Combining a mission and a business into one streamlined pursuit sounds like an easy proposition on the surface. During a period where environmentalism, holistically good health and a general disdain for harmful chemicals permeates our entire culture, a business based on reducing harmful pesticides on our lawns had to be a walk in the park. (The park that is treated by a chemical lawn care service that is.)
So, in 2009, after combining the resources of several different companies we founded “BeeSafe Organic Lawn Care.” Our goal was to reach out to lawn and landscape services, inform them that we had new technology that allowed them to treat lawns organically, have them become members of our dealer network and use our brand with their existing customers.
What could go wrong? It wasn’t like we were new at this, we had decades of experience and access to some of the best horticultural experts in the country. We had credibility, great branding, a full suite of corporate support and a product line that had been tested for years.
To make a very long story short we can fast forward to where we are in the present. The BeeSafe Network consists of about 120 authorized applicators across the United States and we estimate that we’ve converted somewhere in the neighborhood of 20,000 properties to some sort of organic lawn care. When you get right down to it, it is the dedication of the BeeSafe applicators that really continue to represent the true success of the BeeSafe story.
Sounds like a cake walk right?
Naturally when one starts any new pursuit with the type of passion that we had at the time, one can be absolutely certain that obstacles will be traversed with ease. However, there were two specific challenges that we did not anticipate and they revolve around perceptions both real and perceived.
What we found as we reached out to lawn and landscape services was that there was a significant amount of resistance. Not necessarily from the forward thinkers and early adopters but from the well established lawn services that represented our biggest potential customers. For some reason, instead of embracing the potential for advancement and positive change, many of them felt threatened by our existence. Naturally, we resonated with some of them but the majority of the larger companies shunned our advances.
One astute owner explained to us that implementing a program that purposely reduced chemicals would essentially incriminate them for the use of those chemicals in the first place. While he knew personally that it was the right thing to do, he was not ready to admit to his large customer base that what they had done previously may border on being irresponsible. In other words, it’s difficult to impress somebody with your wares if you are being critical of theirs!
Secondly and perhaps more alarmingly was the fact the when it came to the general public there is an absolute lack of awareness concerning the impact that many pesticides and chemical fertilizers have on the environment and the health our families. Time and time again we found that while many of the turf managers at the companies we reached out to would never use their products on their families lawns they consistently down played the impact they may be having on their customers lawns. As a result the general homeowner is completely unaware that there may be a problem.
On the flip side of this is the reaction that the consumer has when they become armed with some basic information. Oftentimes we take calls from homeowners that have done basic “Google” searches about “lawn care herbicides and cancer in dogs” or how “neonicotinoid insecticides are related to the steep decline of pollinators.” The truth is that not only are they angry with what they’ve learned, they are insistent on making changes and making them quickly.
This is where “BeeSafe Mission 50″ comes into play.
After five years of banging on doors and pushing the boulder up the hill it has become incredibly clear to us that the fastest way towards substantial change is via education and outreach. It is a focus on arming activists and advocates with the tools that allow them to spread the word using rational tactics and truths. While the goal of “BeeSafe Mission 50″ is to convert fifty percent of all lawn care to organic in the next decade it is the journey that will have the most meaning.
Making people aware that they have choices and that they should pay attention to something as simple as whats being applied to their lawns is what we truly want to accomplish. Lawns are a true center in our lives and as silly as it sounds they bring joy to us on a very consistent basis. We need to be sure that we do not overlook what perils may lie in the improvement and maintenance of our lawns. The last thing we want to do is look the other way when we know that there is an alternative. Knowing is the key. Knowledge is the mission.
“The Mission” is what inspires us and we hope that it can inspire you as well. We must change the fact that lawn care businesses feel threatened and not empowered to be drivers of change. We must take the alarming lack of awareness that exists in the general public and reverse it as soon as we possibly can. “The Mission” represents a vehicle for us to improve our lives starting now and continuing every single day moving forward.
We hope you will join us.
-Tom Kelly Sr.
Founder, BeeSafe Lawns