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How I Turned a Passion for Water Conservation Into a Million-Dollar Franchise Concept

Russ Jundt, founder and vice president of Conserva Irrigation

I've had an entrepreneurial spirit since I took an entrepreneurship class at St. John's University back in 1987. When I opened my first business – a utility construction company called Under Ground Logistics, Inc. (UGLI) – with my business partner and life-long friend Tom Olson, we dabbled in the industry for additional revenue.

While UGLI was successful, we wanted to duplicate our skillset and produce a replicable business model, but didn't know the first thing about franchising. In 2005, we decided to take a leap and join Outdoor Living Brands (OLB), parent company of four national home service franchises, as the first Mosquito Squad franchisees.

It was clear that OLB had the franchising expertise we needed to build that model. During our time with Mosquito Squad, we created and perfected a system that would expand the franchise to six additional locations in the Minnesota territory. While having since sold those six locations, we retained our Twin Cities location, which would later work in our favor.

In 2010, I decided to dive into the irrigation industry, in which I had previous experience installing irrigation systems and now had the franchise business model to implement. It came as a surprise to me, though, that no one had yet created a landscape irrigation franchise. So, I began to conduct some industry research and found that approximately 1.5 billion gallons of fresh water are wasted daily in the U.S. by inefficient landscape irrigation systems, with water streaming into streets, sidewalks and driveways, as well as systems continuing to run while raining. I also found that less than 1 percent of the earth's surface is covered in usable fresh water, making it one of the world's most limited yet wasted resources.

It was from these staggering numbers that my passion grew to save the earth's water, and I developed the idea to create the first national landscape irrigation franchise founded on the concept of water conservation. While attending the Irrigation Association Show in November of 2010, I learned about smart irrigation products that address water waste, which would lead to a future partnership with a worldwide leading turf and landscape equipment company.

I then took the franchise idea to Outdoor Living Brands – since having previous success under their umbrella of services – and proposed the addition of a fifth concept. While they weren't completely on board at first, they were receptive and supportive while offering advice. Using their feedback, I continued in my business venture and approached The TORO Company to become a strategic partner. They found interest in what we were trying to create and also offered insight into the landscape and irrigation industry.

Refusing to give up on our proposal to OLB, Tom and I set up a Conserva Irrigation shop in the Twin Cities as a beta test site, studying field protocol and marketing techniques. We developed a proprietary process to audit irrigation systems on a 100-point scale. From this evaluation, we're able to show homeowners how much water they're wasting and offer options and recommendations that give them an opportunity to reduce their water consumption up to 60 percent. As our beta test site gained traction, OLB offered to conduct a pilot program with a handful of early adopters across the country. This allowed us to gather meaningful data, observe regional idiosyncrasies in irrigation design and techniques, and learn which marketing messages were best received.

In June 2017, we launched Conserva Irrigation as a national franchise under Outdoor Living Brands, making it the very first national irrigation franchise. With Conserva, the average homeowner conserves 33,000 gallons of water per month, while saving about $170 on their monthly water bill. To date, over 100 million gallons of freshwater have been saved through the efforts of our 16 franchisees that span across 31 territories in the U.S.

While Conserva is dedicated to its founding concept, we are also committed to providing current and prospective franchisees with profitable business opportunities paired with a reputable company culture. Some of our franchisees are on track to report up to $500,000 in revenue within their first year of business, after investing only $40,000 to $80,000.

As the brand continues to grow, with four new locations opening this fall, we are currently on track to have 400 locations by 2025. I couldn't be prouder of our team – from Outdoor Living Brands, to TORO®, and our franchisees and customers – they inspire our mission to conserve 1.5 billion gallons of wasted water each and every day.

About the author: Russ Jundt is the founder and vice president of Conserva Irrigation, the only national irrigation company committed to conserving the 1.5 billion gallons of fresh water that's wasted daily by inefficient irrigation systems. With Conserva, the average homeowner conserves 33,000 gallons of water per month, while saving $170 on their monthly water bill – and the company overall has conserved 100 million+ gallons of fresh water since its inception. With a presence in 32 territories across the U.S., Conserva Irrigation is now seeking franchisees to help continue expanding the company's impact across the country – and eventually the world. 

Edited for brevity and clarity by Sammi Caramela.

Image Credit: Russ Jundt/Conserva Irrigation