Rodney Michael Starts a Tech Business that Grows on Trees

Rodney Michael is not your status quo kind of guy. Hailing from Cheraw, South Carolina, his life of has not lacked inspiration and opportunities to start new ventures.  His most recent new business concept is called Treely.  It is a marketplace for timber buyers and sellers.  This business idea was incubated at Startup.SC, an initiative of the Grand Strand Technology Council that provides support and mentorship to entrepreneurs.  Since pitching Treely for the first time 14 months ago, the business has seen remarkable growth!  I got the opportunity to sit down with Rodney and ask him a few questions.

Explain Treely in a few sentences.

Years ago, my wife and I sold timber from our land. We did this blindly and fell victim to less than honest pricing and unprofessional logging practices. It left our land a wreck. A bad decision ultimately costs us thousands of dollars and months of labor to get our land back to a point of use. That experience and my love of land is why I founded Treely. Built from a landowners perspective, Treely allows a calm, efficient, re-warding way to sell your timber. Moving from the decision process, through transaction, harvest, and into the future with confidence.

What kind of insight do you have into the timber industry?

I have an extensive background in real estate while my son is a professional timber buyer, and my brother in law is a forestry consultant.  I have been hearing about the stumbling blocks in this industry for years.  One of the biggest things that I most commonly hear about is the struggle that buyers have reaching landowners and converting them into sellers.  About 70% of their efforts are finding the landowner, and then the conversion rate is less than 10%.  Additionally, the forestry consultants have a hard time educating the majority of the landowners in the US about what is the most responsible decision for their land.  There is also a lack of management software platforms for the timber industry. There a many project management and CRM software programs that are designed specifically for most other industries, but not for timber.

So this is where Treely comes in?

TREELY doesn’t just handle the project workflow from start to finish.  It also creates an online presence for timber buys and forestry consultants.  This marketplace helps the timber buyers and forestry consultants reach landowners.  It also helps the landowners find the education and the resources they need to make wise decisions about their property.


When did you get the idea for TREELY?

The thought process began in the early part of 2014.   I pitched at Startup.SC’s Pitch Night in January 2015 where we had originally signed up just to attend.  Two days before the event, my teenage daughter suggested that I pitch “The Tree Idea.”

I was hesitant, because to sit down and put together a pitch for an idea that had no name and was in no way complete yet was a lot to pack into two days.  But my daughter convinced me, and worked with me to get ready to pitch! That is when we came up with the name TREELY, and we even built a landing page before pitching that night!  We practiced the pitch on the drive to the event. 


Tell me more about your daughter!

Leah Michael is a budding entrepreneur and she is learning how to code. She recently pitched about Columbia Startup Weekend and her team got picked in the first round!


How was the experience of pitching?

To even get up in front of the crowd was a huge accomplishment for me!  Since then I have had a lot of pitching practice at Startup.SC and have become a LOT more comfortable talking about my idea passionately with people.  Now I can talk about TREELY (which I love working on) way easier than crafting a message that doesn’t feel genuine.


How did it feel to get accepted into the Cohort?

I really could not believe it.  I have had so much defeat in my past, so for this opportunity to come up was a huge turning point for me.  I was giddy with excitement because I knew I was on the road to making this idea a profitable reality.  I knew that with Startup.SC I had a team that was going to see it through with me.


So what now?

Our Minimally Viable Product (MVP) is out to market.  We have happy experiences and testimonials from our landowners.  We are trying new marketing pieces and innovating on some targeting to reach the right landowners, and we will be tweaking the lead management program for buyers to treat these leads like a real estate company would.  Stay Tuned!