So, the Spartan. To say this mower is hitting the turf industry by storm is an understatement. THOUSANDS of requests and inquiries for the new Spartan mower are pouring in. Manufacturing is working hard to keep up, but the sheer number of orders has owner and Spartan mower designer Robert Foster scratching his head, thinking “What am I going to do now? I need a MUCH bigger building!” A very good problem to have, just six months after the product launched.
Many folks know the name Robert Foster, and they are certainly recognizing the name of his companies. But you don't know much about the man who dreamed, imagined, built, and engineered the Spartan mower. He likes it that way, actually. Robert is not one to boast his success, or claim the spotlight. But just this once, we want to tell Robert's story.
Robert Foster was born and raised in Thida, Arkansas. (no, it's not on the map!) His father worked for the Dr. Pepper company as a route salesman and his mother was a homemaker. He has four siblings, two sisters, and younger twin brothers. Robert attended school at Oil Trough, Arkansas. Robert's first job out of high school was at Safeway Grocery Store as a bagger.
His “mower” story started when he was eight years old. Robert loved equipment. He loved motors and engines and how they worked. He could always be found taking things apart and putting them back together...making broken things work again. But he especially loved mowers. Robert was always drawn to mowers. He would cut pictures of mowers and tractors out of the Sears Roebuck and JcPenney Catalogs his Dad kept at home, studying the clippings and thinking about how all those parts made the machine actually cut grass.
Years went by, and time took Robert down a different path. He married his wife Becky when they were seventeen years old. An entrepreneur at heart, Robert was a natural at running a business. He worked his way from an employee, to manager, to owning his own companies. In the summer of 1983, Robert and Becky, in their first year of marriage, started their own fireworks company called Fireworks World, a 24-foot fireworks stand. The company is still in business today, has grown A LOT, and they now own six locations in Alabama, Virginia, South Carolina, and Arkansas. He and Becky also started Wholesale Tire Company in 1989 in Batesville.
Despite success with their other companies, the desire to get involved with mowers lingered. In 1998, at age 33, Robert quit pushing his dream to the back of his mind. It was finally time. He knew mowers. He had studied and analyzed them his entire life. He knew he didn't want to just sell mowers. He wanted to build his own.
With very little start up money, and really no experience in manufacturing, Robert sold his car for the money to purchase equipment to start building his dream. He set up a small shop behind his house, and with the help of his friend Steve Caldwell they designed and engineered their first Bad Boy mower. In the first year, they built three machines. It was a slow start. But that didn't last long.
In 1999, it was time for more room. Robert and Steve built a 5000 square foot building in Tuckerman, just down from their home. In the second year, they built five machines, and those all sold.
With Bad Boy Mowers gaining popularity, in the fall of 2001, Robert and Becky sold the tire business and used that money to build a new manufacturing plant for Bad Boy Mowers. That year 50 machines were built, and the business was growing at a very fast pace. Dealers were noticing the mower and popularity for the brand and company was picking up. Robert, his partner, and team were working hard on the mower, tweaking the design and improving the machine daily. The company quickly grew into a multi-million dollar corporation with mowers distributed worldwide.
Years went by again, and life took Robert down a different path. In 2011, Robert and Becky began a new company, and started the research and development phase of another machine, a side by side UTV. The project was in the R&D phase for a couple of years, and on August 7, 2013 the first Intimidator UTV was shipped. This company has been another huge success story. In 2015, over two thousand machines were built and sold nationwide, with some shipped across the globe. The plant has grown into two buildings that encompass 144,000 square feet and they now employ 160 people. Robert has truly enjoyed the growth and success of Intimidator and his other companies: Bad Dawg Accessories, a UTV accessories store that carries thousands of UTV accessories for all makes and models and also includes the Ground Hog Max pull-behind disc plow built for UTVs, and Gourmet Guru Grill, a ceramic grill with grill, brick oven and smoker.
But he wasn't quite satisfied. Nagging at the back of his mind was a another mower. A different mower. One that was heavy duty and could really compete on all types of terrains, but was also affordable. Back to the drawing board.
For six months, in his garage in Batesville, Arkansas, Robert literally built the Spartan from the ground up. He started with the Rear Radial Tires (a standard feature on all Spartan mowers with decks larger than 54", by the way), and went from there. He took the features and elements of leading mowers on the market, the things that really make a mower stand out, and improved upon them. He focused on ride, cut, design and frame. After hours of research, testing, design and redesign...the Spartan Mower was born.
And that's how it happened. Spartan launched in October 21, 2015 at the GIE Expo in Louisville, Kentucky. Sure, it's a work in progress. There are tweaks, and changes, and growing pains. But Spartan is here, and it's here to stay. It's going to be a household name. It's a mower that you will buy and hand down to your kids and grandkids. Spartan is changing the turf industry.
Thanks Robert Foster, for loving machines, and especially lawn mowers. And thanks for showing us that you really can start small and build your dream from the ground up. More than once.
“This machine, it's special. It's the culmination of so many years of design and dreaming, so many mistakes learned from. Truly, I have put my heart and soul into the Spartan. I am so proud of this mower, and my team. It's my dream, and with every mower built, I am so thankful.”
- Robert Foster, Owner & Designer, Spartan Mowers -