Think back to what you were doing the summer you were sixteen. Were you working a part-time job, playing sports, hanging out with friends, or sleeping until noon?
Kent Sanders of Sanders Ground Essentials was laying the foundation for what would become his career as a small business owner in Central Arkansas. Granted, he didn’t know that’s what he was doing at the time—he was just cutting grass to earn some extra cash.
“My father had a business on Military Road,” Kent said. “During the summer, I took care of the grass. One day, a member of our church saw my lawn mower in my truck and asked if I would mow her yard. Later, a mutual friend asked me to mow the grass at his business, and things grew from there.”
A short time later while in high school, Kent’s business teacher assigned students the project of developing a business plan, and for him, it was a no brainer.
“My father encouraged me to develop a plan based on my lawn care service,” he said. “As a joke, we named it Sanders’ Lawns, Limbs & Leaves. I hired a few of my friends to help me out, and while we started out small, mainly family and friends like I mentioned, it didn’t stay that way for very long.”
Jump ahead 23 years, and that summer-job-turned-class-project with three buddies as employees has changed names, employs almost three dozen crew members, and provides service to all of Central Arkansas.
“We incorporated the business in 2004 and dropped the name ‘Lawns, Limbs & Leaves,’” Kent said. “We changed it to Sanders Ground Essentials.”
While the name change was intended to be more ceremonial than anything, Kent said that decision proved to be an important step in his business’s expansion.
“We grew to take on landscaping jobs, focusing primarily on new construction projects with so much building going on in Saline County,” he said. “While continuing with our ground maintenance business, we also began adding more crews to take on landscaping projects.
“From there, we saw the need for commercial ground maintenance,” he added. “Companies wanted to hire a service that would handle everything from lawn care and irrigation to weed control and fertilization.”
Sanders Ground Essentials added those two services in 2006. At the same time, Kent knew business was picking up, and he needed some help managing the workload.
“That year, my brother (Operations Manager, Kyle Sanders) had graduated from Southern Arkansas University and was working in El Dorado,” he said. “Sanders Ground Essentials’s growth was moving quick, and so were our customers’ needs.”
“I approached my brother about joining the business because there’s no greater ally in the trenches than a member of the family,” he added. “He relocated himself and his family back to Benton, and we’ve been working at it together ever since.”
After the Central Arkansas real estate market took a hit in 2009, the Sanders’ decided to redirect their focus away from new residential construction landscaping to weed control and fertilization, while continuing basic ground care work (mowing, weed eating and blowing).
“We’ve spent the last twelve years really strengthening that side of our business,” he said. “Combine that with a strong social media push, some paid advertising and word of mouth among customers, and the results have been a pretty significant footprint across all of Central Arkansas, not just in Benton and Saline County.”
What started 23 years ago as a summer lawn mowing job on Military Road and Miller Cove today includes service contracts across all Saline County and in Conway, Greenbrier, Vilonia, Searcy, Cabot, Little Rock, and Pine Bluff.
“My daddy raised me to not be a quitter, so l suppose I just never quit at this,” Kent said. “We’ve just kept our heads down, pressed forward, and gained some success along the way.”
That success has grown Sanders Ground Essentials to a workforce of 30 employees, a team Kent says is critical to his family’s company’s success. “We have guys who’ve been with us since 2006, others who have been here since 2008,” he said. “That means so much to Kyle and me.”
“Our success depends on those we have working for us,” he added. “They’re the ones in the field, knocking on doors and making sure our customers are satisfied. They are our best representatives day-to-day, so the least [Kyle and I] can do is to be the best examples we can be for them.”
Kent does admit being a small business with such an expansive footprint brings its share of challenges, but he says he and his brother are grateful to everyone who puts their trust in their company to get the job done. “Most customers understand we really are doing everything here,” he said. “From answering phones to making sure our certifications are up to date, we’re there doing it all, and their loyalty is always our priority.”
Sanders Ground Essentials is located at 1215 Military Rd. #1 in Benton. They can be reached at 501.315.9395 or at www.sandersground.com.