The green industry saw a new addition to its franchise roster when Conserva Irrigation began offering franchise opportunities this past summer. The company was founded by Russ Jundt and partner Tom Olson in 2010. The two had previously operated an underground utility company that did some irrigation work for a time, but Jundt says they were discouraged by the water-wasting practices and lack of solid design principles they often saw in irrigation. Twelve years ago, the two also became the very first Mosquito Squad franchise in the country, and the benefits they saw from the franchise model (“It was like, ‘wow — systems!’” Jundt recalls) led them to believe that landscape irrigation would be a great fit for this type of approach.
“I did some research and found that there were no national irrigation franchises, which was curious because there are so many other franchise opportunities out there,” says Jundt. He also began to research new irrigation technologies and was pleased to see new water conservation technologies coming into the industry. So, in 2010, Conserva was founded and Jundt and Olson began planning what their franchise model would look like. The following year they also began actually testing their irrigation processes in practice, signing on clients and testing their water conservation methods, as well as their marketing messages, to prove they worked.
Finally, in 2014, some pilot locations were established in different parts of the country (the Midwest, the Northeast, later the Southeast) to see how irrigation practices and products might be different in different locations. “Just as importantly, we were looking at how our marketing message was received in other places,” says Jundt. Data was collected and the whole system was fine-tuned before, in June 2017, franchise agreements officially began to be signed.The growth has been rapid, with 33 territories licensed by the time the calendar turned to November. Some new franchisees have lawn care company owners looking to add irrigation as a new service; others have worked for irrigation companies and wanted to go out on their own; some have changed careers from corporate life because they wanted to own a business of their own. The one thing they have in common, says Jundt, is a commitment to the overall Conserva Irrigation mission of water conservation.
Another thing that appeals to those who are purchasing Conserva franchises is the opportunity for what Jundt calls “cooperatition” — the chance to collaborate with other franchisees and solve problems, while also pushing themselves and each other in terms of growth and success. Practically speaking, Conserva provides franchisees with a turnkey system for getting their businesses up and running, from a week-long initial training as well as follow-up visits and online guidance to a fully outfitted and wrapped van delivered to them to an aggressive marketing plan to a proprietary HindSite sales software system to negotiated irrigation product arrangements with Toro and SiteOne Landscape Supply. Perhaps most important is a signature “SES” rating system devised to help homeowners understand how much water their irrigation system is using and how much certain changes could save.