This month Secrets to Small Business Success is profiling Backyard Getaway, a family-owned and operated pond and water garden service and retail pond supply business located in Myakka City, FL. Much like many small businesses, Backyard Getaway grew out of a hobby.
Nine years ago, owners Lisa and Dave Burns incorporated their enjoyment of gardening, ponding, re-purposing, writing, and outdoor living into a successful business that continues to grow and evolve.
Lisa and Dave have been successful small business owners for over 24 years, and it was during an earlier business venture that Dave found his love of ponding. As a way to take a break from their drywall business, Dave installed a Koi pond, and soon they were both hooked; Dave on the creation of the pond and Koi, and Lisa on the gardening aspect.
That first pond turned into two, which were subsequently removed to make way for a 2000-gallon pond, which later grew to a 4000-gallon pond with three waterfalls a bridge, deck, and patio. At this point, Dave began helping friends create their own Koi ponds, and Backyard Getaway was born.
The Burns family started with a small brick and mortar store in Sarasota, where they sold pond supplies, garden, and gift items. Their store featured working pond displays in their backyard secret garden, monthly free classes, and a yearly fundraising pond tour. As the service business grew, they realized that they enjoyed the actual creation of the ponds more than owning a retail store.
So, after five years, they decided to close the retail store and concentrate on and expand the service portion of the business. They began offering other outdoor living services from fire pit installation, landscape maintenance, flagstone and paver patios, lake fountains, and, of course, ponds and water gardens.
They continue to offer classes and community events and have added a school habitat program where they teach a hands-on class on installing a wildlife habitat at local schools. Lisa and Dave made a decision early on that they would stay “small” so that we could be hands-on with every project. “There is nothing like seeing the faces of my customers when they first view their own Backyard Getaway,” explains Dave.
Read on to learn more about this innovative business and the couple behind it:
Did you always want to go into business for yourself?
Lisa: No. That was Dave’s dream, but I quickly realized that I would much rather work for myself than someone else. It also gave me the freedom to have more time with my children when they were younger.
Dave: Yes, always. I never liked working for other people, and, since owning my own business, I don’t think I could work for someone else again.
If not, what spurred you to open your business?
Lisa: Our first business was spurred on by my husband. He is a perfectionist at whatever he does, and he couldn’t stand working for someone else that didn’t have his high standards and work ethic, so we decided to go into business for ourselves.
Were there times when you second-guessed your decision?
Lisa: For a split second.
Dave: No, never.
What has been the most fulfilling part of owning small biz?
Lisa: Being able to do what we enjoy. I get to spend time gardening and creating peaceful getaways for our customers. What could be better than that? We both put in more time than if we worked for someone else but, it’s time we choose to spend on something we love. I enjoy or schoolyard habitat projects, too. The students are always so eager to learn.
Dave: Being able to offer my customers quality work. Having the opportunity to teach others and create unique items for people. Giving back to the community through our volunteer work with local schools and nonprofits. Working with my wife.
What has been the hardest part?
Dave: Not having enough time in the day to create everything I want to create.
What advice do you have for other would-be entrepreneurs?
Lisa: Do what you love, but be realistic, too. Make sure you put time into a good business plan and research your market. Don’t be afraid to ask family and friends for help. Above all else, be open for change. Everything around us changes, and you have to allow for that in business.
Dave: Go for it; do what makes you happy. Take a chance as I did, and be sure you have good support. Work safely and never cut corners. Quality work and good customer service are very important.
What is your most important consideration when it comes to day-to-day business operations?
Lisa: Know your business. Even if you have an accountant/bookkeeper or office assistant, be sure you know what is going on with your business expenses, appointments, and other day-to-day operations. Stick to a budget, and think outside the box when it comes to advertising and marketing.
Dave: Make sure you have someone who is knowledgeable enough about your business to help with accounting, customer service, and other day-to-day operations. It is hard to do everything yourself. If you have a partnership, communication and trust are very important.
What three traits do you think an entrepreneur needs to be successful?
Lisa: Integrity, patience, and strength
Dave: They should take pride in their work, be trustworthy, and kind when dealing with customers.
Lisa and Dave have created a business born out of a passion for creating the perfect Backyard Getaway. And that expertise is not only on display in their business, but also in Florida Creative Living Magazine, where Lisa is a Featured Writer and Sarasota Pet magazine, where Lisa is a Contributing Writer, as well as in Water Garden News, Pond Trade magazine, LocalShops1 magazine, WQ Magazine, and the Bradenton Patch.