Growing Business Branches Out

Wayne Blanks’ business started with a classified ad in the local paper. “In 1998 my son decided he wanted to go into the lawn care business,” Wayne Blanks says. “My wife was looking through the paper and saw J & H Lawn Service for sale.” J & H Lawn Service was started in 1992 by Janet and Henry Brown as a business for their two sons. “Henry was in his 70s then, so we struck a deal and acquired the business in 2000,” Blanks says.

Blanks’ wife Carolyn and son Daniel went to the Hampton Roads SBDC and started attending cohort meetings led by Associate Executive Director Debra Farley. “Once a month Debra invited some of her clients to come, and she would bring in speakers and work with us,” Blanks says. “Debra was also instrumental in getting us linked up with a lender and getting our small business loan. That helped us get a tractor and some of our larger equipment.”

The business grew steadily and branched out to serve the areas of Hampton, Newport News, Williamsburg, Yorktown, Suffolk, and Chesapeake. “About 80% of our business now is commercial,” Blanks says. The company now serves local governments, Thomas Nelson Community College, and the College of William & Mary. Recently the company acquired Colonial Williamsburg as a customer.

With the help of the SBDC, J & H also explored new technologies. “Several years ago we got into hydroseeding,” Blanks says. Not many other businesses offer the service, and it is considerably cheaper.

As the company grew, the SBDC provided assistance in a variety of ways. “Debra Farley is constantly seeking out topics that we’re interested in,” Blanks says. “The SBDC has been so good to help us understand the process. Not only that, they also make sure we’re in compliance with the regulations on fertilizer and pesticides that we have nowadays.”

The company has grown exponentially since Blanks took ownership. Gross revenues have doubled in five years, growing from $316,000 to $681,000. Blanks noted with pride: “Year to date, we’re $40,000 ahead of where we were last year.” Initially the company had six full-time employees; now there are 12.

“The SBDC has enabled J & H Lawn to methodically grow not only fiscally but in doubling our number of employees,” Blanks says. “This has impacted the lives of folks in the Hampton Roads area. I attribute our success in large part to the cohort meetings and partnership we have had with fellow business owners and the specialized training opportunities provided by the SBDC.”

Virginia SBDC