September 19, 2016
Steve Werner, an entrepreneurship major at Wichita State University recently won the first Cox Business Get Started Wichita competition for his startup, Lawn Buddy, and received a prize of $17,000 in cash and services.
Werner describes Lawn Buddy as a sort of Uber for lawn care. Clients of the service download an app and can request lawn service with the touch of a finger. The service relies on a network of lawn care professionals linked to the app.
"While we are often compared to Uber or Lyft, we are really the first in the lawn care and snow removal industry," said Werner. "I would like to set the benchmark in our industry so that companies are later compared to us."
The Lawn Buddy concept is a product of Werner's coursework for Entrepreneurship 310, which explores the entrepreneurial mentality and philosophy toward risk-taking, innovation and creativity. Students who take the course are encouraged to compete in the Shocker New Venture competition in which Werner and his team took second place last spring. The team has been working closely with WSU's Center for Entrepreneurship since then.
"We've served in a mentor capacity as Steven has moved through the development of his business model and implementation," said Nancy Kersenbrock, Entrepreneurship 310 instructor and assistant director of the Center for Entrepreneurship.
Moving toward app development
Werner and his team plan to continue working toward the launch of Lawn Buddy in Wichita. He is working with Philip Mathew, owner of Air Capital Media and technical chief technology officer for Lawn Buddy, on app development.
Ennovar, the university's institute of emerging technologies and applied market solutions, is helping with developing a design scheme and other back-end services. Werner says they plan to release the app on iOS and Android. There will also be a web version of the service.
The team, which also includes chief operating officer Sonya Werner and chief management officer Brandon Light, plans to launch the snow-removal component of the business this winter. Lawn work is often a seasonal service, but Lawn Buddy plans to rely on snow removal during the off-season.
"When money's not growing from the ground, it's falling from the sky," Werner said.
The Lawn Buddy team also applied to take part in Accelerate the Heartland, another competition for entrepreneurs, which will be held in October. They are involved in Shocker Innovation Corps, a WSU Ventures program that supports entrepreneurial teams with STEM-related technology.