America’s SBDC Iowa is an outreach program of Iowa State University’s Ivy College of Business and the Office of Economic Development and Industry Relations. Funded in part through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration.
When Luke Gran graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in forestry, he already had a general idea of what he wanted to do to make the world a better place while earning a living. After working in the field for a couple of years, he began to realize that if he wanted to make his dream a reality, he may have to start his own business. Inspired by his entrepreneurial brothers, Luke began utilizing the skills he had gained in the previous years to start his own private conservation firm on the side while working full-time for another firm, slowly growing more confident and established as a business owner. Around May 2014, he finally took the plunge and began doing it full time!
Luke’s company, Prudenterra, offers conservation services for landowners of prairies, forests, streams, and wetlands, seeking to restore natural ecosystems and help landowners realize and build the many values in their land. Perennial ecosystems once dominated the landscape of Iowa. About 99.9% of its prairies, 72% of forests, 95% of wetlands were converted to agriculture, roads, and cities, displacing countless animals which once called these habitats home. Restoring the remaining ecosystems and reconstructing new ones can help landowners prevent erosion, improve soil quality, attract wildlife, and improve the productivity of their land through strategic sales of hardwood timber, leased hunting, and agroforestry plantings. Luke’s ability to share his love for ecosystems rubs off on his clients, helping them see what makes the land special, valuable, and unique, appreciating the land the more they learn about it.
Along the way, Luke has learned a lot about owning his own business. “The hardest part was managing human resources, and that includes yourself” says Luke. “Learning about managing emotions, who and how to hire, and creating roles has been rewarding.” Despite these challenges, the experience has been incredibly positive for Luke. According to him, the day his business felt financially stable has been one of the greatest triumphs to date, as well as growing to understand that not every project proposal will be accepted and that is ok.
In the future, Luke is excited to explore the possibility of introducing a second owner and expanding to cover a wider geographic area. The possibility of getting into prairie seed sales (local ecotype genetics) is also intriguing for Luke, as well as offering more consulting services to provide a more specialized approach than engineering firms often have to tackle projects involving prairies, forests, and water resources.
Luke has plenty of advice for fellow small business owners. “Realize you are not alone, there are people everywhere rooting you on” said Luke, reflecting on his experience to date. For him, one of the biggest supporters has always been America’s SBDC Iowa. “SBDC helped me follow all my interests and combine them into something marketable.” Luke said, “There are very few organizations like that who want you to be successful in both business and life.” Learn more about Prudenterra at prudenterra.com