Dreaming of Starting Your own Foodscaping Business? Take These Words of Wisdom from a Pro business

Feb 03, 2022

Story by Chris Mattingly, Owner, Founder, Backyard Eats


It was 2016 when I was laid off from my consulting job as an environmental engineer.  After the dust settled, a spirit of possibility welled up inside of me.  I’m the type that gets excited - almost giddy - when change happens.  My wife was pregnant with our first son, and I was in the middle of training for an Ironman race.  I must have felt like anything was possible, and I had a vision for how I could help people with their gardens and spread the joy and magic of homegrown food.  I wanted to live a more adventurous and expressive life.  I wanted to delight people and make lots of money.  I wanted more control over my work hours so that I could have my dream job: stay-at-home dad with a side gig as an entrepreneur.

If you’re brave enough to envision your unique creative path toward a future of success and personal fulfillment in the foodscaping industry, you’ll need to learn a few new tricks!  I’ll share some of what I learned in the process of growing a business over the past five years.

Get started by launching your MVP 

Marketing is a dirty word to some people, but if you have a vision for how you can help people, marketing is all about getting people to trust that you can help them.  

Now, when it comes to presenting your very first offer to the world, whether it’s products or services, the business world has a wonderful construct for you to do that without hesitation and without a lot of wasted time.  I would urge you to find your “minimum viable product.”  The MVP is a version of your product or service that is “ready enough” to launch into the real world.  

Your MVP will be the ideal test for your complete vision, and the results and feedback from customers will inform just how to get started on building your vision.  You may find you were spot on, or that you need to tweak your product, or discard some assumptions or beliefs you had.  

My first summer, I started with maintenance services as my MVP. I cared for three gardens on a biweekly basis, and the results were terrible!  Two weeks in the peak of summer was plenty of time for something to go wrong with the irrigation and fry all the plants, a critter problem to run rampant, and plants and weeds to grow out of control.  Now, we do weekly visits by default.  

You can launch your MVP even before you define your brand.  

Get clear on your purpose 

First define your business’s purpose, beyond that of making money: “We exist to share the magic of homegrown food.”  This will give you a north star, and keep you grounded in what you are trying to do.  Not just fluff - the grounding will have enormous practical implications as you go on your journey.  You can change your purpose statement later on too, by the way, if you develop a better understanding, or heaven forbid you change or grow as a person along the way!

Define your ideal client

“If you’re speaking to everyone, you’re speaking to no one.”  Notice that certain brands speak your language, they just “get” you, and you feel trusting of them.  That’s because they have you in mind.  Think of the magazines you’ve subscribed to as a prime example.  Decide who your ideal client is, and bring life to that person (your ideal client avatar).  Get to know them like you would a close friend, and get comfortable speaking to only them.  Ideal clients are not just the ones with the most money, they’re the ones who are most likely to have an outstanding experience with your business because of who they are and where they are in their life right now.  They will spread the word for you enthusiastically, and that’s because you “get” them and their problems, and you’ve built a business around helping them reach their goals and “live their best life.”  

Image and kid credit: Chris Mattingly

Image and kid credit: Chris Mattingly

When it comes to where and how to present your idea to the world, you’ll draw on your ideal client avatar.  Where do they eat, play, take their kids, and socialize?  What local business or nonprofit has a mutual ideal client?  Brainstorm ways to get in front of them with a sign, a workshop, a pocket garden, or a promotion.  

I landed my first real client (someone I didn’t already know) through a local newspaper ad.  While I was working on her berry garden, I put a lawn sign on her property by the road.  I grew almost exclusively by lawn signs and word of mouth, doubling revenue each year for four years.  The lawn signs for happy clients, which now appear on many of the streets in the neighborhoods we work in, were a sign for others that they could trust us because their neighbors have had good experiences.  This is known as social proof, and it has a very powerful influence on human decision making.  

Evaluate what function social media plays for your business

Finally, there’s social media.  For me, it was a fun thing to do while I was gardening.  After all, I wanted to share the magic of homegrown food.  I liked when people around town recognized me from my Instagram, but beyond that, it wasn’t a big driver of sales.  Nowadays, I let my team run the account so they can capture the view from the field, and they enjoy it immensely.  

Personally, and especially as a dad of three, I enjoy being present most.  I don’t enjoy the phone-focused interruption of having to post something whenever I witness a beautiful scene or moment, or else suffer the guilt of having let such a moment pass without posting it to social media. 

If I’m being honest, it’s a constant barrage of such beautiful moments and I’m intent on soaking them up to the fullest.