Greg Whittstock- Aquascape Design
|By DENNE GOLDSTEIN|
If you happen to be in the Chicago area the week of July 9th, you could be attending a happening. It?s called Pondemonium. It begins with a two-day pond tour presented by the North American Water Society, followed by seven days of seminars, classed, contests all pertaining to ponds, water features and water gardening.
The creator of this event is Greg Wittstock, a veteran pond builder. What is impressive is that at the age of 35, Wittstock has achieved what most people don?t achieve in a lifetime. He has single handedly created an awareness for ponds, water features and water gardening.
They say, ?It?s not that easy?, but to Wittstock it was a piece of cake. It was easy because he made it fun and he loved every minute of it. That?s not to say it was not hard work. All the years of experimenting was paying off, but let?s go back to where it all began.
Wittstock was born in Summit, New Jersey, his family moved to Wheaton, Illinois when he was 12 years old. Hi s collection of 11 pet turtles prompted him to build a pond for them. However, during the winter freeze, the pond cracked and began to leak. Wittstock built another one, but it too leaked.
As a young boy (he was 13 years old now) he took to building ponds as a hobby. He began to read about ponds and how to build them, he read about how to maintain them. Along with his reading he built another pond. Although he didn?t realize it then, Wittstock was embarking on his life-long career.
Wittstock spent his summers experimenting. He wanted to build a pond that would not crack during the freeze and thaws that occur in the cold weather parts of the country. (Back in those years, ponds were built in concrete). Sometimes he built a new pond; other times he re-built one that he has recently built.
At the same time he was building ponds he began experimenting with filters of various sizes and capacity. With each new pond he built, he used another filtering system. He tried using bigger pond filters, that didn?t work. He tried using swimming pool filters and that didn?t work. Wittstock eventually found out that by using a liner, along with the concrete, he could eliminate the leaking, if the pond cracked. Pretty soon he had built a pond that would not leak.
Some of his neighbors were impressed and asked him if he could build them a pond. Even the postman who delivered the mail to his home inquired about having a pond in his back yard.
Wittstock discovered that he could build a pond without using concrete. Shaping the ground, putting down a heavy, good quality liner, installing a filter that worked effectively, it all began to come together. Before you knew it, he was building a pond here and there while he going to high school.
The summer Wittstock graduated from high school he spent as a life guard. In the fall he entered Ohio State University where he graduated in 1994 with a degree in Interpersonal Communications. He remembers those days well. ?It didn?t require any math and there were lots of girls.?
To support himself while going to school, Wittstock thought it would be nice if he could turn his hobby into a business, so in 1991 he launched AquascapesDesign. During that year he built five ponds, made $23,000 and bought a truck. In 1992 he took the spring quarter off and built 12 ponds. All the time experimenting with different liners, filters, skimmers, pumps, etc.
In August, 1992, the Chicago Tribune ran an article on Golden Ponds about Wittstock. In the following four weeks, Wittstock sold 81 ponds. He recruited some of the football team from Ohio State to help him. He built ? that year and ? the following year, and his company did $400,000 in volume.
All the years of experimenting was coming to fruition. By the time Wittstock was 20 years old, he already had eight years of hands-on experience. He was driven to prove that he had the key to open the door to success. He had developed a twenty-product, twenty- step program and systemized the construction on building ponds.
Upon graduation, he met a friend of the family who was a partner at Arthur Anderson. The partner was impressed with Wittstock?s knowledge of water gardening ponds and their systems and urged him to pursue what originally was his hobby, later his dream, to build a full time business. Wittstock was happy to hear this, because he loved what he was doing and it was nice to hear from a financial specialist that he was on the right track.
Originally, Wittstock thought that he would franchise his idea. After six months of negotiating and trying to crawl through the legal maze, Wittstock gave up the idea. Instead he would teach the market.
And he had a lot to teach. Through the years, Wittstock developed and polished a marketing program that was ingenious and second to none. He carved out a niche. He developed a ?franchise? system without charging a franchise fee.
A few years ago, Inc. magazine listed Wittstock?s company as one of the fastest growing companies in the country. Today Aquascape Designs continues to grow at a 20% rate annually, with volume hitting the 60 million dollar a year mark.
Everything Wittstock espouses regarding water he has done. He talks the talk, but he has also walked the walk. He is known as the Pond Guy.
People love the sight and sound of water; it has a soothing effect. By eliminating the use of concrete, he was able to build ponds at extremely favorable prices with excellent margins for the contractor. He paved the way for contractors to add additional revenue to their bottom line.05/05