Jimmy Flynn is on a mission. The former Coast Guard seaman discovered his calling to the mulch business after pursuing a number of environmental and recycling related ventures. He collected scrap metal, which was too cyclical. He collected wooden pallets, which was tremendously demanding. Then he started a lawn and landscaping service, which including the spreading of mulch. That’s when the light bulb went off and he founded Mission Mulch to engage in the manufacturing side of the business.
But there is a bigger, more important purpose behind Mission Mulch.
A Business with a True Mission
During his tenure with the Coast Guard, Jimmy’s vessel came under fire from a drug cartel boat, and a close friend and mentor was fatally wounded. The experience proved very challenging for Jimmy to overcome, and he spent several years working through the difficulties of PTSD. After being motivated to start a mulch production company, he chose to name it Mission Mulch in honor of his friend, and has committed to donate $1 to veterans charities for every yard sold.
“I decided to name my business Mission Mulch because I am on a mission to give back to veterans one ‘yard’ at a time,” he explains. “We directly contribute $1 to local veterans charities for every cubic yard we sell, which allows me live out my dream of helping vets experience joy after tragedy and injuries.”
So in early 2016, Jimmy began to build his business. Like anyone with limited experience in mulch production, the learning curve proved quite steep and he learned quickly through trial and error.
The Value of YouTube Research
“Honestly I started by watching a ton of videos on YouTube,” he admits. “When the machines showed up I would tinker with it and just try to figure things out.”
He launched Mission Mulch with a Bobcat loader and a Morbark 950 tub grinder.
“It all seemed fine on paper,” chuckles Jimmy. “Sure it’ll grind. But wow was it slow going. I figured out pretty quickly that you need big equipment, lots of equipment. Stackers, wheel loaders, grinders. And little by little I kept adding on to what I needed.”
Which was perfectly fine by him.
“I’ll admit to having a childhood obsession with heavy equipment, so I’m clearly doing what I was meant to do.”
Making Smart Equipment Upgrades
He replaced his tub grinder with a different unit on tracks. He replaced the Bobcat with a more versatile excavator. He acquired a stacker to prevent material from backing up. And he purchased a small standalone coloring unit to make colored mulch. The improvements were quite noticeable.
But Jimmy continued to use YouTube as a resource for research and discovery, and recognized that his production rates were still far behind where they could be.
“I got to researching screens next, and came across a number of videos showing the Doppstadt SM trommels doing insane production,” he continues. “Everything I looked into demonstrated how efficient those screens are, so that was what we got.”
Versatile Trommel Transforms Operation
In early February, Jimmy took delivery of his new Doppstadt SM 720 trommel screen and production soared. Not only did he experience a dramatic increase in throughput, but the flexibility allowed him to produce a number of new products that we not previously possible.
“I’m getting 288 yards per hour now where before I was maybe getting 60,” he exclaims. “It’s been amazing. We’re able to screen out fines, which allows us to make an animal-bedding product. And our mulch is now much higher quality.”
Jimmy uses their trommel for coloring too.
“Our colorant usage per yard has gone way down too, which means we have much less water content in our finished mulch. We’ve been able to consistently load 100 yards on a truck now where we used to only get 72 yards.”
Quick-Change Drum Enables Broader Product Mix
Because the Doppstadt trommel drum change is a very simple 15-minute process, Jimmy has leveraged that flexibility to change screen sized frequently. After fielding frequent inquiries for topsoil, for example, he is now able to add that as another revenue stream.
“The SM is just so versatile. Being able to say ‘yes’ when I get topsoil inquiries now is great,” he says. “I looked at other options, but the drum change process was such a nightmare that screening different products would not have been practical.”
The compact footprint also proved attractive to his operation.
“The other options also took up so much space in my yard, and the hoppers were way too tall,” continues Jimmy. “We grind straight into our trommel and with the other models that wouldn’t be possible.”
Revising His Model to Perfection
Equipment discovery was not the only learning curve that Mission Mulch experienced. The business model itself had to evolve as well. When he started, Jimmy expected that area landscapers would be quite happy to pay him half the tipping fee that the local landfill charged for environmental debris. But shortly after opening, the landfill eliminated their fee altogether—which means Jimmy had to also.
Additional trial and error followed, and Mission Mulch eventually found its model by partnering with land clearing contractors to perform mobile grinding and bring that material to their yard to convert to mulch.
“This is definitely not a business you just show up and do,” he concludes. “There’s a lot more to it than anyone would recognize from observation and research. But we learned quickly, made good equipment decisions and found a model that works. We’ve already produced about 15,000 yards so far in 2018 [June] and next year I’m really hoping to double that.”
Never before has mulch been produced to support such a noble cause, and one that Jimmy holds close to his heart. Every month, he cuts another check to a local veterans charity—one dollar for every yard sold—which is able to make a huge difference in the lives of many military families.