July 15 2014 07:48 AM

Dave Wesolowski grew up in Southern California, where his father was a landscape contractor; he installed irrigation systems and did tree work. "Before I started high school, I was cleaning trenches and setting heads. I was always mechanically inclined enough to figure out how to build irrigation systems. But it wasn't anything I wanted to do for for the rest of my life. I really didn't want to go into the family business."

He attended El Camino College, then transferred to Cuesta College in San Luis Obispo, California, in 1981. “I enrolled in a three year welding course, and was guaranteed a job on the Alaskan pipeline if I could get certified. However, during the certification phase of the course (the last semester), I was having respiratory shutdowns. I couldn’t sit in the booth for four hours and weld without having allergic reactions to the flux on the welding rods.. The professor said, ‘We cannot certify you if you’re allergic.’ That was a game changer,” said Wesolowski.

“I was trying to get away from the family business, but my course changed when I couldn’t get certified. In retrospect, it was a good thing, because I’d probably be dead by now if I’d become a welder,” he said.

Wesolowski did not move back to Southern California; he decided to stay in San Luis Obispo. He looked around the area and observed that there were very few irrigation systems around. He found that most homeowners were still watering by hand. This prompted him to think about starting his own irrigation contracting business.

He enrolled at California Polytechnic University, San Luis Obispo, and took the IA course in irrigation auditing at the Irrigation Training & Research Center. To support himself, he took a job at a local hardware story during the winter season.

In 1986, Wesolowski started his business. He didn’t have a customer base and start-up was a struggle. “I knew there was a good opportunity here, if I had the patience to grow with the community,” said Wesolowski.

“One of the first things I did was go to the Atascadero Chamber of Commerce, where all the movers and shakers were. I introduced myself and left some flyers there,” he said. “I told people that I could save them water or I could design systems that saved time. I got several jobs right there at the local chamber of commerce meeting.”

As the word got out, he began to build a base of customers, “It was a matter of knowing what you’re doing and then following through,” said Wesolowski. To this day, he has basic rules that he follows. “I always call the customer before I cash their check. If they say okay, we cash their check. If they say there are still some issues, then we go back and take care of them until they’re satisfied. That too, has helped build our reputation and a loyal client base.”

Since 1986, Wesolowski had been using the name Sprinkler King, but he had never registered it. He began developing marketing programs and slogans (that he had trademarked) that would help continue to grow his business. Over the next few years, he realized that these programs were helping grow his business. He thought that maybe here was a way to help other people who wanted to get into the irrigation contracting business. Maybe this could be an adjunct to his business.

He had run the gamut—he grew up in the landscaping business, he had worked with irrigation systems since before he went to high school, and he had started his own company, which was growing successfully. So Wesolowski began toying with the idea of franchising or licensing a turnkey operation. However, before he could get started in a licensing program, he needed to register the name nationally; he had already registered the name in California.

In 1995, he hired an attorney and began a long process of registering the Sprinkler King name through the Patent Trademark Office (PTO). The attorney also did a search nationally to see if anyone was using the name. He found one company in Bohemia, New York.

The PTO would prefer to see five years of evidence at a state level as a state service mark.. Not only could Wesolowski prove that he had been using the name, but more importantly, he had registered it 47 days before the individual in Bohemia, New York. The government recognized Wesolowski’s claim and allowed for the filing to proceed.

With the registrations and marketing programs in place, Wesolowski was ready to go. To add more credibility, in 1997 he was awarded top honors from the California Landscape Contractors Association for the design and construction of the Fairbanks estate in Templeton, California.

But, as with everything in life, there were bumps in the road and obstacles to hurdle. In 1991-92, we entered a recessionary period; and of course the housing debacle in 2008- 10 took its toll. Wesolowski found himself focusing most of his efforts on keeping his business moving forward.

It’s been 17 years since Wesolowski started planning to license the Sprinkler King name, as well as developing the tools to be successful.

“Now is a perfect time to re-start this portion of the business,” he said. “The housing market is coming back; the demand for irrigation professionals is at an all-time high. Water conservation is on everyone’s mind. Here is a great opportunity to help people better understand the irrigation business, and then we can show them how to capitalize on it.”

Wesolowski is almost 50 years old; he’s spent the past 35 years in the irrigation business, learning and polishing his skills. He believes that with his registered name brand, trademarked slogans, paperless service department, and the assistance he will supply, he can help put anyone on the road to a successful irrigation company.

“It’s like my father said: ‘Shoot for the moon, and if you land on a star, the view is better than where you started from.’”