Sunday brings do-it-yourself mentality to lawn care
Tech Startup: The opportunity for Sunday rests in a $40 billion market
Initial Lightbulb: Co-founder and CEO Coulter Lewis worked as a product designer for IDEO and co-founded Quinn Snacks with his wife, Kristy, in 2010.
Quinn Snacks focuses on sustainable snacks with a transparent supply chain. “Through that, I got really exposed to agriculture,” Coulter says. “Being in those fields was a beautiful, magical thing.”
When the Lewises later bought a home, he wanted to improve the lawn but found it was a much different market. When you’re shopping for fertilizer and lawn-care products, “You can smell it when you’re getting close,” he says. “Maybe the most powerful chemicals at Home Depot shouldn’t be in the lawn and garden section.”
Many do-it-yourselfers end up overdoing it, Coulter continues. “We’re applying pesticides on our properties at rates up to 10 times higher than industrial farms. This is toxic to humans and pets. It just doesn’t make sense.”
The experience led him to start Sunday (a dba for This Land Inc.) with his brother, Trent Lewis, now Sunday’s head of product development. Looking for advice, the pair reached out to Cornell University professor Frank Rossi. “He’s the guy who lives and breathes turf,” Coulter says.
The Lewis brothers’ consumer-facing business model intrigued Rossi, and he joined Sunday as its chief science officer. After a 100-user beta test in 2018, the company, now up to 16 employees, officially launched in April 2019.
In a Nutshell: When Sunday onboards a new customer, the service starts with a soil test and analysis of climate history, satellite imagery and other available data. “We’ll take on all the extra responsibilities by pulling tons of data on their property,” Coulter says.
The number crunching leads to a customized plan based around 12 different nontoxic lawn-care products, delivered three times a year in user-friendly pouches that connect to a hose nozzle. The typical annual fee: $149.
Instead of toxic chemicals, the products contain safe, environmentally friendly ingredients like molasses (a biostimulant), kelp extract (a heat-stress reducer), and liquid compost made from recycled food waste. In spring 2020, Sunday is adding climate-specific grass seed to its catalog.
“We control which of these 12 SKUs you get, how many you get, and when you get them,” Coulter says. “We’re focusing on getting the right nutrition at the right time, rather than broad applications of pesticides and herbicides.”
Sunday has won over “thousands of customers across the U.S.,” Coulter says. “It’s been a really fantastic first year.”
Karen Cooper, a resident of Louisville, signed up for a Sunday subscription in late 2018 after having trouble finding a reasonably priced landscaper. She says she was also concerned about the impact of chemical fertilizers on her dog.
Sunday “sounded like exactly like what I was looking for,” Cooper says. “It’s affordable and convenient, and they have great customer service.” Best of all, she adds, “My dog literally stood right next to me while I was spraying it.”
The results have exceeded Cooper’s expectations. “My lawn looked amazing,” she says. “I became a Sunday customer for life.”
The Market: Coulter says the do-it-yourself lawn-care market is close to $40 billion annually in the U.S., and about a third of that goes through Home Depot and Lowe’s. “These are just absolutely bonkers numbers,” he says. “It’s not growing at huge rates, but it does continue to grow.”
Financing: After a pre-seed round in 2018 and a seed round in early 2019, Sunday closed on a $6 million Series A round in the third quarter of 2019 led by Tusk Ventures of New York. Coulter says he doesn’t anticipate raising another investment round in the near future.