This Silicon Prairie entrepreneur wants to shatter a grass ceiling

Steve Werner is bringing landscaping to the digital age with on-demand lawn service

By LaRissa Lawrie

Published October 4, 2017 5:00PM (EDT)

Steven Werner
Steven Werner

This feature is part of Salon's Young Americans initiative, showcasing emerging journalists reporting from America's red states. Read more Young Americans stories.

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Some innovators come up with ideas through intense research and experience, but for Steve Werner, inspiration came from a different source.

Two years ago, Werner was driving home from an entrepreneurship class when he remembered he’d forgotten to mow the yard, despite multiple reminders from his wife, Sonya.

“It was such a nice day — the sun was shining, people were jogging outside and walking their dogs,” Werner said. “The last thing that I wanted to do was mow. And then the light bulb went off.”

Instead of cutting his grass, Werner went inside and told his wife he had an idea. That night they developed the initial business plan and concept for Lawn Buddy: a mobile application for an on-demand lawn service.  

Since the development of the initial idea, Lawn Buddy has become a software as a service technology company. They do not directly provide the services but instead act as an intermediary.

Lawn Buddy provides lawn and snow removal services by connecting lawn care professionals to home owners via a mobile application and website. They are currently operating in Wyoming, Utah, Kansas, Missouri and Illinois. Several other states have providers currently going through the vetting process.

The company also launched Cleaning Buddy on September 16 in the Wichita area — a mobile app that lets residents order house cleaning services on demand.

“We’re thrilled to meet the cleaning needs of modern families through our easy to use mobile app,” Werner announced at the time. “At the same time, we’re giving our provider partners a steady stream of well-paid opportunities so they can grow their own businesses. With Cleaning Buddy, everyone wins.”

Kansas is also winning. Lawn Buddy’s success has been used as an example of the viability of starting a successful technology company in the Midwest.

“I think it’s great that Lawn Buddy is located in Kansas. The fact that it’s happening here in the center of the United States speaks volumes,” said Sherdeill Breathett, Sedgwick County Economic Development Specialist. “To know that innovative businesses don’t have to come from the coasts or Seattle or Texas, it can happen here in Wichita. We have to start emphasizing that we can be a center for growth. We have a lot of talent here.”

A large part of the support for Lawn Buddy is an extension of support of Werner himself. He moved to Kansas after spending several years in the U.S. Marine Corps.

Aaron Bastian, the President of Fidelity Bank decided to invest in Lawn Buddy, in part because it was started by a veteran.

“It’s one of those cases where we saw a little bit of ourselves in Steven – he’s a good human,” Bastian said. “For me, personally, I admire his military service, it was the right thing to do and a good investment for someone that wanted to grow a business in Kansas.”

However, Bastian isn’t the only individual to praise Werner as an innovator.

“Steven has the work ethic of the Midwest but the innovative mindset of Silicon Valley,” said Jacob Wayman, director of e2e Accelerator in Wichita.

LaRissa Lawrie

LaRissa Lawrie is a photojournalist and writer for Salon’s Young Americans. She decided to pursue this fellowship to showcase Kansas as a community rooted in connection and empathy. LaRissa graduated from Wichita State in May of 2017 with a B.A. in Strategic Communication and will return to pursue a Master of Arts in Communication this fall. LaRissa is a lifestyle photographer and co-owner of Modberry Market. She is also a University Innovation Fellow with the Stanford Design School.

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Digital Technology Entrepreneurship Kansas Salon Young Americans Steve Werner Technology Young Americans