Alex Carey of A. Carey Landscaping was named one of ECHO’s Heroes.
Photos courtesy of Alex Carey

Every day’s different for Alex Carey, who runs A. Carey Landscaping in New England.

Some days, he’s in the office whittling down his list of over 200 clients — that’s been a recent focus as Carey aims to start working on higher profile clientele. Other days, he’s buying hot dogs and hamburgers for his crews, surprising them with a cookout and pool party at his place once they return from their jobsites.

Then, of course, there are days he’s out in the field alongside them. Earlier this year, ECHO recognized Carey as one of the company’s ECHO Heroes, capturing on camera Carey’s efforts in helping his community clean up after a storm ravaged through the area. In the video, Carey stops his truck when he noticed a tree that crushed part of someone’s house.

“It’s New England — wind, rain — we’re used to it,” Carey says. “But I looked out the window and this tree’s uprooted and thought, ‘Oh, boy.’”

Alex Carey

The timing on the video was purely coincidental — ECHO was already planning to come into town for the shoot anyway, Carey says. But the 21-year-old says his team spent the next week cutting through brush and trees to help several of his clients who had their properties damaged by the storm.

“It’s one thing to mow lawns on a hot 95-degree weather day, but it’s another entirely to haul trees across lawns when you’re used to mowing,” Carey says.

But he and his team didn’t mind helping. Carey says this help comes from a mutual respect he’s built with his clients, many of whom being people he’s worked with since he started charging people for his services a decade ago. Carey first got into yard cleanup with his dad when he was three years old, but by six or seven, he was volunteering to help his neighbors pick up their yards, too.

These relationships matter to Carey — it’s one of the reasons he’s paring down his list of clients. Ideally, Carey says a good customer is one who loyally reaches out to him anytime they need anything done with their property. Carey keeps a contact list of others in the green industry who offer services he can’t provide, and he estimates that almost every time he’s been asked about a service A. Carey can’t do, he’s had someone in the wings ready to help.

Of course, that goes both ways, too: Carey wants to ensure his clientele takes care of his crews. Some will bring them water or come outside with a plate of food if they’re already out on the properties.

“They really care about me and my company as well. They take pride in my guys,” Carey says. “For me, that’s the kind of people I’d rather be doing business with.”

And that mutual respect has paid dividends for Carey as a business owner, too. He says much of his advertising is word-of-mouth, as clients tell each other all about what Carey’s done for their properties. Plus, one of Carey’s first customers ever offered up his property as a new shop for A. Carey once the client’s construction business folded during COVID-19.

“I like making it a quality relationship with my customers,” Carey says. “Giving them top quality service and the highest level of respect is really the line that we draw.

“Starting at a young age was really the best thing I could’ve done,” he adds. “The customer is definitely willing to spend a few more dollars when they know there’s a familiar face coming in.”

At 21 years old, there’s still plenty of time for those relationships to blossom. Carey envisions a future where he can look at a customer and say things like, “I’ve serviced your four-acre property for 15 years.” These long-term ties, Carey says, would prove that they’ve valued their business-client relationship.

For now, he wants to maintain a steady growth with his clients. Carey says he’s noticed some companies race to lock in as many properties as they can, but they don’t actually do the work to make the yards look as polished as possible. That’s not his style — he’d much prefer to stay with the same customers who will remain as loyal to him as he is to them.

“It’s not about quality over quantity. I’m not a guy who wants to get 200, 300 lawns cut. There’s no sense in doing that,” Carey says. “As my company grows, it grows. I don’t want to put the cart ahead of the horse.”

SingleOps earns $74 million growth equity investment

The investment is to drive expansion of SingleOps’ business management software and integrated payments platform.

SingleOps has announced a $74 million growth equity investment from FTV Capital, a sector-focused growth equity investor with more than two decades of experience in vertical software and payments. The funding will enable SingleOps to expand its platform and grow its team to further provide support and services to its customers.

“Since day one, our mission at SingleOps has been to build and implement software solutions purpose built for green industry businesses that ultimately help them win customers for life,” said Sean McCormick, CEO at SingleOps. “We’ve seen tremendous growth the last few years and have truly begun to make a lasting positive impact in the green industry, which has only been possible through the hard work of our amazing team and the strong response from our customers.”

