Meet Mark and Taylor Marquess, a father-and-son duo and Epcon Franchise Builders in Fayetteville, Arkansas.
Mark started building homes over 40 years ago and Taylor jumped into home building nearly 10 years ago. The Epcon product was a way for them to diversify the family business.
Mark Marquess: I’m Mark Marquess, I’m the CEO of Riverwood Homes. We’re located in Fayetteville, Arkansas.
Taylor Marquess: I’m Taylor Marquess, president of Riverwood Homes in Fayetteville, Arkansas.
Host: Mark, how did you get into the home building industry? What’s your background?
Mark: In college, in the late ’70s, I went and got my real estate license, and worked for my mother in a small real estate office. After graduation, I was still selling homes, and was introduced to a home builder. It intrigued me.
In about 1982, I started building my first home, over 40 years ago. It progressed from there and we started developing subdivisions as well for our homes. We’ve built over 3,000 homes over the years, and developed up to 4,000 lots. It’s been a nice industry to be involved with.
Host: What about you, Taylor?
Taylor: When I graduated school, I wanted nothing to do with home building, but I grew up around it. I had an international business degree, went to work for J.B. Hunt, and decided that I liked living in northwest Arkansas. To do that, it’d be a good idea to maybe explore a job that would keep me there, and that was with my dad and jumping in the family business of Riverwood.
Wrapped up my MBA, started as a junior superintendent, and just worked my way up from there. I’ve been with the company now…it’s nine years this year.
Host: Where did Epcon come into the story?
Mark: Over the many years of building, we’ve always provided homes for the opening to middle price points. As the markets have changed and we were looking at different ways to diversify the company, we ran into a couple of the advertisements on Epcon and explored it a little bit. The more we started looking at it, the more interesting it was.
Their plans, the design, the marketing just provided so much, that helped squeeze that timeline down for us. The more we’ve gotten involved in it, the more excited we are for it.
Host: Taylor, can you speak a little bit to diversifying the business and how that’s been?
Taylor: We’ve been a production builder since I started, and prioritized the market that’s for the first‑time home buyer. Not quite entry level, but pretty close. 75 percent of what we currently build is under that $350,000 mark, which is affordable in our market.
We talked to a couple of our friends in the industry. Pat McKee was one of them that referred us to Epcon. We thought that it would be a good product line for us to add to our portfolio and offer to our market that our market didn’t have.
Loved the Epcon brand, researched it, and it was an easy decision for us to make that jump.
Host: What’s the interest been like from the buyers in your market? What have you been seeing and hearing from them?
Mark: We just broke ground on the streets, we haven’t even started the pre‑marketing other than putting up a sign. This is one of our smaller communities. It’s only going to have about 62 homes in it. We’ve already got a third of them on the VIP reservation list that we haven’t even offered yet. Very strong demand for it, it looks like.
Host: What are some of the challenges that you’ve faced thus far in making this transition and bringing this new product to life?
Taylor: The biggest challenges were, we’re heavily delayed on our horizontal development right now. A lot of that’s land condition, city permitting issues, just different challenges that come with land development. We’re about six months behind of where we want to be, but hope to hit the ground running with vertical by the end of this year.
Host: What has your experience been like thus far in working with Epcon or being able to lean on that support in different areas? For example, land or marketing or any other areas that you might have experienced some challenges in.
Mark: That’s one of the things that drew us to Epcon, and it’s just been nothing but a wonderful experience. From marketing to land development, to the plans and the sales side, Epcon’s got a number one staff team.
Host: What advice would you give to a brand-new Epcon builder who’s just coming into the network? What sort of wisdom would you pass on to them?
Taylor: Always be ready to learn. Everybody here is knowledgeable. Epcon has had such a rich history and has a large network of Franchise Builders that add so much value to the brand, always looking to innovate, always looking to make things better. That was one of the main reasons we jumped in.
That’s the advice I would give to a new Franchise Builder, is just be ready to learn, because we didn’t want to reinvent any wheels. The product is tested and tried and true. We said, why not just go with something that’s a known instead of an unknown.
Host: What has it meant for your business to scale and diversify your product line?
Mark: We’re excited about it and have done a lot of pre‑construction work on it. So much so that it has us getting ready to announce another large Epcon site, and hopefully, a third one before the end of the year.
Host: If someone came to you and asked if they should do business with Epcon, what would your reaction to that be?
Taylor: I would say for sure. Everybody here is, like I said, just ready to help and eager to jump in and help you figure it out. Steve was very beneficial to us when we were going through all the land entitlement and zoning processes that we went through to get our first development off the ground, from providing traffic studies to just showing us how this community is different than one of our traditional communities.
I would say, if anybody’s looking to learn about Epcon or want to work with Epcon, just ask a Franchise Builder. Every one of them I’ve talked to has only had good things to say.
Mark: I think it’s also good for young builders coming into the industry. We build hundreds of homes a year, so we’re a little more mature in the field, but we’re still learning a lot from Epcon. A new builder, from the structure to scaling their business, this is just a fantastic opportunity for them.
To hear more about Mark and Taylor’s story, watch Diversifying the Family Business.