles learned through his consulting sessions with McMurtrey as the pandemic set in. He focused his marketing on residential lawn care, since more people were staying at home. The company survived the pandemic and has seen three years of steady growth exceeding $1 million.
McMurtrey and Flanagan recently celebrated a milestone: Lawn Ace exceeded the 2021 projections by 30 percent. That growth that is expected to continue in 2022.
“I am the SBDC’s biggest cheerleader,” Flanagan said. “It is the single best thing I have ever done for my business.”
By Irene Wright