Entrepreneurs can be fascinating people to meet and spend time with. Many are on an island all their own. With personalities that are often outgoing and curious, they want to listen and learn from you just as much as they want to share every detail about the endeavors they’re working on.
Also, their business models are built on equal parts passion, seeing opportunity, understanding need, and taking action to make it happen. They understand the inherent risks with creating a business but are wired so differently than most of us they can’t conceive of not launching it.
Doug and Justin Wells with Wells Family Nursery in Alexander are a father-son duo who exemplify that entrepreneurial mindset.
Doug, 59 and a U.S. Army Veteran, grew up in South Dakota where agriculture was king. “I was raised in the southeastern part of the state where, everywhere you looked, there was farmland. That’s what I grew up doing, and through the course of time learned a lot about the trade.”
During his follow-up career with a lawn maintenance company, Doug learned about agricultural chemical treatments and their most effective uses.
Justin, 35, grew up with by his father’s side as Doug began working in construction after relocating his family to Arkansas more than 30 years ago. “Justin grew up on job sites with me,” he said. “It wasn’t at all unusual that he would be on a concrete block with a chop saw making cuts at seven-years-old.”
Justin went on to a successful baseball career with the Arkansas Razorbacks and a trip to the 2009 College World Series, and upon returning home to Saline County, knew he wanted to follow his father in the route of self-employment.
In addition to the duo’s 20-year-old storage shed and deck building operation, they now have Wells Family Nursery. The business is just two years off the ground, but how it came together was, once again, the result of seeing an opportunity and knowing what to do with it.
“Dad lives on five acres out on Spring Hill Road,” Justin said. “When he bought it twenty years ago, it was out in the country. Now, it’s like the town has come to us.
“Our plan was to use that land and build mini-storage units for the more than one hundred fifty new homes that had popped up on three sides of us,” he added. “The issue was you had to get approval from at least half of the neighbors before you could build anything like that. We asked the neighbors but never got to that number.”
So, with five acres to spare and a lifetime of agriculture experience to pull from, Doug decided to take another road and started Wells Family Nursery with Justin. “We’re selling plants now, annuals and perennials,” he said. “And it’s great to see how the business grows a little bit more every year.”
Regarded as a young, seasonal business with a heavy emphasis on spring and fall, Doug admits there is plenty to do all year.
“In January, we really start putting everything together,” he said. “At the back of the property, we have propagation sand beds, and in the winter months, we pull plants out of those sand beds from last year’s planting.
“Propagation involves taking an inch or two from a plant and putting it through a process before replanting it in that sand,” he added. “There are very specific systems in place, but if you follow the right steps, perennials will grow into plants very quickly.”
Through the spring, the Nursery enjoys its first wave of nonstop selling. “We have everything locked down and figured out by that time,” Doug said. “You have to be ready to go, and you sell, sell, sell straight up to May 31 because on June 1, sales drop off the edge of the cliff. You have to be ready when that happens, too.”
Sales during June, July, and August consist primarily of working with residential builders for construction landscaping, serving as a bridge to autumn and what’s known as “mum season.”
“Those are your fall months, September through October 31,” he said. “Mum season is huge in Arkansas, where everyone seems to go mum crazy. We get in as many truckloads as we can and sell them as fast as they arrive.”
Equally important, Justin says, is where these plants originate. He and his father want all their customers to know their products are proudly Arkansas-based.
“When [customers] roll up and start working with us, one of the first things they want to know is where our plants come from,” he said. “They want to know these products are grown right here in their home state.
“This goes beyond being only a good selling point,” he added. “It’s a real matter of pride for Arkansans to know their products are sourced right here at home. We even label our red mums as our ‘Razorback mums,’ and they are always the first to go.”
Wells Family Farm is located at 1821 Pamala Way in Alexander. They can be reached at 501.804.2626, or you can find them on Facebook.