A green builder based in Sarasota, Fla., that has been recognized as one of the fastest-growing companies in the U.S. is taking its formula for success on the road through a brand and business-process licensing program that its two partners want to expand nationally.
Since its launch in 2006, the builder, MyGreenBuildings, has completed more than 40 renovation and construction projects that have generated $14 million, and has another $5 million in projects in its pipeline for the remainder of this year. Inc. magazine recently ranked MyGreenBuildings 326 on its list of the 500 fastest-growing businesses in America, and it’s the only green builder on that list.
MyGreen’s principals, Steve Ellis and Grant Castilow, say they’ve spent more than $1 million creating a recognizable brand for their company, whose goal is to produce high-performance homes with lower carbon footprints. Their first project together—a renovation and expansion—was the highest-scoring home for energy efficiency as measured by the Florida Green Building Coalition that year. This summer, MyGreenBuildings completed two beachfront homes certified LEED Platinum. About 70% of the company’s current dollar volume comes from new construction.
Ellis and Castilow believe their “bulletproof” business model could benefit other small builders that “aren’t necessarily small businessmen and don’t have a lot of marketing expertise,” says Ellis. “We can come in and provide them with great processes, exposure, and a differentiator,” that is, energy efficient construction. “And we’re not afraid to celebrate our successes,” which Ellis says small builders too often forget to do.
What MyGreenBuildings advocates isn’t for every builder. A YouTube video to which the company has been linking its press releases showcases beautiful but high-end custom homes, where “no expense was spared” for their elaborate designs and green specifications, says Ellis. MyGreen’s business model also includes a strategic philanthropic program called Community Support for Local Resources, through which MyGreen has donated more than 100 man-hours and financial contributions to local causes, such as those that provide meals for children in need.
But on a more general plane, Ellis and Castilow say what their business model and brand should convey to other builders is their passion for architectural excellence, processes, and systems, which lead to helping homeowners realize their dreams with houses that have minimal impact on the environment.
MyGreen’s owners have chosen to license, rather than franchise, their business model because, they explain, there’s less risk for the licensee, and licenses “reduce the barriers to entry into a new market,” says Ellis. Licensing also allows MyGreenBuildings to gauge whether other builders are good matches for its program.
Ellis admits as well that licensing “sometimes is a precursor to mergers and acquisitions,” and he candidly acknowledges his company’s expansionary motives. The partners are looking to export what they do to builders in Tampa, Orlando, Fort Myers, and Naples, Fla. They are also contemplating a road show to present their licensing program to builders in such markets as Boston, New York, San Francisco, Austin, Boulder, Colo., and Portland, Ore., where home buyers and builders might be more receptive to green construction. Ellis says MyGreen will offer licensed builders territorial exclusivity, although the details and time frames have yet to be worked out.
All licensees won’t necessarily be builders, either; Ellis says he’s been talking with an aerospace engineer in Texas, who heard Ellis interviewed on National Public Radio and is interested in using MyGreen’s program as an investor to team up with a builder.
MyGreenBuildings will provide licensees with training and coaching in such areas as sales and business development. Licensed builders must build to MyGreen’s performance specifications, and agree to support brand marketing sufficiently. “We can’t control their business,” says Castilow, “but we can tell them how to use the brand.”
Neither partner would discuss on the record how much builders would pay for access to MyGreenBuildings’ brand and processes, except to say that fees would vary depending on the size of the market. There would be an initial buy-in fee and ongoing fees for training and marketing assistance.
John Caulfield is senior editor for Builder magazine.