Mulch Manufacturing and National Storm Recovery have come together to create Sustainable Green Team (SGTM), based in Florida. The publicly traded company provides tree services, debris hauling, removal and bio-mass recycling, manufacturing, packaging and sales of next-generation mulch products. We chatted with Ralph Spencer, CEO of Mulch Manufacturing about his company and the merger.
How did you get started in landscaping?
When I was 12, I started a lawn service. In my neighborhood I would mow grass and do landscaping. I started specializing in mulch installation. When I graduated high school, I started a retail store, Ohio Mulch. It grew to a chain of 26 stores. Then I ended up moving to Florida and got into lumber and mulch manufacturing.
Where do you distribute your mulch?
Landscapers can buy from us direct or they can find our products in the big-box stores like Lowe’s and Home Depot. Our Softscape products can be found at high-end garden centers.
Tell me about your next-generation mulch products.
We are pioneers and one of the country’s leaders in mulch manufacturing. We invented colored mulch—Nature’s Reflection is our paint division—and Softscape. Softscape is the best mulch there is. It’s made out of pure cypress. It’s bug resistant and manufactured in a way that looks like pine straw and then colored, and the color lasts four years, rather than a few months for traditional mulch. The bags are also light, so even grandma can lift them. And they are free from contaminants and safe for people and pets.
Do you have a favorite mulch?
Softscape in chestnut. It’s the same color as longleaf pine straw.
What’s the source of your mulch?
We get our trees and debris from a variety of different places. Our Arbor Care division has crews that trim or cut down trees. Then when a hurricane or storm hits, our partner National Storm Recovery can take trees that are down and bring them back to convert to mulch. We get our cypress from plantations put there for the purpose of selling cypress, and it’s growing faster than it’s being harvested. We never harvest cypress out of Louisiana. We do everything with sustainability in mind.
What are some of your other initiatives for sustainability?
We are decreasing the volume of material that would otherwise continue to fill our nation’s landfills. We are converting our trucking fleet into electric vehicles. Electric cars and trucks are the future.
On a personal note, we’d love to hear about your car collection.
I’ve always been infatuated with cars. I bought a Lamborghini and Ferrari in my early 20s. I have a 1968 Shelby 500, a 1970 Dodge Challenger dragster, an amphicar that’s a boat and a car, and a few Rolls Royces. But the Batmobile and the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang car were always on my wish list and I got those. I pursued them hard. I later lent out the Batmobile for the movie “Rock Star” with Mark Wahlberg and Jennifer Aniston. I’d been trying to buy the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang car for years, but the owner wouldn’t sell. I finally got it at an auction. I restored it, and it’s worth a lot of money now.
What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs?
If you don’t try, you’ll never succeed. So many people say they will do it one day and never do because they’re chicken. But you have to try. Never give up.
What challenges have you faced in your career?
I almost went broke twice. I made it by hanging on by the skin of my teeth to not go bankrupt in the early days. But now we’re incredibly successful.
What’s next for you?
I’ve been riding out the pandemic in Hawaii rather than Florida where we had 15,000 cases a day. Right now, I’m working on building a 10,000-square-foot tree house in Hawaii. It’s incredible here—like the Garden of Eden.