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Mowing Business Idea – Stupid or Genius?

Two years ago I wrote an article titled, “Should I Hire a Lawn Service or Mow the Yard Myself?“. At that time, I decided that it made more sense for me to hire a lawn mowing service for reasons such as:

  • I could earn more money by paying for the service and writing articles than mowing the yard myself
  • The initial cost of buying a mower and housing it would have been outrageous
  • I didn’t have much time because I was going to start my MBA classes

Two years later, things have changed and I have grown wiser in my decision to cut the lawn. Back then, I figured that I would have to buy a gas powered mower that would require maintenance and a new shed to keep it in (since I only have a one-stall garage), but this was simply not accurate. The only reason I came up with these “facts” was because I simply didn’t want to mow the yard. I found a way to justify the expense of having a lawn mowing service and went forward with the contract.

Today, I realize that I don’t even need a gas powered mower to cut my grass. Instead of dishing out $300 for a new push mower, I have spent $30 for a old-school reel mower. This requires no gasoline or oil and is powered by my legs and arms. The initial cost was low and so is the maintenance. This product works amazingly well and best of all, it is eco-friendly.

The Eco-Friendly Lawn Mowing Business

reel mowerMore and more people are worried about the environment today and would like to do their part to save this wonderful planet that we live on. Instead of driving 4-wheel drive trucks everywhere, some people are trading in their polluting vehicles for electric cars. Still others are riding their bicycles more often. Not only does it save the environment, it is saving them money as well!

So here is the business idea. What if you were able to pay less to have your lawn mowed (vs. your current mowing service), and you could do your part in saving the environment at the same time? That would be a beautiful thing, right? Who wouldn’t hire this type of lawn service? Well, if you haven’t guessed it by now, I am proposing a business that would mow yards solely with reel push mowers (like the one pictured on the right). To be even more eco-friendly, the employees would not drive to your house with a gas-emitting vehicle (that wouldn’t be very eco-friendly now would it?). Instead, they would ride to your house on their bicycle with an attached trailer.

Here are the benefits to the customer:

  • Eco-friendly
  • A quiet service
  • A cut that is healthy and natural for your lawn
  • A cheaper price

This idea would most likely start with myself, my bicycle, and my $30 reel mower and grow according to the demand. So, the starting cost would be approximately $0.00, with very little monthly expenses (the only expenses I can think of are bike repairs and blade sharpenings) and I would earn approximately $15 per mow. What do you think my chances are for this business to take off?

Is this business idea stupid or genius???

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19 comments to Mowing Business Idea – Stupid or Genius?

  • Cheap Dutch Guy

    Genius! I will be taking advantage of your new service in the very near future.
    My only concern for you, is how far will you be able to peddle your bike to mow lawns? You might be limiting yourself to a 5 mile radius from your house.
    But I think if you can get a few more of these economical mowers you could probably put together a small crew of high school kids to help you out this summer.

    Also, you probably want some hand clippers to do the edging work, where a weed whacker would typically be used.

    Overall, it’s a pretty good plan but, it’s extremely seasonal, perhaps the other 8 months of the year you can start a hand shoveled driveway service. ;)

    • Thanks for the vote CDG! Yes, you are right about the clippers. It is either that or one of those huge scythes (grim reaper style)! My thought for expansion was to have a crew made up of different kids around the area. Each of them would have their own zone, which would be a 2 mile radius. With this, we could pretty easily stretch ourselves around the local area. I don’t know if I’ll actually start this business yet, but it is a fleeting thought. I would think that people would love to get their lawn mowed in an eco-friendly, quiet way.

  • Betty

    How big a yard are you talking? 15 dollars sounds low unless, you are talking a small manicured lawn.
    We have 1.5 acres. The yard is not manicured. The landscape has hills and, valleys. We live in AR.
    This means a tough job with an eco-friendly push mower.

    • Most of the house lots in my area are quite small, often .2 acres or less. I haven’t yet mowed my entire yard with my new reel mower, but it would probably take me 20 minutes or so.

  • It will take at least a half-hour to mow an average size lawn. It will take you another half-hour (or more) to set up, take down, and move to the next customer. If you value your time at less than $15/hr, or can hire teen contractors for significantly less (or on a per lawn basis), then go for it.

    OTOH, you (or your teenage contractors) will get outdoor exposure and exercise.

    I would expect this business to be a lot harder to run than you might expect.

