MIND YOUR BUSINESS: Profile – Curt Pearce, The Uprooter
Our second installment in our new column, “Mind Your Business,” which profiles local entrepreneurs, checks in with Grant Pass-based Curt Pearce at CP Designs, which designs and sells the Up Rooter, a specialty tool for pulling out small trees and invasive species.
Rogue Valley Messenger: You had worked with Tom Ness at The Weed Wrench Company. Your product is half the weight, and has some other design features. Was there an “a-ha” moment that you realized you wanted to design a new style and start your own business?
Curt Pearce: To clarify, our product is two pounds lighter than that of the comparable size Weed Wrench. When I realized Tom was downsizing his business and limiting his service to customers, it was clear that someone would need to back fill the demand in the market. It just made sense that I would be the one to do it because I already had the experience. Many of the design changes came about because of the feedback I received from Weed Wrench customers. Timing was impeccable; the week after we finalized the prototype we learned that Tom would be taking his tool off the market at the end of the year. We pushed hard to have our product ready in time.
RVM: What has been the toughest part about moving from employee to boss/owner?
CP: It’s a high level of responsibility. The business constantly demands my time. Also, the process of building the business from the ground up required many steps—some forward and some back—until ultimately the forward momentum started to build.
RVM: Do you remember the first sketch or drawing of the Up Rooter? Was it on the back of a napkin?
CP: I still have some of the first sketches on scrap paper, but a lot of the design came together in the shop using trial and error to reach our final prototype. It was our goal to reduce waste, which affected the measurements of each part.
RVM: Your background looks to be more in manufacturing, including a welding degree. Where does the agriculture and “yard work” interest come from?
CP: I grew up in Southern Oregon where, obviously, agriculture is prominent. My grandpa was a farmer here, so from a young age I was out helping manage the land. I still like to garden and grow things. Uprooter is a land management tool; a simple machine, that’s capable of removing unwanted and invasive woody plants from large property, forested areas, and the like. For me, the Uprooter has become an avenue for learning more about the benefits of biodiversity and restoring native ecosystems.
RVM: What is it about southern Oregon that you think supports startup businesses?
CP: Unfortunately, lack of jobs that pay a decent wage seems to encourage people to make their own way. Oregonians in general are self-sustaining pioneers, so I think that spirit carries on. Like other entrepreneurs, I support local businesses which seems to strengthen the growth and development of my business.
RVM: What is it about southern Oregon that you think can be an obstacle for success or growth in your business?
CP: The demand for our product is not as high here as it is in the Midwest and other areas of the country; this area isn’t our primary market. However, with further education on local invasive plants like Scotch broom, we may see a shift in the demand. Also, I think because our area is not as industrial as other places it is harder to mitigate the cost of a startup manufacturing business, especially when investing in equipment and supplies needed for daily operation.
RVM: How often do you need to use the Up Rooter on your own property?
CP: On our half-acre property, we use the Uprooter in the spring and fall to remove blackberry roots, walnut saplings, and other unwanted woody plants. We also like to participate in local events like Let’s Pull Together and take it down the lower Rogue River for our annual Riparian Restoration trip.