Durango Lawns: Keeping Durango Green

Some people adore yard work.

Others prefer to leave their lawn care to the experts, so they have the freedom to go play.

It is on this principle that Durango Lawns was founded. Although he is an electrician by trade, Pat Cass spent many of his early years working in lawn maintenance. He enjoys working outdoors and staying physically active, and for years, he dreamed of starting his own lawn company. Finally in 2019, he and his wife, Cyrilla, decided that it was time to make the dream a reality.

To get the ball rolling, they enrolled in the SBDC’s Starting Your Business Workshop. “The workshop was super helpful; we were so glad that we did it before embarking on this journey!” Cyrilla says.

They began conducting market research and learning about the local business opportunities. Soon, they discovered that a local lawn care company had gone up for sale. They were immediately interested in buying it.

Cyrilla met with Carl Malmberg, the SBDC’s financial consultant. Together, they analyzed the financials and management side of the business. “We needed a way to understand the numbers better. It turned out that it wasn’t a good fit for us. We realized that it would be better to start our own smaller business and grow from there. This way, we didn’t have to put in as much capital in the beginning.”

Although the decision to launch their own business was purely financial, they soon realized that they loved the idea of creating their own company from scratch. Pat is friendly and personable, and one of his main focuses is building personal relationships and providing high quality service. “By starting our own business, we were able to connect with customers in a more personalized way, earning their trust as we went along ” says Cyrilla.

Pat and Cyrilla decided to launch Durango Lawns, a company that would focus on becoming Durango’s experts in lawn care. They planned to provide all lawn maintenance services including mowing, aerations, and spring and fall cleanups.

By February 2020, they were ready to go. Everything was in place to launch the company at the end of March. Then, the pandemic hit. “We returned from a spring break trip to a complete shutdown. We struggled to decide if we should still launch the business. Ultimately, we just decided that our work would be outside, and we wouldn’t be in close interaction with people on a regular basis. We determined that we could safely operate, so we went for it.”

Since they weren’t able to attend any in-person networking events, the couple had to make some dramatic adjustments to their marketing plan. They pivoted by increasing spending on their Google ads, which turned out to be highly successful.

As the season progressed, the business continued to grow. By December of 2020, Cyrilla realized that she needed to upgrade the company’s bookkeeping system, and she once again sought out the SBDC. Although SBDC was not offering its regular QuickBooks (QB) classes, Cyrilla was able to meet with Amber Davis, one of the QB trainers. “She helped me a ton,” Cyrilla says, “I had no idea how complicated QB was; she really helped get our whole business set up in just 5 or 6 sessions. Even now, she makes herself available to answer all of my questions as I go along. I’m so grateful for her help!”

Looking forward to 2021, the couple is anticipating continued growth. During their first season, Pat completed all of the lawn care maintenance on his own because he felt it was important to build strong connections with his new clients. This year, they are looking forward to bringing on their first part-time employee. Once again, the SBDC has been an invaluable resource. “Hiring an employee is overwhelming; we had no idea where to start. Mary met with us and really helped us understand how to navigate the hiring process.”

Although their first year of business was nothing like they imagined, it turned out very well, and the couple is proud of succeeding at launching the company. Cyrilla encourages other prospective business owners, “Go for it. It’s scary at first because it feels so risky, but in the end, it feels really good to work for yourself. Before you launch, educate yourself on business basics, and have your ducks in a row. Use the SBDC; they have been a tremendous help to us. They have an amazing team of consultants who want small businesses to survive and thrive.”

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