Bill Brown started TreePans.com to provide for his daughter’s future. After extensive research in 2012, Bill developed a unique device that accelerates the growth of trees while lessening resources needed to care for them. The result: a round, plastic “tree pan” that fits around the base of newly-planted trees, locking in moisture, reducing water consumption by half, and keeping weeds, rodents, and insects away without harmful pesticides. It also protects against mechanical damage.
Bill consulted with many bankers and industry experts and finally connected in late 2014 with Todd Rausch of the Western Iowa Tech SBDC in Sioux City for advice and assistance. Along with marketing strategies and help in developing his business plan, Todd made many connections for Bill, helping him acquire capital to grow his company.
Bill says, “Todd is a wonderful cheerleader and promoter of small businesses. He helped me pitch our company many times and we’ve gotten a lot of money that way.”
Bill competed in and won several business competitions. He also completed the University of Iowa’s Venture School, which helped him hone his company’s pitch, resulting in more monetary awards and customers.
By October 2015 the company’s product had evolved through three prototypes into production. The most challenging part of starting the business was product awareness and education; however, whenever Bill got discouraged, he talked to Todd, who listened and encouraged him.
In January 2016 another SBDC counselor, Kelly McCarty, prepared some great financial documents so TreePans.com could successfully obtain a $100,000 loan from the Iowa Economic Development Authority.
In its first full year of business TreePans.com had $112,000 in sales. The company has three full-time and two part-time employees plus customers all across the United States and overseas.
Bill’s invention has been validated by the industry and its end users. A University of Minnesota professor talks about TreePans.com in his lectures, plus a local aronia berry farm used his tree pans last year, increasing its harvest numbers by 40 percent and saving 75 percent of its labor costs.
Bill stops at the SBDC a couple of times per year. “We would not be at this stage in our business if it hadn’t been for the assistance of the SBDC,” he says. “We have benefitted greatly from all the introductions that Todd in the Sioux City SBDC helped with, and the excellent financial documents that Kelly in the Spencer SBDC provided.”
Bill wants to grow his business, stay in the black, and be viable in five years. He is also working on a new agricultural product that will benefit his community. He continues to consult with the SBDC on both inventions.