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Hydroseeder Operator

Imagine a brilliant blanket of wildflowers next to a highway. Or a vast green field where a coal mine once pitted the land. Interested in the environment and have a green thumb on a grand scale? You can make a difference -- and a profit -- with a hydroseeder, seeds, water and a little mulch.

Hydroseeding is the process of mixing seed, mulch and water and blowing it out of a machine called a hydroseeder. It's used on large areas as well as residential lawns.

You can see the evidence of hydroseeding everywhere -- from the newly green hill bordering the highway, to a neighbor's flower-filled backyard. It's also heavily used in important environmental projects to prevent soil erosion and reclaim strip-mined areas.

Barren land can be carefully reclaimed for productive uses. What once was a desolate area is transformed into gently rolling grass, trees and shrubs.

Why is hydroseeding in demand? A hydroseeder can be used when other seeding methods are impossible or highly difficult. It can effectively cover large and hard-to-reach tracks of land. "You can shoot hillsides you couldn't even stand on," says Tom Slusser, owner of Slusser's Green Thumb in Logansport, Indiana.

Hydroseeding is also a cost-effective method for both residential and commercial landscaping. Maintenance costs of an area hydroseeded with wildflowers can be drastically reduced -- a great selling point for larger commercial contracts.

Setting It Up

Although initial investment can be up to $200,000 (depending on equipment size), prospective business owners can look forward to large city, state and other government contracts. Landscaping and lawn-maintenance companies will often "piggy-back" hydroseeding with their existing services, capitalizing on full-service grounds care.

Greenery and the environment are important to Slusser, who successfully combined hydroseeding with his existing lawn-maintenance business. Slusser and his wife Cecilia had developed hot beds and raised plants as a hobby business since 1963. Eventually, Slusser quit his job at Northern Indiana Public Service Company and expanded the business into lawn maintenance, landscape design and a garden store.

Slusser realized his vision in 1976. And his vision included seed, mulch and water. A pioneer in the seeding and sod industry offered to sell his equipment to the Slussers, and give them some business. After buying as much equipment and as many vehicles as the bank would allow, the investment paid off. Now, Slusser's Green Thumb is still growing strong.

"I think all of our work helps the environment," says Slusser, who is proud of his company and its contributions. His highway beautification projects with the state of Indiana (Slusser's slogan is "Keeping Indiana Highways Green and Growing") have been ecologically minded and profitable.

Slusser's hydroseeding rates can range from the low- to mid-thousands per job. With the continued development of freeways that require beautification, and with environmental concerns increasing, hydroseeding is a growing industry.

The Payback

Before you rush off to get involved, Slusser cautions that hydroseeding is seasonal work. "You have three months a year that you will not work. Weather is a very costly thing."

He recommends future hydroseed company owners combine hydroseeding with other ventures. "Mix it with landscaping, at least for a few years. Don't rely on it for your only source of income."

Hydroseeding and landscaping can be a profitable mix. Baby-boomer homeowners want a beautiful lawn without the hassle of maintaining it. They spend over $14 million on landscape services each year.

Coastal Hydroseeding

Jim Brisebois sees his business blooming. Coastal Hydroseeding provides services to residential and commercial locations, and sells colorful wildflower seeds through retail outlets, mail order and distributors.

Brisebois, a self-described entrepreneur, had no experience with this industry when he started his business. "I had an antique restoration business for 10 years, which I sold, and I closed my kitchen-cabinet business. When this business came available, I bought it."

How did Brisebois jump into an industry he knew nothing about? Careful research and a 24-page business plan. He strongly believes that any budding hydroseeding entrepreneur should follow closely in his footsteps. "Business plans will tell you the truth. You have to be able to see where you're going."

Coastal Hydroseeding boasts that an impressive 30 percent of its business is from word-of-mouth advertising. "Eighty percent of business is customer service. You have to do whatever it takes."

Brisebois will also do whatever it takes to market his services. "I'll go door-to-door with pamphlets. I'll go anyplace with sod."

This savvy has landed Brisebois large wildflower installation contracts. His installations have a beautiful effect on neighborhoods, and support butterflies, songbirds and pollinating insects like bees.


What skills does Brisebois feel are crucial for the budding hydroseed entrepreneur? "You have to have a strong stomach, a customer service attitude, basic literacy and some mechanical aptitude."

He also strongly advises that business owners check out their competition before starting their venture. Too much competition, or companies with larger and better equipment, can put you out of business in a hurry.

If you want to work hard and help the environment, hydroseeding offers growing profit potential to the budding entrepreneur. With the right equipment, a solid plan, and a love for the outdoors, you can successfully start your venture, market your services to residential and commercial contracts, and watch your business grow.

You'll always know your skills, talent and service make green things happen. Why not make money and improve the environment -- one tiny seed at a time?


Slusser's Green Thumb
Tom Slusser and his family business

Professional Land Care Network
Statistics and stories about the lawn-care industry

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