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Backyard Adventures in Small Business

Posted By LocalShops1, Wednesday, November 30, 2011
Sometimes you can have the best laid out plans, but life adds a few twists. And when that happens, best approach often is to take the detour and run with it. That's just what happened with Lisa and Dave Burns, founders of Backyard Getaway.

The couple started out like many other entrepreneurs: by working for someone else and daydreaming of one day running their own small business.

About 19 years ago, they decided it was time to venture on their own. At the time, Dave worked as a drywall contractor for a local company and Lisa managed a Hallmark store and postal substation.

They talked for six months about Dave leaving his current position and starting his own drywall contracting business, Lisa tells us. They decided Lisa would stay at her job for the first year or so, until the family's new business was financially stable.

"Everything would be perfect," Lisa says. "Or so we thought."

• • • •

Within a month of starting their business, Lisa was laid off from her job. Complicating matters is that they had two elementary-aged children.

"I was more than a bit nervous," Lisa say. "After my initial freak-out, we both took a deep breath and decided to make it work. As it turned out it was a blessing in disguise. I was able to work from home and be there when my kids got home from school. Dave was able to concentrate on jobs while I took care of the bids, advertising and accounting duties."

It did not take long for the business to take off.

Fast-forward about 10 years. Their business was doing great and they had built a great name for themselves. But Dave was ready for a change.

"Lifting 4x12 sheets of drywall over your head for years can become tiring to say the least," Lisa says.

• • • •

A few years earlier, Dave and Lisa had installed a small preform pond in their yard and quickly caught what they call the "pond bug." Soon Dave started adding a second preform and digging out their backyard.

"OK, maybe not the entire yard but there was talk of creating a mote," Lisa tells us. "Friends and family were asking him to help them with their yards. His hobby became his passion, he learned every thing he could about ponds and loved sharing with others. I, too, started enjoying water gardening especially learning about aquatic plants & lilies."

The couple started daydreaming again, this time about opening up a pond store. There was no place around them that offered everything for ponds, and definitely no place that also offered advice and help with installations, they say.

• • • •

Once again, they gave up what was comfortable and ventured into a new business. That's how Backyard Getaway was born.

"Our business has not been without challenges and we have learned a few things the hard way," Lisa says. "As many local business owners can tell you, retail is not an easy business. It generally takes three years just for consumers to remember your name even with a good marketing campaign."

A week before their three-year anniversary, their landlord dropped by for a visit. They thought he was there to renew their lease; instead he told them he had sold the building to a local college, and they had one month to find a new place, dig up all their pond displays and put the yard back to the way they found it.

• • • •

Lisa's Lesson No. 1: Never sign a short lease.

Lisa's Lesson No. 2: Do not put your own money into refurbishing a building you do not own.

• • • •

The couple found a new place for their business. This one was in Bradenton with a yard three times the size of our original place and almost twice the cost.

"We were excited. A larger place meant more displays, room for events and more customers," Lisa says. "But the economy had different plans for us."

After a year, they decided to close the retail store to cut overhead and to concentrate on the service end of their business and their online store.

• • • •

Lisa's Lesson No. 3: Even if you have a great business plan you should always be ready and open to changes.

• • • •

Their latest change happened a year and a half ago, when they moved their home and business to a rural six-acre property in Myakka City.

"Yes, it is 25 miles to the nearest gas station or grocery store, but we love it." Lisa says. "We have room to propagate our native plants and water lilies, grow out the Koi in the two natural ponds."

There is even a small building to house their store products.

"We have been extremely lucky over the years," Lisa and Dave say. "Some of the changes we have experienced were scary, but ultimately they have helped us grow."

Are you starting over after a layoff? We want to hear your story! Please email us at, and include your story and contact info. We will try to include as many stories as possible in future blogs.

Ester Venouziou, founder of and co-founder of Gulfport! Magazine, is available for freelance projects: writing, editing, design or social media. She can be reached at or 727.637.5586.

Tags:  backyard getaway  bradenton  dave and lisa burns  entrepreneur  florida  ponds  start a pond store 

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Baked Potato Productions & Your Admin Assistance says...
Posted Tuesday, December 6, 2011
Excellent article. I think Lisa and Dave will always win, but I know it doesn't always end up the way it started.
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