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VOL. 129 | NO. 106 | Monday, June 02, 2014

 

Curb Appeal’s Greg Black Has Roots in Landscaping

By Don Wade

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Greg Black sits down on some outdoor furniture on the patio of a client in South Bluffs. He is wearing a short-sleeve, green, polo-style shirt that bears his business’s name – Curb Appeal – and blue jeans and boots.

“I like to be hands-on as much as I can,” Black, 33, said, explaining that he just “cleaned up a little” before this meeting. “But the bigger it gets, the less able I am to do that.”

Black’s business is now about two years old. He does customized residential landscaping all over the Memphis area, and though the business is growing, he still does every bid and signs off on every project at completion.

Greg Black started Curb Appeal about two years ago. The business focuses on customized residential landscaping all over the Memphis area.

(Daily News/Andrew J. Breig)

Like virtually all small-business owners, Black held plenty of other jobs where he worked for other people. Some of those jobs were in the landscaping business.

“In the back of my mind, I wanted to be my own boss, shape my own future,” he said.

To be honest, that seed was planted long ago. When he was a kid growing up in the Signal Mountain area of Chattanooga, Tenn. – the middle of seven brothers – his parents agreed to get the boys a Nintendo game system.

“We were overjoyed at the idea,” Black recalled.

They were not overjoyed by what happened next. Dad the salesman who eventually ran his own company and Mom the interior designer did not believe in just handing out luxuries to their children. It was determined the boys would work for their reward – and so began what should have been called Brothers Landscaping.

“We started out of the back of a Chevy van with two push mowers, a blower, a weed-eater and a gas can,” Black said. “Where we lived, parents didn’t make their kids do a lot; we didn’t even get an allowance.”

Rather, they got a lesson in entrepreneurship.

“They wanted us to get a taste of work ethic,” said Black.

As the years rolled by, Black’s older brothers went on to other things, and he became the front man for the landscape business. When he was attending the University of Tennessee at Knoxville and needed extra hands for a job, he knew just the right pitch.

“I pulled guys out of the dorm: ‘Hey, y’all wanna make some beer money?’”

Eventually, however, all those years behind the mower got to him. Feeling “burned out,” he took a corporate job with Enterprise Rent-A-Car. He didn’t enjoy it, and over the next few years he worked for a huge landscape company, went back to school to learn how to be a surgical technician, and worked for a hospital in Memphis and a specialized surgery center.

But none of it felt quite right, which probably explains why again he was doing landscape work on the side and on weekends. At heart, he was a horticulturist. After a while, the landscaping business started to take off. Clients spread the word of his good work the new-world way: via Google Groups.

“Mainly what I do is overhauls, customized projects,” he said. “A lot of design work. All the stone, lighting, concrete work. … It’s not just plants, it’s everything.”

Need an outdoor ceiling fan that can support the weight of icicles? Black can handle it. Need an outdoor fireplace or kitchen? He can put those in, too.

Communicating with the customer, he says, is paramount.

“I spend a lot of time with clients on the front end, explaining the conceptual design, explaining everything – dollars and cents – so when they sign the contract there’s not a lot of doubt.”

But just to be clear: He does expect more in return than a Nintendo.

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