Generating boom in a bust market

Even in a down economy, homeowners are investing in outdoor projects.

May 19, 2011
Kristen Hampshire
Design/Build and Hardscape

A before and after image of a home landscape completed by Rainscapes Environmental Solutions.


Just about the time the Florida real estate market was taking a dive, Kelby Reed was launching his landscape firm after establishing tenure at a large firm as a landscape architect. With twin boys on the way, Reed and his wife agreed that before the “birth” day was as good a time as any to start a business. And Reed was itching to develop his niche of creating large-scale, elaborate water features.

But he started small with maintenance contracts (and a strict non-compete contract), and that base of basic service customers has helped sustain Rainscapes Environmental Solutions over the years in spite of a volatile economy.

“The housing market got hit down here harder than in other regions because there were so many out-of-state investors – there were a lot of empty houses and a lot of issues,” Reed says. “That was right when we started the business.”

Meanwhile, with maintenance as a solid foundation, Reed was able to grow his high-end residential design/build segment by tapping into customers that had leisure dollars to burn but weren’t traveling. “Having a maintenance company did help during the time when it was tougher to make sales on larger projects,” Reed says. “It gave us the ability to hang in there and find out what people really wanted.”

Reed’s theory was that people would invest in their homes. And he was right. “People couldn’t sell their houses for what they just bought them for, so I wanted to capitalize on that.”

Many landscape companies in the design/build segment have gone out of business, Reed says. “A lot of people threw in their hats and gave up.”

But customers with money to burn were still prepared to invest in their own great outdoors. “People who are going to buy a good value home are going to put a substantial amount of money into it to be comfortable – they want to expand their outdoor living areas and create outdoor kitchens,” he says.
“The jobs might not be as lavish and as elegant as in years past, but then again, most people who can afford that kind of [project] still can. It’s just a matter of how you [break it down].”

From small landscape revamps to large-scale sustainable projects to simple backyard beautification jobs, Reed took every opportunity to define his firm in a tough market. “Stepping up into the home entertainment market was a good move,” he says today.

As for Florida’s economic future, Reed says he sees more of the same, but opportunities are sprouting all over where foreclosed homes are being purchased and revamped. Some of those properties have been vacant for years. They need to be perked up to sell, or to flip.

“People are investing in their homes,” he says.


This story is one of three that appeared in Lawn & Landscape's Business Builder e-newsletter. To continue reading about Rainscapes Environmental Solutions:

Drought defiant: Kelby Reed’s portfolio of sustainable landscape designs and elaborate water feature projects show Tampa residents that going green is a beautiful thing.

Real green: It takes more than a name to show off what your business does.