With 423% revenue growth over the past three years, SingleOps is one of the top 10 fastest-growing software companies in Atlanta, according to the Inc. 5000 Fastest-Growing Private Companies in America list for 2021. The company’s growth is fueled by green industry businesses offering landscaping, tree care, lawn care and landscape supply services seeking to improve productivity by automating key processes.

“FTV is excited to partner with SingleOps’ passionate leadership team, who consistently listen to the needs of their customers and have become an industry leader as a result,” said Robert Anderson, partner at FTV Capital.

Anderson and Gurmaan Bhatia, vice president at FTV Capital, will join SingleOps’ board of directors as part of the investment. Existing investor Five Elms Capital also fully participated in the round. Houlihan Lokey acted as a financial advisor to SingleOps, and Fisher Broyles served as SingleOps’ legal counsel.

Photo courtesy of Massey Services

Massey Services acquires Peninsular Pest Control

Peninsular Pest Control is headquartered in Jacksonville, Florida.

MasseyServices, a company in the pest management industry, has acquired Peninsular Pest Control Service.

Peninsular Pest Control, also known as the “Critter Gitter,” is headquartered in Jacksonville, Florida. The company provides residential and commercial pest control, termite and landscape services to 30,000 customers throughout Northeast Florida, including Jacksonville, St. Augustine and Ponte Vedra.

“We are pleased to welcome the Peninsular team members and customers to the Massey Services organization,” said Tony Massey, president & CEO of Massey Services. “Peninsular Pest Control is a second generation, family-owned organization that has been providing superior service to customers for nearly 70 years. We look forward to carrying on their legacy of total customer satisfaction for years to come.”

Massey Services was founded in 1985 in Orlando, Florida. The organization now has 177 locations company-wide.

Photo courtesy of Ernst & Young

Ernst & Young awards Jesson regional entrepreneur award

Matt Jesson is president and CEO of Green Lawn Fertilizing/Green Pest Solutions.

Ernst & Young recently recognized Green Lawn Fertilizing’s President and CEO, Matt Jesson, as an Entrepreneur Of The Year 2022 Greater Philadelphia Award Winner.

Jesson was selected by a panel of independent judges according to the following criteria — entrepreneurial spirit, purpose, growth and impact — among other core contributions and attributes.

“I’m very blessed to work with such an incredibly passionate team that truly cares about our team members and customers,” Jesson said.

Jesson has been an entrepreneur since the age of 12, when he started his own neighborhood lawn cutting business in Havertown, Pennsylvania. He ran that business all the way through his early twenties until he transitioned the business from Jesson Landscaping into lawn care with the founding of Green Lawn Fertilizing in 2004. Jesson started another business in 2012 with the establishment of a dedicated pest control brand, Green Pest Solutions.

Green Lawn Fertilizing/Green Pest Solutions has grown to over 50,000 residential customers, over 250 team members and over $30 million in annual revenue.

The regional winners will now be considered by the national independent judging panel, and national awards will be presented in November at the Strategic Growth Forum. The Entrepreneur of The Year National Overall Award winner will then move on to compete for the EY World Entrepreneur Of The Year Award in June 2023.

Jesson was also a 2017 Lawn & Landscape Leadership award winner. Green Lawn ranked No. 90 on Lawn & Landscape’s Top 100 list.

Photo courtesy of Fairway Lawns

Fairway Lawns receives new investment funding

Morgan Stanley Capital Partners will invest in the residential lawn care provider in Arkansas.

Investment funds managed by Morgan Stanley Capital Partners, the middle-market focused private equity team at Morgan Stanley Investment Management, have completed an investment in Fairway Lawns.

MSCP is partnering with the current management team led by CEO Kyle DeMilt, who will continue to lead the business.

Headquartered in Little Rock, Arkansas, Fairway is a residential lawn care company. The company, which operates 16 branches across the Southeast region, primarily provides recurring lawn care services such as weed control and fertilization, in addition to complementary services including pest control and tree/shrub maintenance.