    P.S. Note that a scythe may not be legal to carry, especially by a person under the age of 18, depending on your jurisdiction. In Texas, a scythe would be classified as an “illegal knife.”
    Howard Lee Harkness recently posted..Getting Images for Your Blog

    • True Howard, the bike ride there and back, plus the mow would total about an hour (unless I had many yards on the way, which would be the ideal long-term scenario). As I thought about the cost today, I would most likely need to charge $20 per yard, but would get some value out of the outdoor experience and the exercise. :) Thanks for the comment!

  • Don’t forget to get insured! I’d hate for you to have a huge accident that messes you up for more than the money you’ve mad from it.
    Lance Cothern recently posted..Investing Shouldn’t Be Exciting – If It Is You’re Doing It Wrong

    • Ugh…insurance… How I loathe the thought. But yes, you are definitely right. Without it I could lose all of my hard-earned income by nicking Fido, the overly-energetic house dog.

  • Great idea.

    But make sure you run your numbers, especially the time cost of using a push mower vs a power one. In my past experience with push mowers, I often had to mow twice perpendicular to each other to get an even cut.

    Then do your market research to make sure there’s demand for the service. You could likely charge more for the eco-friendly version since most people are used to the “green” version being more expensive. That could help offset the time soak of longer cut times and longer transport times between gigs.
    Jack @ Enwealthen recently posted..Protect Your Money Online

    • Yeah, I will have to gauge how long it takes me to mow my yard. I think this business venture will just start out very small and grow through word of mouth. If it does take off, then I might readjust some prices and re-evaluate the marketing of my business. I am pretty excited about it though!

  • I like the idea, but have a few concerns like others. The first is riding your bike. That is going to limit your mowing radius. What about using a small, fuel efficient car or hybrid? Obviously, you wouldn’t start out with this vehicle unless you owned it already, but you should be able to loosen the screws on the handle so it fits in a hatchback.

    Secondly, I think you should charge by lawn size, not a flat rate. Some larger lawns could be done for $20-$25. Otherwise, I like the idea!
    Jon @ Money Smart Guides recently posted..The Round Table – April 27, 2014

    • That is a pretty good idea about the car. I will definitely take that into consideration if the business expands to that point. However, I already had visions about doing a “trailer wrap” with my business name and operation parked behind my bicycle. I suppose I could wrap the eco-friendly car as well. ;)

  • My initial thought was that you were going to pull the trailer with a Prius or battery operated car. Then I saw bike and wonder about the value of your time vs. the amount you could charge. What were you paying to have yours cut? It would take me over two hours to cut and edge my yard by hand. My time turns out to be more valuable to me than the $35 I pay to have it cut each week. However, it only takes them 10 minutes. One guy rides while the other trims. They are quite efficient.
    JT recently posted..Make a Grand Per Month Painting Houses

    • I do bike for fun anyway though – except this way I’m getting paid to go from house to house… so I didn’t really factor this into the cost. The trimming is the other piece of the puzzle though. Would I get on my hands and knees with a scissors? I’m sure there must be a better eco-friendly option. I’ll have to look into this.

  • I like it, but I would also make sure to evaluate your market. Some cities/towns are more eco-friendly than others, therefore influencing the demand. I would also think about the ability to scale the business. It’d be better to target neighborhoods so that you or people you hire could mow one lawn after the next (reduce the time riding to and from lawns). Speaking from someone who had an informal lawn-mowing business as a teenager, it can be time-consuming and boring (and that was with a riding lawn mower, although the yards were bigger).
    Corey recently posted..4 Job Search Rules to Break

    • I’d say my market is 50/50 on eco-friendliness. If the price is the same, then I would rather have the quiet eco-friendly option, and I would think that most of my neighbors would too. I think I’ll just start doing a few lawns here and there and see how it goes. There’s pretty much zero risk. ;)

  • Something else to consider is the types of lawns that you may or may not be able to cut easily with a push mower.

    I use a push mower, and at my old house, the yard had a steep incline in one section that was extremely difficult to cut well with a push mower, because you have to maintain a certain amount of speed to cut well, so I had to get a running start to push it up the incline, which didn’t really work well, or I had to go down the incline, which wasn’t really safe, or I had to try to go sideways across the incline, which risked breaking my ankles.

    A nice flat lawn is easy to cut, but you may have to turn down some customers with hilly lawns, or not be able to cut them as cleanly, which may dissatisfy customers.

    You also have to consider the amount of energy that it takes to cut with a push mower, plus riding your bike with a tow between houses, and how many houses you would be able to do in a day before being wiped out.
    Max recently posted..TD Bank Bonus $10 Summer Reading Program for Kids

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