Grab Your Hat and Go

Whether you’re shopping or selling, this landscaper turned inventor says there’s nothing like GIE+EXPO.

Nick Carlson has experienced GIE+EXPO wearing two different hats – as a landscape business owner who brought his crew to the show each year and as an inventor who launched his product at GIE+EXPO and now exhibits annually.

On both fronts, he says, “Without GIE+EXPO I wouldn’t be where I am today.”

Nick and his father, Craig Carlson, are racing enthusiasts; and what started with a push mower, a can of fuel and a need to fund a teenager’s love for go-kart racing grew into a full-fledged residential and commercial landscape business. 

As his one-man venture blossomed, Nick says GIE+EXPO played an important role. He and his crew attended the show annually for a number of reasons. 

The new products and the Outdoor Demonstration Area were certainly a draw. “Contractors want to test the products and see how they work outside,” Nick says. “You can read an article or watch a video, but there’s nothing like the demo area at GIE+EXPO.”

In addition, while attending GIE+EXPO gave his crew a chance to unplug from the daily grind and hit reset, it also helped them gain a broader picture of the industry. And, it helped Nick find ways to increase productivity. 

“GIE+EXPO builds energy among a team,” Nick said. “It allows the employees to see the industry through the business owner’s eyes.”

16 years and countless trips to GIE+EXPO later, Nick had built a thriving company that earned revenues over $1 million annually.

About that time, as he was planning for a more productive spring season, Nick set out to find a way to make mulching easier – and faster – for his crew. When he didn’t find a product on the market to solve the problem it was time to don a new hat.

While dad, Craig, owned a separate business and never worked for his son’s landscaping company, he was Nick’s sounding board and helped with equipment repairs.

Long story short, Nick and Craig collaborated, sketched a mulch-dispensing machine on a napkin during a family dinner and teamed up with people who could help transform their idea into a prototype. When the initial sketch finally evolved into the Mulch Mate, they started Dawson Manufacturing and have since sold their respective businesses.

In 2018, when they were ready to launch the Mulch Mate, Nick told his dad GIE+EXPO was the place to go. “We were fumbling around about how to launch it, and it hit me,” Nick said. “GIE+EXPO legitimizes you. If you show up with a good product, it makes a statement.”

Nick said their demo exhibit at that first show drew crowds. As he already knew from his days as a landscaper, seeing a product in action or getting hands-on with it is key. And once people saw the Mulch Mate, they were sold.

“It’s a game-changer,” he said. “Landscape crew members bring the owner to our booth and say: ‘this is what I was telling you about’. Nine times out of ten the owner is placing an order once I’ve shown him how it works.”

Regardless of which hat you wear – attendee or exhibitor – Nick says nothing can replace GIE+EXPO. 

“It’s that all-important human element,” he says. “From seeing, touching and testing the products to connecting with people – both at the show and on a more personal level at the concerts, nothing compares to GIE+EXPO.” 

In fact, Mulch Mate has increased the size of their exhibit big time because, as Nick puts it, “People are going to be out of their minds wanting to get back to the show in 2021.”