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Good idea, hard work paid off for Warner

Ryan Warner of Warner Outdoor Solutions employs 45 people and runs 26 trucks. Photo courtesy of Ryan Warner1 / 2
Ryan Warner of Warner's Outdoor Solutions started his business mowing lawns in Woodbury. Photo courtesy of Ryan Warner2 / 2

While many big businesses have flocked to Woodbury over the years, there is a great story of how a successful Woodbury youth turned his $10 per lawn-mowing venture into a $5 million a year business.

Ryan Warner, owner of Warner's Outdoor Solutions, was 12 when he was mowing residential yards for a typical $10 a yard. But Warner conducted his business differently than others. While still a student at Woodbury High School, Warner not only juggled his homework with baseball and hockey, but continued running his business and even advertised in the Woodbury Bulletin and Lillie Newspapers on a regular basis, generating enough work to warrant hiring employees.

"I still have some of those customers today," Warner said.

Warner attended Mankato State in 1996 to work on a marketing degree, and took his business with him. He set up shop at the family farm, where his two lawnmowers could be stored. While again juggling his studies, he became licensed to apply fertilizer and weed control, and added landscaping, tree cutting and snow removal to his services. It was the family farm where he learned the value of hard work, which he is passing on to his three daughters.

"I was cutting trees on the family farm, stacking and splitting wood for firewood, even before the lawn mowing business," he said. "That's where I got my work ethic. Back then, my Dad and I had to cut trees because we had to. Now, I could easily hire someone to do that, but I feel obligated to have my kids have the same upbringing I did."

He said his inner strength came from his parents' divorce at about the time he graduated from Mankato State.

"You can either be strong or let it get to you," Warner said. "I had to work all day, and then had to deal with tests and presentations, and then the divorce, which added a lot of stress. But it made me strong and I learned I could handle anything."

But the growing business wasn't supposed to be the plan when he graduated with his marketing degree.

"I had no intention of doing this," Warner said. "I got an internship (through Taylor Corporation) and did sales and marketing, and web development. It wasn't going like I had hoped. I still had two employees running my business but I was hardly working at it. After nine months, I was working through a job hunter and an HR person asked why I just didn't keep going on my business."

So it was back to Woodbury, where he eventually would buy a location along Bailey Road, and also rent barn space at what is now present-day Jerry's Foods. His know-how in web development, which was still fairly new in 2000, helped him right away.

"Because I did web sites, I looked extremely professional," Warner said. "I had enough work for three crews starting Day 1."

Business expanded in services, included more and more commercial, and employees, 45 now and 24 trucks, now with his signature yellow color, which was a huge marketing strategy for him. He expanded enough to where he had to find a second location, which he found in St. Paul in 2009. That is where his headquarters is located, but the Bailey location is still in use and half his residential businesses remains in Woodbury.