Turning an idea into a business with Henry Makarios of Seed Stone and Snow

As a newly minted 19-year-old, Henry Makarios is fully aware how his generation is perceived, and he knows it’s generally not positive. 

They’re not trustworthy. They’re unpredictable. They’re irresponsible and unreliable. 

But then again, most of them aren’t like Makarios. In 2021, he and two of his friends launched their own landscaping business, St. Paul-based Seed Stone Snow, and while other people his age are sleeping all day and partying all night, he’s working hard to take care of his customers, market his offerings and grow his company. 

“We’re trying to break the stereotype,” Makarios said. “We show up when we say we’re going to show up and we execute how we say we’re going to execute. Being able to do those things is very important because it shows that you’re true to who you are and you’re passionate about what you do.”

Makarios got into the landscaping field in high school, spending his summers working with his friends for a skilled native gardener. The hours were long, but they all enjoyed the challenge of planting perennial gardens and building walls, patios, staircases and paths. After honing their skills for several years, they discovered an opportunity to do their first job on their own so they decided to take a leap of faith.

“We got up the courage to tell our boss that we weren’t coming back and that we were going to try and do our own thing,” Makarios said. “Our mindset was that we know how to garden. We know how to build things. And as long as we stick with it and we follow through with our commitment, everything will work out.”

That’s how Seed Stone Snow was born and after working together on an unofficial basis, the three friends formed an LLC nearly a year ago. Now, they spend their days helping their clients achieve their landscaping goals by creating custom walls, softscape patios and paths. When it’s too cold for those jobs, they tackle snow removal. To Makarios, it’s all about being adaptable, willing to experiment and finding ways to step out of your comfort zone.

“I’ve always known that I was self driven and passionate,” he said. “And in launching our company, I’ve learned so much about what it takes to keep a business going and make it successful.”

If you’re thinking about going into business for yourself, here are a few of Makarios’s pieces of advice:

  • Have an attainable goal in mind: Dreaming big is great but when you’re first starting out, it’s important to be realistic about what you want to accomplish and have a solid plan for how you intend to make it happen. If you need help nailing down the logistics, Makarios recommends joining a networking group where you can discuss your goals with other small business owners who have been where you are. “There’s definitely power through learning from the experience of others,” he said. 

 

  • Figure out your cash flow and your immediate needs: The old saying “you have to spend money to make money” is definitely true, especially in a field like landscaping where you need equipment to book jobs. To ensure they had a good sense of how much money was coming in and how much was going out, Makarios and his partners decided to invest in QuickBooks software. With the software, they can analyze the amount they’re earning, the number of jobs they’re getting, the expenses they have and their profit margins. In turn, this helps them determine whether they have the money to purchase new tools or if they need to hold off for a while. “The graphs in QuickBooks are really helpful from a visual perspective, especially if you don’t don’t have a lot of time to spend looking at bank statements,” he said. “It’s certainly helped me feel more confident in making financial decisions.”

 

  • Establish firm roles within your company: When Makarios and his partners were first getting started, they made a list of what each person was best at in order to maximize their efficiency and minimize redundancies. “My strength is communicating with our clients and so I have taken on those tasks within the company,” he said, noting that his other partners handle design and logistics. “We’ve essentially been able to create a constant circle of communication and it’s helped us manage our turnaround time and keep it consistent.”

 

  • Focus on relationships and sales will follow: Because Seed Stone Snow is still relatively new, they’re laser focused on establishing their name and reputation. That’s why Makarios always goes the extra mile to build rapport with prospective clients before talking numbers. “I’ll ask them how I can help, listen to what they’re looking for and try to set up a meeting as soon as possible so we can have an in-person conversation,” he said. “This way, we can get acquainted and they’ll be able to hear our story and understand who we are before we even try to sell them something. This sets us apart from other young businesses and helps create trust.”

 

  • Communicate honestly: One of the main reasons that people get frustrated with home improvement projects is because of poor communication and unclear expectations. Makarios understands that, and even before someone hires Seed Stone Snow for a project, his goal is to be 100 percent transparent. “I always tell people that if you’re going to communicate with someone who is going to buy something from you, you have to be honest,” he said. “If there’s anything you need to warn them about in terms of the project, you have to be upfront about it because if you’re not, that’s where you can get into trouble.” Leading with honesty and integrity has worked out well for Makarios so far. “Word of mouth is key in our business and when someone sees that you’re doing the good work that you promised them, they will refer you to their friends,” he said. “We’ve gotten thousands of dollars just from building relationships and giving people a positive experience with our company.”

 

  • Manage your time wisely: When you own a business, it can be easy to end up working 24/7 and that’s a surefire recipe for burnout. To avoid falling into that trap, Makarios relies on his Google Calendar. By identifying the tasks he needs to complete and marking out specific times where he will work on them, he’s been able to gain control of his schedule, which in turn helps him feel more comfortable taking time for himself. “You don’t want to spend all week working every single minute of the day,” he said. “If you can plan for the next three weeks in two days, then you can have some free time and relax. Having time to recharge your batteries can really boost your mentality and help you be better every day.”

 

Abra Kadabra Environmental Services is proud to share the wisdom of business owners from our community through our thought leadership series. If you’d like to be featured, click here.

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