Monthly Archives: February 2013

The Push Mower Market

During my summers in high school and into college, I used to make money mowing lawns. It was a business that I literally built in a day. I made up some fliers, handed them out to 50 households, and got I think 8 customers in my first day. By the end of the first few weeks I had 25 lawns and after that the customer acquisition phase stopped and I never advertised again. I used my parents’ push mower and weedwhacker for equipment and my Hyundai Accent hatchback as transport. My only operating expense (after those flyers) was gas. I charged $20 per lawn for small lawns, and $20 flat + $10/ hour for bigger lawns. For someone in my position, who needed flexible income, this was a killing, and it taught me about the large, untapped “push-mower markets” that exist.

A “push-mower market” is a market made up of customers who are not on the free-spending enterprise scale of things, and not in the low-conversion long tail segment of customers. In the case of lawn care, they are customers who have a plot of lawn that is a pain in their butt to mow each weekend, but who cannot justify paying the big guys $80 to do it on their mega-tractors. I think these markets exist everywhere. There must be small businesses or academic teams out there who need low-budget video development work, and I know there are college sophomores at film schools who would love the opportunity. I am investigating an opportunity right now for mid-level web development. For the customer who needs something above the level of WordPress but can’t afford the big guys. And there are, again, budding programmers and offshore work who are happy to accept the lower budgets in this middle market.

The difficulty is reaching these customers and scaling a business like this. Most of my lawn customers didn’t know they needed lawn service until it found them. (Most, I believe, went happily back to mowing their own lawn after I left.) And I could only afford the low prices because I didn’t have to deal with the overhead of organizing extra laborers, or buying expensive equipment or paying for insurance. So let’s answer the question of whether these middle-markets can be tapped efficiently on a later date.

But these difficulties are what gives this market it’s strengths. First, these markets are not hard to find. Think of things that everyone wants that just feel, in your gut, overpriced. Haircuts, personal training, photography, if I bought more services I could extend this list faster. Second, these markets are cash-ready. I made money in my first day. Your customers have modest budgets, they don’t need approval from anyone to spend it, and they are likely spending it already on something more expensive and they’ll be happy to accept the savings and pay you.

While you won’t find the hot-shot startup teams or the enterprise-scale solutions targeting the push-mower market, opportunity exists for the people who are willing to explore them.