The “Original” Green Sweep was developed simply as a tool to help me, as a golf course superintendent, do my job more efficiently and effectively. The idea resulted from a conversation with a turf professor friend who showed me a picture of a tool he’d seen in his travels. Using this concept, I reworked and simplified the device as the entrepreneurial wheels in my head began to spin. The excitement of venturing into a manufacturing and sales “paper route,” as my father calls it, was quickly tempered by the multitude of questions and concerns that any inventor/entrepreneur must face.
It’s funny, I thought of myself as a turf guy, period. OK, maybe I’ve got some skills beyond the obvious, but what I initially failed to recognize was that through our profession I’ve come to meet many people with proficiencies I needed to get Green Sweep Technologies off the ground. So, I picked up the phone and humbly asked for guidance as I started to create a legal, manufacturing, marketing and sales road map that could help me reach my goal. More on my goal later.
First, I needed to prove the concept. Spring quickly rolled around, and my “Frankenstein” version worked. In fact, the guys on my staff liked it so much they demanded I make more units, one for each blower. Spring aeration never went so smoothly.
Next was to learn about design and manufacturing. I was introduced to a recent college graduate and, for a reasonable fee, he created CAD drawings suitable for manufacturers. I’m fortunate to live in an area of the country where people make things and it was easy to find a metal shop that was happy to do some prototype work. Fifteen prototype units later, I was ready to introduce my idea to strategically selected friends across the country. It was important for me to test different turf type and economic resource environments to get a clear picture on my potential customer base.
While I continued to refine the device, there were other important details that needed attention: legal protection (patent applications), shipping logistics, website design, social media platforms, color, name, etc. Eventually, and through a lot of late nights, everything came together, including a sizable personal investment in inventory that was neatly packed away in our world headquarters, known as my basement, and I was ready to launch – kind of.
It was mid-August and I sent a note to many of my LinkedIn contacts describing my venture and asking for their assistance when the time came to launch. Well, one of my great friends posted the letter on Facebook, with nothing but the greatest of intentions, and the soft launch I anticipated wasn’t so soft anymore. Within an hour, I took my first call asking about how to order the device. I’ve got a copy of the club’s check prominently displayed at headquarters, right next to the ironing board.
Ultimately, this “mom-and-pop” operation has been nothing but fun. I’m fortunate to have built relationships with superintendents, marketers and social media gurus across this country and beyond. Many I speak with regularly because their advice helps me with many aspects of my day job life.
Honestly, I’ve struck gold but not in the financial sense. I’m fortunate that my paper route is cash flowing and able to fund itself. This can’t be said about many business startups, so we’re very lucky on that front. The true value of this venture, to me, lies in the fact that I pushed beyond my comfort level and into territories I knew very little about.
And now back to goals. As the father of three kids, now teenagers, I’m beyond thrilled that they’ve witnessed their old man evolved from pencil drawings on graph paper at the kitchen table to helping box up units to fill orders. Our goal, my wife’s and mine, all along was that if this venture inspires our kids to take risks and chase ideas, it’s a huge success.
I know many of you have ideas. My advice is to write them down and pursue them to the best of your ability. Many have been down this road and you’d be pleasantly surprised at the wealth of information many are willing to share freely if you’re willing to step out on a limb.
Patrick Sisk, CGCS, is the superintendent at Milwaukee Country Club in Milwaukee, Wis., and the President of Green Sweep Technologies.