It's just about every homeowner's dream: an automatic lawn mower. No pushing, no noise, no exhaust, no grass catcher to empty, no groaning kids. You wouldn't even have to be home.
Terry Mammenga had been hoping for something like that for a long time when he stumbled on the Robomow, a fully automatic, battery-powered, lawn mower that uses sensors to identify borders and obstacles such as trees and rocks and works around them.
In fact, he loved his new mower so much, he decided right away to become a dealer.
"We bought our first mower last July and once I got it set up and realized Robomow really does work, I called and got the dealership," he said.
Mammenga runs Envirobotics at 2040 Rosebud Drive, Suite 3, in Billings. He can be reached at 867-2687 or through his e-mail, sales@Envi-Ro-Botics.com.
Here's what else Mammenga had to say about going from customer to salesman.
Nature of the business:
Envirobotics offers the latest technology in "green" products to improve our lives and to preserve the environment.
Why start this business?
I was looking for a way to care for my lawn that would make my life easier and save me money (use less water, less fertilizer, and it's cheaper than a lawn service). And, it's good for the environment (no gas, no oil, very little noise, and no clippings to haul to the landfill).
Where did startup funding come from?
My wife, Sandie, and I scraped together our savings and bought the first inventory.
Biggest challenges in running the business?
The technology of the Robomow is so new that it has been a challenge convincing people that it really will work. I certainly understand that, because I still find myself sitting there watching it mow my yard and mumbling to myself, "How in the world does it know to do that?" I just love it, and that is part of the fun of selling Robomow, because I know that others will love it too, if I can just get them to try it.
What was done to overcome those challenges?
We have been doing a lot of advertising in the newspaper, local publications and on TV. You may have even seen us on the wall of the restrooms at local restaurants or your favorite bar. We reached a lot of people when we did a demonstration at the fall Parade of Homes, and we had a lot of fun at the home improvement show.
What is being done to expand the business?
We recently got our Web site, www.Envi-Ro-Botics.com, up and working and have already added other green products like our green houses and composters. We also are currently in the final plans of starting a branch in Denver and have plans for branches in Seattle and Minneapolis. We also hope to expand the service and repair to where we can keep four or five service techs on full time repairing not only Robomowers but other tech items as well.
Your best business decisions?
Going for the service and repair business. This, plus the Web page, has brought in business from across the country, and our business has multiplied, especially in the parts and supplies, such as replacement blades and battery packs.
Your worst business mistake?
Starting up a business that sells a new idea when the country is in an economic downturn.
What advice do you have for someone running a business?
Running a business means you have to spend a lot of time problem-solving. Always be prepared for the next problem.
Number of workers?
Counting me, there are four.
What's your five-year plan for the business?
To develop our line of green, work-saving products that will meet our needs and improve our lives.
A question you would ask other entrepreneurs?
What drives you to do what you do? What makes you get up in the morning?
If you weren't doing what you are now, what would be your dream job?
Do you do this? When you are driving down the street, do you check out the business you drive by and say "I think I'd like to do that," or "No, I wouldn't want to try that." Well I do that, and because I do, there are a lot of things I would like to try. I don't "dream" about any of them, but I just wish I wasn't quite so old, because I would like to do a lot more things than I am going to have time to do. Life is good, it's just too short.