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Idea for an Organic Potting Soil Business Hits Pay Dirt

This story appears in the December 2011 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Mark Highland didn't need to dig up a lot of cash to start Organic Mechanics Soil Company: just about $400,000, with an expected payout within 10 years. But potential investors always asked the same question: "Can you really make money on dirt?"

"They were not gardeners and they just didn't understand," Highland says of his 2006 investor search. At that time the market for U.S. specialty soils was $390 million, and in 2010 the entire U.S. garden market (plants, soils, supplies and tools) was worth $100 billion. Behemoth brand ScottsMiracle-Gro was (and still is) the category leader, but there wasn't an organic alternative available on any sort of scale. Highland, who holds a master's degree in public horticulture with an emphasis on compost and soil science, wanted to develop an environmentally sustainable potting mix.

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