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Pile In The Van

. . . and take landscape design mobile.

This story appears in the May 2000 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

When Tim Hanauer began working as a landscape designer for a North Carolina firm, he noticed how much time designers spent driving to sites or to meet clients and contractors . . . and how little time they had for designing.

After several years of researching the problem, Hanauer found the solution: a mobile office. "We converted a van into a mobile office with computers," he says. "With this office, the designer doesn't have to leave the site until he's finished with the landscape design."

With the traditional approach to landscape design, it can take six weeks to deliver a finished design, whereas, with Hanauer's process, the designer drives his or her mobile office to the site and meets with the client for about 45 minutes to brainstorm ideas. He or she then works at the site for several hours and, at the end of the day, presents the client with a sketch of the design and a digital image of what the landscaping will look like.

Now Hanauer, 38, is franchising his mobile landscape design office as Earth Graphics. Based in Greensboro, North Carolina, the first Earth Graphics franchise began serving the Columbia, South Carolina, area early this year.

"We wanted to franchise because it was franchiseable," Hanauer says. "If we didn't do it, someone else would have."

Columbia-based franchisee John Keeler agrees. "It's a great idea. I save about a month [per project]."

Hanauer is currently focusing his franchising efforts on the Southeast states, and westward from Texas come summer. Start-up costs are $50,000 to $60,000, including the cost of the mobile office. Hanauer is looking to co-brand Earth Graphics with existing landscape contractors or garden centers.

For more information, contact Earth Graphics at (877) EARTH-G1 or visit

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