“For nearly 40 years, Fairway has consistently delivered best in class residential lawn care services to our customers, and we are thrilled to partner with MSCP on the next phase in our history,” said Kyle DeMilt, CEO of Fairway. “We look to leverage MSCP’s approach to operational excellence, as well as their experience completing complementary acquisitions to accelerate the expansion of Fairway’s capabilities and geographic footprint in the coming years.”

“We are excited to partner with Kyle and the Fairway team as they continue to work to build the company into the leading residential lawncare platform in the Southeast,” said Adam Shaw, managing director and head of business services at MSCP. “For MSCP, Fairway represents an opportunity to execute on our core strategy of investing in focus sub-sectors where we have deep institutional knowledge and experience to drive value creation. We look forward to working together to advance the company’s market leadership position through organic growth and acquisitions.”

Debevoise & Plimpton served as legal counsel to MSCP, and Solomon Partners served as MSCP’s financial advisor. Carlyle Global Credit acted as sole administrative agent, bookrunner and arranger on the financing. Harris Williams served as financial advisor to Fairway.

Ronin creates outdoor power equipment, utility trailers platform

Through three simultaneous acquisitions, the merged group will offer a wide selection of woodchippers, snowplows, winches and utility trailers.

Ronin Equity Partners announced the creation, through three simultaneous acquisitions, of a diversified manufacturer of small- to medium-scale outdoor power equipment and utility trailers. The three merging firms focus on homeowners with more than five acres of land and on small-scale landscapers, ranchers and farmers. Two of the businesses, DK2 and SnowBear, are based in Ontario, Canada, and the third business, Currahee Trailers, is headquartered in Mount Airy, Georgia. The combined company will have over 50 years of operating experience.

Operating under the DK2 corporate name, the merged group will offer a wide selection of woodchippers, snowplows, winches and utility trailers. The owners and senior management teams of all three companies have retained a significant stake in the merged group and remain actively involved in company management.

“These three firms are helping to create a new category of high-end consumers and small-scale professional users for outdoor power equipment and utility trailers. We see significant growth in this prosumer demand for years to come,” said David Feierstein, managing partner of Ronin.

“We’ll combine the best of the companies’ manufacturing and delivery models, extend those capabilities to complementary equipment categories, and finance organic expansion and acquisition,” said Ronin Partner Tiffany Bell, who joins DK2 as CFO.

Although the purchase price is undisclosed, on a merged basis the group registers annual revenues in excess of $60 million and shows average annual sales growth over the past five years of 40-plus percent. Ronin has reserved more than $25 million to fund highly synergistic acquisitions for DK2 and is currently in discussions with several targets. More than 35 complementary businesses have been identified.

“This is more than just an investment,” said Steve Malizia, founder and CEO of DK2. “Ronin is bringing us back-office resources and scaling experience, while reinforcing operating muscle so that we can exceed our base potential as a combined group.”

At the merged DK2, Malizia will serve as CEO, alongside new Chairman Doug Robinson, one of more than 30 Ronin Operating Advisors — a group that helps source transactions and advises on tactics and strategy. Over a 30-year career, Robinson served as CEO of multiple home improvement, appliance, and building materials companies. A former president of international operations and development for Lowe’s Companies, Robinson headed the group’s e-commerce initiative.

Joining Malizia and Robinson on the new DK2 board are four other Ronin Operating Advisors: Jim Core, formerly president of the Professional Division at Home Depot; Tory Upham, previously general manager at Dakine, an outdoor equipment company; Gabriel Arreaga, chief supply chain officer at Kroger; and Mark Traylor, formerly president of the AMES Companies, a non-powered lawn and garden tools company.

The acquisition of the three companies was financed using Ronin’s balance sheet, with investments from a range of limited partners, including Stephens Capital Partners, Northwood Ventures and Knott Partners.

Ronin and its investors have deployed, or reserved for follow-on portfolio investment, in excess of $350 million. The capital was committed to four platform investments, comprising a total of 14 companies. Apart from DK2, Ronin’s three other buy-and-build platforms cover commercial refrigeration, the specialty cheese industry and wastewater purification and filtration.