Coming up with winning business concepts need not be a brain-wracking exercise. There is one simple formula: combine a need with something you love. While you’re at it, you can even add your pet to the business equation. Every day life is full of things and details that could be improved. You and your pet can together offer a solution to a need that could have a large marketing audience.
David Marcks discovered a lucrative business opportunity when he used his dog to solve a problem that he constantly faced working at a golf course – the proliferation of geese. Geese love to inhabit open spaces that provide them with water and plenty of food (such as short, tender grasses). While adding a “natural look” to golf courses, no one would want to play in a golf course where the grass couldn’t be seen under the cover of goose droppings. Imagine wading in the middle of goose droppings to hit a golf ball. Yikes!
David and other fellow golf superintendents tried several approaches. According to David, “We tried everything – sprays, pyrotechnics, flags, fences. Everything worked for a little bit and then it would stop working.” Until he discovered that his dog, a Border Collie, was a natural in driving geese away. As he recalls, “It was so successful that I never looked back and we’ve been doing it ever since.”
David started Geese Police (http://www.geesepoliceinc.com) in 1986, as the solution to driving away unwanted geese from town parks, corporate properties, golf courses, or even front lawns. Using trained border collies, they drive away the geese without harming them. Today, Geese Police has considerably grown and expanded, earning just under $2 million in 2000. David has also begun to franchise his business to a highly selected group of individuals.
How It Started
About fourteen years ago, David Marcks never thought that chasing geese as a way to keep his hyperactive dog busy could become a lucrative business.
David, then 23 years old, was working as a golf course superintendent in Greenwich, Connecticut. As he recalls, “I had a problem with 600 geese residing on the golf course.” They tried several options: goose-repellent chemicals that don’t always work, to streamers or other “goose-frightening” props that altered the appearance of the golf course. Killing or injuring the birds was out of the question.
At the same time, he got his first Border collie. After trying various approaches unsuccessfully, he stumbled on the idea that he could perhaps train his dog to drive off the geese. “I contacted the American Border Collie Association, told them about what I want to train the dog to do and they thought I was a lunatic.”
It worked! As David proudly recalls, “Once I had my dog for 6-8 weeks, I didn’t have any geese on my golf course. Of course my neighboring golf courses suffered greatly because all the geese went someplace else.”
With the geese gone, however, a new problem popped up. David had a new problem: what will he do with the dog?
“What nobody told me when I got my dog was that border collies make lousy pets. Now we had this highly intelligent working breed dog with nothing to do. She was driving me crazy. She was chasing squirrels, rabbits, golf balls, etc. Once I had a little irrigation break on a green, and she was being difficult, more so that particular day, so I put her in my office. I left for 20 minutes, and went down to the golf course and checked on the problem. When I came back, she ate my office – I mean literally — my desk, the chair, the garbage can, and three sets of computer cables.”
While some may have gotten rid of the dog, David thought otherwise. “I know she was a great dog; but she just needed to be kept busy.”
What David did next laid the ground for Geese Police. He offered the services of his dog to herd away the geese in neighboring golf courses, with no charge for the service. After all, it was simply a way to keep his dog busy.
“I asked the neighboring golf course if they had any problems with geese. So I brought my dog and introduced her, and asked if I could possibly stop by every morning before work, during lunch and after work to herd the geese off the golf course. They agreed. So that’s what I did. Everyday, I dropped by before going to work, then came back during lunch break and after work and herd the geese off another golf course.”
Four to six weeks later, the neighboring golf course didn’t have any geese on their property. So David was back to square one. His dog had again nothing to do. “She was being a menace and I have to look around for something for her to do.”
Word about David and his dog started to spread among golf course operators in Connecticut. Another superintendent was playing in the neighboring golf course that David and his dog serviced. With the noticeable absence of geese, he asked the superintendent whatever happened to the geese. The superintendent replied, as David recalls, “Oh you’ve got to see it. This kid comes down and he has this dog. They come down here and drive away the geese.”
The guy called up David and said, “I’d pay you to chase the geese off my golf course.”
That started Geese Police.
While Geese Police started in the golf course sector, David says that, “Golf courses are now just about 5% of my business. The majority of my business now, about 90%, are corporate parks and playgrounds – corporate and township properties.”