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June 28, 2021 | Tom Ballard

Deidra Harper expands business started by her father

(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the fourth article in a series spotlighting the participants in the inaugural cohort of the 100Knoxville initiative. The second cohort will start next week.)

By Kailyn Lamb, Marketing Content Writer and Editor, PYA

“In life, grass grows and needs to get cut,” said Deidra Harper as asked her about the steady growth of her family’s business over the last 30 years.

That growth, paired with a well-kept lawn, helped transition B&B Services from a neighborhood business to what it is today. And Deidra says they hope to continue growing.

In 1987, Baffin Harper Sr. and his wife were both working at the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge. Deidra said the family always had a manicured lawn with flower beds, but that her father didn’t have a background in lawn maintenance. He did, however, have an idea and entrepreneurial desire.

At the time, violence and drugs were a problem in the Knoxville area, and Deidra said her father was looking for a way to keep her brother, Baffin Harper Jr., and his friends focused and out of trouble.

“He really just wanted to provide a space where my brother and his friends could have something to do that was positive and make a little bit of money,” she said. “I think he just saw that as an opportunity and in maintaining his own lawn, I think other neighbors were like ‘Hey, can you mow my lawn’ and then it just kind of grew from there.”

The business was named for her father and brother, Baffin & Baffin. When they first launched, Baffin Sr. would come home from working at Y-12, borrow a neighbor’s mower, and take care of people’s lawns in the neighborhood.

From there they started taking care of other residential neighborhoods. Since 1987, B&B has added to its lawn care and maintenance services and started offering erosion control, ground maintenance, and work on small construction projects. In addition to residential areas, Deidra said the company also works with the cities of Knoxville and Oak Ridge, as well as the Tennessee Department of Transportation, and on some federal projects with the Department of Energy.

Looking to the future, Deidra says she hopes B&B Services will be able to secure more federal and private contracts but also hopes to work with builders and developers. When new projects are being built, she is hoping that B&B Services will be contracted to design the lawn spaces, and then maintain them once everything is built.

When the opportunity came up to apply for the new 100Knoxville program, Deidra jumped at it. She wanted to network with more companies and learn what she could from the mentors. “You never can stop growing,” she added. The program helped Deidra to bounce new ideas off of people. She was also able to connect with staff at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville to put together succession planning. Mentors from the program also helped B&B Services on building a continuous hiring pipeline as well as establishing new customer leads with organizations such as the Tennessee Valley Authority and Red Stag Fulfillment.

As part of the $5,000 B&B Services received from 100Knoxville, Deidra said the company bought the QuickBooks software system. They were already working with Jobbr to send out invoices, Deidra said, but customers couldn’t pay them without QuickBooks. She added they have already started to receive feedback from their customers that they’re happy to be able to handle everything from their phones.

Learn more about the 5x5x5x5 program in this article.

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