A rising tide lifts all ships: How two brothers built a business to save the world
Bootstrapped ESG firm, EcoSystems, celebrates a decade in conservation
EcoSystems was born in the Atlantic Ocean.
Founders and brothers Lawrence and Richard Lamondin grew up in Miami, Florida. “As kids, the two of us spent a lot of time on the water; snorkeling, fishing, and surfing,” remembers Lawrence. “I don’t think we would have classified ourselves as environmentalists at the time, but living so close to the ocean made caring about the planet almost unconscious. That sense of stewardship is very much at the core of who we are.”
Miami is also on the front line of seawater rise.
Feeling a deep call to help combat the effects of climate change on their hometown and beyond, Lawrence and Richard founded EcoSystems in 2012. From the beginning, the Lamondin brothers made it their mission to change the narrative that conservation is an opposing force to profit. “It bothered us that sustainability was perceived as expensive and as a ‘nice-to-have,’ rather than an imperative,'” said Richard. “We always knew there was room for business in the climate fight, and that’s why we founded the company to prove that conservation is good for business.”
They started with toilets.
More specifically, the brothers pitched water conservation services by replacing old toilet valves and leaky showerheads in apartment complexes. They started there knowing that retrofits are a cost-effective way to embed sustainability into multifamily property owners’ business models and save them money. “Everything EcoSystems does stems from the goal of positive gains for our partners’ bottom line, meaningful conservation of resources, and community enrichment,” Richard said.
Piecing the puzzle to success
In the early days, as a 100%-bootstrapped business, things were lean. “For jobs, we would pile into a car with our crew and drive from Miami to places like Dallas, through the night, just to save on hotel costs,” Lawrence recalled. “After we finished the project, we would drive back to Miami through the night again. To this day, our company still runs on this same grit and a get-it-done attitude.”
It was tough-going for years, but every time they completed a project, the results exceeded expectations. “Our value proposition was validated in terms of results—even in the early years. But our success wasn’t showing up in terms of our growth,” Lawrence said. “We knew there was value there, so we kept pushing.”
Their big break would eventually come.
A phone call from Denver turns the tide
In 2016, a former customer asked Richard and Lawrence to undertake a large-scale retrofit of a recently purchased property in Denver—more than 1,500 units and 2,500 bathrooms. “They were looking to do a very basic program, but we did some more research and learned that Denver Water was giving rebates for certain upgrades,” said Richard. “By adding on toilet replacement, our client could save $370,000. They signed on, and suddenly we were implementing a huge water conservation program.”
Together with long-term partner BH Management, the brothers went on to complete the largest toilet retrofit in Denver’s history. “Previously, we had done 100 units at a time—we didn’t have the infrastructure for such a big project,” remembers Richard. “It was a bit like building the ship while we were at sail, but when they said yes, we knew we could figure it out. From there, all the pieces of the puzzle began to fall into place.”
Growth mode starts with people and partnership
For a few years following the Denver project, EcoSystems grew nationally, almost entirely by referral. “We have our partners to thank for generating demand for our services. They have created a strong pipeline of opportunity for our business to thrive, and like most companies in the B2B space, our success is a byproduct of our partners’ success,” said Lawrence. “They enable us to do this work and are the true heroes of our story.”
As more multifamily property owners learned about EcoSystems’ services and the cost savings they created, the brothers started adding capacity, including hiring crews and a leadership team.
Then the global Covid-19 pandemic hit, and business came to a screeching halt.
“Our crews couldn’t go into people’s apartments to update water fixtures, but we had a ton of employees that needed to work,” Richard said. “We quickly pivoted to updating outdoor lighting so they could stay safe and still earn a paycheck.”
Energy efficiency was already part of their service mix—but the pandemic forced EcoSystems to rapidly scale that side of the business, becoming a full-service provider of comprehensive energy conservation solutions.
Beyond startup: EcoSystems is poised for the future
Looking ahead, Richard and Lawrence see EcoSystems continuing to iterate and expand its services.
“Everyone on our team is being pushed because we need to adapt. We have an amazing team, but what got us to this point may not get us to where we want to go, so I push,” said Richard.
EcoSystems is focused on growth opportunities that meet the demand for new and changing trends in conservation, including ESG consulting, due diligence services, and more. “As a full-service conservation company, we can help set strategy, create an ambitious and achievable deployment plan and track impact on the back end,” said Richard.
They’re doing everything possible to make conservation frictionless for EcoSystem’s partners.
“There are brief moments when we take a breath and celebrate our wins, but they don’t last long,” Richard said. “We’re fighting a global and potentially existential challenge—we don’t have time to waste. Lawrence and I are always thinking about maximizing our growth, making the most significant impact, and improving things for the most people. Our long-term goal is to be the most impactful business in real estate.”
Since 2012, EcoSystems has:
- Upgrade 135,000 units
- Saved 6,400,000,000 gallons of water
- Put $58,000,000 back in the pockets of owners
- Saved 176,000 metric tons of CO2
- Saved 252,000,000 Kwh of energy
Contact us today to learn more about how EcoSystems can start your conservation journey.