Startup of the Month: Brown Lawn Green

In dry times, the grass can be greener with paint

Back Web Only Aug 13, 2015 By Russell Nichols

Short on water for your grass? Just add paint, says Bill Schaffer, owner of Brown Lawn Green in Dixon.

The idea for his business started as a joke. With California in the midst of a historic drought, Schaffer commented to his girlfriend that people would have to start painting their lawns if they wanted them to be green again. When the state introduced strict new rules concerning water use, he realized he might be onto something. Schaffer researched lawn painting, bought a Ford Transit van ($40,000) and a sprayer ($3,000), and started the business in March.

“I’ve taken what golf courses have done for years and mimicked that to a residential scale,” he says. “The response has been a ‘wow’ response.”

To spray, Schaffer charges $200 per 1,000 square feet. He says the coat lasts two to three months. He doesn’t like the word paint.

“It’s called a colorant,” he says, adding that he uses a nontoxic, chemical-free product safe for kids and pets. “There’s no runoff in the rain or fading. But as you mow your yard, you’re going to have to reapply over time.”

Katie Comier in Dixon got hers done this spring because she didn’t want to keep watering her lawns. Her front yard is about 500 square feet, and the grass in the backyard covers about 1,200 square feet.

“I was just hoping a little bit of watering would help,” she says. “I was watering at night after the sun goes down. In this neighborhood, they water every day for 10 to 15 minutes. But me? I’m trying to conserve water as a human.”

With seven kids, Comier says her water bill is high regardless. She knows a few people who swapped out their whole yard for drought-tolerant plants. But with all the landscaping she had done, she wanted another solution and turned to Brown Lawn Green, which cut her bill by $85 because she stopped watering.

“It still looks like I water it,” Comier says two months after the job. “It’s not dying yet.”

Months after launching Brown Lawn Green, Schaffer already wants to expand. In the spring, he was spraying three to five lawns per day. He’s been getting calls at the crack of dawn from people all over the region and as far as Los Angeles. In June, he hired two employees and bought a second van for Southern California. As the epic drought rages on, he expects his list of customers to keep growing.

“We’ve got no more rain and the humidity is gone,” Schaffer says. “Lawns have gone from somewhat green to completely brown. It’s unsightly. Our front lawns are for our neighbors.”

Think you have what it takes, or know someone who does? Make a nomination for our Startup of the Month!