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After living elsewhere for 13 years, Nate Griswold decided to return to his hometown in northern Michigan. With a passion for green infrastructures, a bachelor’s degree in Landscape Architecture, and eight years of experience working for a leader in the green roof industry, finding a comparable job prospect near his hometown seemed daunting. Instead he decided to create his own job market by turning his passion, experience, and knowledge into a business of his own.
How the SBDC Helped
Nate was unsure what it took to operate a business from top to bottom on a daily basis. He looked for guidance from business consultants at the Michigan SBDC. Through working with several of the consultants in the SBDC network, Nate learned the in’s and out’s of managing his own business, how to plan for success and long-term growth, and what it meant to be self-employed, including the aspects of financial management, human resources and marketing.
Five months after his first meeting with an SBDC consultant, Nate launched Inhabitect, LLC, and soon had the company name, logo, and slogan federally trademarked. What started as just Nate has now turned into a team of six employees with sales in excess of $600,000 in 2018. The business has also moved from a storage unit to its own dedicated space that includes an office, pole barn, and landscape nursery which the company built in-house. Nate has also made a strong impact on the green roof and green infrastructure industry both commercially and residentially within the state, throughout North America, and globally.
Nate Griswold was born and raised in and around Traverse City. With a strong passion for the environment and creating natural habitats, he pursued a degree in Plant Science and Landscape Nursery Management from Northwestern Michigan College, and earned a certificate in Landscape and Nursery Development and a Bachelor degree in Landscape Architecture from Michigan State University (MSU).
After graduating from MSU, Nate spent a year designing high-end residential landscapes before moving to Chicago (IL) to pursue his career in green roofs with the industry leader, American Hydrotech, Inc. For over six years, he enjoyed his senior-level position. Though something was missing, and he wanted to be closer to the place he called “home”. His desire now was to work on his own dream instead of someone else’s. The economy and timing were ideal to return home and start a business of his own. He refers to himself as a “boomerang” entrepreneur because he returned to his roots.
After spending eight years working on some of the largest and most recognizable projects in North America, Nate began to notice inefficiencies and mis-communications that were costing developers, owners, and general contractors a lot of money. Because of this he started to work on his business concept long before he came home and began to write down his ideas and conceptual approaches to the marketplace he had helped grow by over ten-fold in six to eight years.
“I took quite the leap of faith, leaving my high-paying salaried position, but knew I had to do something as I didn’t want to have any regrets when I reached 50-years old,” said Nate Griswold, President and Owner of Inhabitect, LLC. “I knew I wanted to be closer to home and work within the community I was raised but there were no job openings in my field in Northern Michigan, so I decided to create my own opportunity and build my own company.”
Nate knew the industry and had identified gaps in the process of efficiently building a green roof. He was confident his idea was viable, but he hadn’t yet perfected the most effective way to launch and manage the realities of operating his own business.
Nate launched his business in May 2013, just a few months after beginning to work with the Michigan SBDC. It started small from a storage unit and quickly grew from there. His first-year sales were well over $100,000. The following year he won First Place at the Best Shot Sales Competition hosted by Mid Michigan Innovation Center and the year after that he was named one of the People to Watch by the Traverse City Business News (TCBN) for their annual People, Places, and Products to Watch. He secured a construction loan that allowed him to build a 45,000 square foot pole barn for his equipment and tools, and a 750 square foot office space on a 6 ½ acre parcel of land.
“Without the SBDC I don’t think I would have been able to put my business plan together as well as I did to present my concept and numbers to lenders,” Nate shared. “They not only helped me to put my numbers and projections in order but they gave me the confidence that I could do this ... I could run my own business!”
Over the course of six years, Nate has worked with a handful of SBDC consultants from the regional level to the Growth Team. He’s received assistance with business planning, financial analysis and management, cash flow and sales projections, personnel and Human Resources, market research, and more.
“There were things I didn’t know how or when to do,and I appreciate the SBDC team sharing their high-level, executive thinking and expertise with me that has allowed me to grow the business.” Nate said.
Since the business launched in 2013, the Inhabitect team has grown to six employees and saw sales in excess of $600,000 in 2018, and expanded its reach beyond the tri-county area. Initially, 80% of sales were generated locally and 20% from across the state but in 2018 those numbers started to flip. In 2018, the team also began to cultivate an on-site tree and plant nursery to produce in-house inventory for their projects.
Nate is also making a difference in the industry as well. Google his name and you’ll find articles he’s written, projects he’s involved with,and a ton of accolades, including being named one of the 40UNDER40 by the TCBN four years in a row. He was also one of the few people from North America invited to speak at the World Green Infrastructure Convention in Bogota, Colombia, in 2016. That same year he was named Environmentalist of the Year in his business category by Northern Michigan Environmental Action Council (NMEAC).Nate also became a Certified National Shoreline Professional.
Inhabitect is not a traditional landscape company. The team provides a full realm of services, including designing, building, and growing all forms of living architecture. They serve commercial and residential clients and specialize in managing storm water runoff and creating natural habitats through green roofs, rain gardens, living shorelines, and more.