Buying Local: What It Means to a Local Business Owner. My name is Pete Bryant and I am a local business owner. I am the Founder, President and CEO of both Southern Exposure Landscape Management and Southern Lights Landscape Lighting. We are not a franchise or a large corporation with multiple shareholders. We are a small, locally owned business, and I am that local owner. As I look back over the last 20 years of being in business, I am overwhelmed with feelings of incredible gratitude to my supportive family, my gracious God, great employees, and my loyal customers. (I’m even grateful for the non-loyal customers). I feel a sense of accomplishment and relief that all the hard work has meant something. I am always striving to create a better product and service and know there’s still much more hard work ahead as we continue to blaze a trail for the landscape industry in our area. I’ve realized as a business owner though that there seems to be a misconception that just because I own a business, that my life is easy, that the money just rolls in like clockwork and I only care about the bottom line. What many people don’t see is the stress that comes with running a business, like waiting to be paid, dealing with collections, warranties, unexpected costs that arise on projects, equipment expenses, payroll and the list goes on and on. Feeling the burden of your family’s livelihood on your shoulders and the reliance of your employees and their families depending on steady income is something that I take serious. Being a business owner is risky and the smaller the business, the more localized the risk, but I wouldn’t change a thing. Those pressures don’t go away, they are always on your mind, many times making it difficult to unwind, but with all that stress also comes a great deal of pride and excitement knowing that we’ve been able to create an amazing company with amazing employees. I realize many of my customers don’t know me personally like they ”all’ did in the early days of my business. They may not have known the huge impact they have been by being my customer. I would like to let you know what supporting a local business means to me and how much it affects me personally.
I started this company in 1995 in high school mowing lawns in Greensboro. Born and raised in Greensboro, NC, I grew up in Sunset Hills, graduated from Grimsley High School, and then later from Appalachian State University. I carried 3 jobs through college including this landscaping company. I was a Harris Teeter stock boy, landscape contractor for a landscape company in Boone, NC, Christmas tree farm attendant, and of course I ran Southern Exposure on weekends and summers mowing lawns and spreading mulch. There was a lot of hard work, frustration, and learning in the early years. It was a slow process building up clientele and the experience necessary to gain the trust of more & more customers, but I enjoyed the new challenges that arose during each new season and growth spurts. My days were filled with hard physical labor and my nights were spent organizing paperwork, creating spreadsheets and balancing expenses. For the first decade, I was meeting every client, preparing every estimate, and performing every service. After graduating college in 2001, I threw myself into building my business and hired my first employee in 2003. That employee is still with me today! Now, 20 years later, I still wear a lot of hats, but I have been blessed with a capable staff that has distributed the many tasks, allowing myself to focus on the growth of the company. There’s a lot of moving parts to running a business and any emergency is my emergency. The stress in inevitable, but I wouldn’t change a thing; I’m where God wants me to be. I’ve poured over 20 years into this business and this industry and I’m grateful that the hard work has paid off. We’ve tried new things over the years and some have worked and some haven’t. Even 20 years into this, we still experience unexpected setbacks. For instance, this year, our company had over 25 work days (that’s 5 solid weeks) lost due to the rain since August. That’s 3 weeks more than the average year total. It’s hard to prepare for the unexpected and it’s even more difficult to bare the financial weight of the impacts. Just like any small business owner, there have been plenty of sleepless nights and worry, especially with a seasonal business. And even still, I can’t imagine doing anything else. I’m passionate about what I do and I do what I’m passionate about!
Unless you are one our earlier customers, you may not have met me, so I figured I’d introduce my family to you so you can get an idea of who you are supporting at Southern Exposure & Southern Lights. My beautiful wife Natalie and I have been married for over 12 years now and have two amazing kids, Davis (9), and Clyde (6). Any of you that own a business can relate to the craziness of trying to juggle business and family life. Although my wife is not apart of the day to day operations anymore at Southern Exposure she has been an amazing support system and solid sounding board. Southern Exposure couldn’t exist without her. I couldn’t ask for a better partner to go through this life with. My kids keep me grounded and on my toes at the same time. I coach Clyde’s soccer team, lead camping trips, hikes, & 4-wheelin and encourage my daughter with her many interests – guitar, rock climbing, singing, and dancing. These years are so fun to see them grow and mature. Our customers aren’t helping me buy a second home, they are helping us grow and invest our time and energy into our local region, providing a future for my family as well as all of our employees and their families. Our growth means more jobs and career opportunities for our employees who also want to plan for their futures. My wife Natalie and I and our kids thank you for your support over the last 20 years. As we move into this New Year,we are excited about what God has in store for us. This year will be a BIG year for Southern Exposure and can’t wait to share our BIG news about what’s next!
From the bottom of a business owner’s heart, “Thanks so much” and please continue to support your local, small businesses. It means so much.
Sincerely, Pete Bryant