Social media works. Innovation Destination Hartford Website Curator Nan Price connected with Casa Rossa Landscape & Construction, LLC co-founders Jeffrey and Emily Kyle via a Facebook post from IdleWilde Printing Company. Nan met with the two to discuss startup processes and challenges.
NAN PRICE: Have you always wanted to own a business? How did the idea come about?
JEFFREY KYLE: Landscaping has been in my blood since I was a child. My grandfather was a union bricklayer and my father has a small landscaping company. I worked for my father during high school and throughout college. I worked for other landscape and construction companies over the years, where I learned how to do asphalt, concrete, irrigation installation and maintenance, and some hardscape.
Emily and I had been thinking about starting our own business for a while and it seemed like the right path for us. I’ve learned so many different things over the years and I’ve always had an entrepreneurial mindset.
EMILY KYLE: It made more sense for us to start something from scratch. We like the business aspect of it too, not just doing the manual work and landscaping. We want to learn more about owning and growing businesses.
My bachelor’s degree is in landscape architecture and I’ve done a lot of small-scale landscape design, so, I’ve been able to help with project ideas.
NAN: What’s your biggest startup challenge?
EMILY: One of the difficulties about starting a landscaping company is the price of new equipment. With a new business, you’re starting from the bottom. You can’t buy all your equipment right away because you don’t have enough work immediately coming in to pay for those items, whether you’re taking loans out or you’re paying in cash.
You have to be smart. For us, starting at a small scale makes the most sense for now. If you overpay for big project-type equipment, you may not get the work because you haven’t built a clientele yet. Starting small has been the most affordable way for us to get started. We plan to build from here.
NAN: How are you building your clientele?
JEFF: I started with no clients whatsoever. My first client was a commercial project. It was a lucky break because they have a lot of visibility. We documented that work by posting photos on social media, and some of the company’s employees became clients. People saw the quality of the work and it just blew up from there.
Our business is located in New Hartford, but I grew up in West Hartford, so I have a lot of connections there. So far, a lot of our work is in West Hartford, Glastonbury, Newington, Manchester, and Canton.
That’s the thing too, when we were starting out, it was all word-of-mouth referrals. Starting out, my mindset has been: Use what you have and take what you can get. It was important to get our name out there and make those connections. They could be potential leads. You never know.
NAN: Aside from word-of-mouth, how are you marketing?
JEFF: Social media has been huge. Emily handles that for us. We started our Facebook and Instagram pages right away and started posting. Our content includes planting projects, mulch installations, concrete work, pruning, and lawns I’ve cut. Clients, friends, and family were sharing the page and recommending us.
EMILY: We have lawn signs we install, but that’s not where we’re getting the majority of our clients. We’re getting leads from word-of-mouth and social media. Social media is 2019. We’re happy to make posts because people connect with them. People love updates and they love social media. If they don’t hear from you, they don’t know you’re out there.
So, we’re heavily relying on social media, but a lot of our marketing has been word-of-mouth and reviews—people love reviews—and it’s helped us grow the business substantially.
NAN: You filed your LLC in May 2018, so you’re still fairly new. Tell us about the beginning months of launching the business. What have you learned so far?
JEFF: This year was challenging because I wanted to make sure I was reinvesting business income properly. I have a 48” commercial walk-behind mower I use and maintain. I bought a few small pieces of equipment I knew I’d be able to profit from. Buying equipment is the hardest thing, because it costs so much. Reinvesting your money properly is probably the most important thing.
EMILY: And realizing you have to say no to some people. We’ve had so much interest at times we’ve had to turn people away because right now it’s just Jeff physically working. We haven’t hired employees yet.
In other businesses, you just keep growing. In this type of business, you have to wait if you don’t have enough help and you’re physically doing all the work. Also, in the beginning, you might not have the equipment yet to accommodate someone’s needs, so you have to turn some work away.
We grew faster than we were prepared for and we can’t accommodate everything right away. I know we’ll be able to, but it takes time.
NAN: Aside from financing, what do you need most to move your company forward?
JEFF: Good-quality employees in coming years. If you have good-quality employees you know are going to show up and give 110%, you can take on more work.
NAN: Any advice for those thinking of launching a small business?
JEFF: Starting from the bottom is always a challenge. Be smart with your money. Ask other successful people for advice, even if they’re not in the same industry.
EMILY: Right. We’ve gotten advice and financial guidance from family members and other business owners.
I would also recommend being savvy right away with record keeping. Nobody teaches you about that. In this type of business, taxes are challenging and you’re writing off items for the business. There are things you don’t fully understand right away. Recordkeeping is huge for anyone who runs their own business. It’s so critical, but no one teaches you that.
Start getting used to saving and organizing everything. It will make your life so much easier. That’s the hardest part of the business from my perspective, keeping track of everything. It’s about establishing good habits.
NAN: Let’s talk about your future vision.
EMILY: We want to grow. Jeff plans to get his Home Improvement Contracting (HIC) license. I have my real estate license. We want to evolve into doing property management in addition to landscaping and construction. We want to be a one-stop shop to accommodate most property needs.
JEFF: We plan to have investment properties down the road and be able to do everything in house. It may take some time, but that’s our ultimate goal.
Learn more about Casa Rossa Landscape & Construction, LLC