When I was 13 years old, I needed money. I was tired of asking my parents for money for things like the movies (or not being able to go.)
I began to do what many young teenagers do… brainstorm ideas for making money. One day, I saw my dad out mowing the grass, and the (unoriginal) idea came to me. I would cut grass!
I started out with an old Husqvarna riding mower, a weed eater, an edger, and a blower. This was all less than $1,000. Then I began going around the neighborhood asking people if they wanted me to cut their grass. Somehow it worked… I was young and naive, with a handful of the ugliest flyers willing to do anything for some work.
My journey was a humble beginning that blossomed into a legit lawn care business through my time in high school and college. In this article, I will give the process I would use to start a lawn care company as a teenager.
But first, I must confess… writing this article wasn't my idea. I had a 14-year-old, Nathan, reach out to me asking what equipment he needed to get started and how to get customers. I will use a lot of this conversation as grounds for starting your company.
Your starting point will determine your path to success with your lawn care company. Remember, where you're starting doesn't have much to do with where you'll end or your potential.
Below are two approaches, “broke” and “rich.” These are simply names to identify your starting point. This will determine how you can go about starting your lawn care company.
In the words of Dave Chappel's dad: “David, you're not poor. That is a mindset. You are broke.”
The broke approach is for you if you have little or no money and no equipment. In the business world, this would be called bootstrapping a business. Think of most startups… they usually “bootstrap” their business until they earn enough to expand or upgrade.
This is where I started. Personally, I would prefer to start in this spot. It teaches you how to be frugal and only buy things that you MUST have to make money.
See below my conversation with Nathan… maybe you relate to this. As a side note, I LOVE when people reach out to me like this, so feel free to.
As you can tell, $300-400 is a very low budget. But as Nathan proves, it doesn't make starting impossible.
Finding Equipment with a low budget
I won't lie; having an extremely low budget can make things difficult, but not impossible. Below is what I would recommend… Facebook Marketplace or something similar is probably your best bet.
Find all used equipment. I'd recommend a Honda push mower(self-propelled if possible, thank me later) or a riding tractor, a Stihl or Echo weed eater, and a handheld blower.
Nathan's message below fired me up. Not only did he immediately take action, but he got CREATIVE. Problem-solving is the number one thing that will set you apart in business. Many times problems are solved with creativity.
This is a classic example of bootstrapping a business. Get out there and talk to people, ask friends and family, and look on Facebook marketplace (I'd recommend going with a parent if possible.) Some way, somehow, you will be able to find equipment. Get creative.
Not only did Nathan find a great deal on some used equipment, but along this journey, he also discovered something.
While he was going door to door searching for customers, he found a homeowner that was willing to let him cut their yard with the homeowner's equipment. They actually owned a large zero turn that he could use for their yard. I never did this, but honestly, it's a great idea. Again, get creative!
The “Rich” approach doesn't necessarily mean you're “rich,” whatever that means. It means that you are starting with some money and/or resources. This may mean you have $20,000 you can invest in the company. It may mean you have parents with equipment you can use.
Essentially, you are starting with little restraint on the tools you have/can get. This is usually a better starting point, BUT you must be very cautious not to blow money or make dumb financial decisions. I've seen too many times where someone starts with some money to invest, and they blow it on a fancy truck, trailer, and equipment before they even get their first client.
If this is your plan, you'll probably lose. Just because you start in a good place doesn't guarantee you'll end in a good place. If you continue reading, I'll show you how to avoid these pitfalls and set yourself up for success.
The process you use for starting your lawn care company may vary based on your personal situation. Many teenagers will start like me… without much money, knowledge, or resources. Others may have parents or family members that are willing to help, whether they can help financially or maybe drive you to customers' yards. The point is, similar to life; everyone will have a slightly or drastically different starting point.
This country (America) is set up for equal opportunity… not equal outcomes. Another way to put it is anyone can “make it,” but not everyone will “make it.”
Step 1: Find Equipment
Finding equipment to use for your lawn care company can be difficult if you have a low budget… this was covered above. If you have a decent budget, I would still probably start with used equipment in good condition. Starting with a truck, trailer, zero turn mower, weed eater, edger, and backpack blower is ideal.
You really only need the bare minimum when you're getting started. As you grow, you will discover the tools you need and where you need to upgrade your equipment.
Step 2: Practice
This is actually a very important part. If you mess someone's yard up in any way, it will most likely be a lost customer. This is obviously bad. With that being said, you don't have to be an expert or the best grass cutter on the planet before you get started.
You need a base knowledge. At a minimum, you should know how to operate all of your equipment. You should know which height to cut grass and in which direction. If possible, practice on your own lawn or find a neighbor's or friend's house that you can practice on.
Another alternative is to find a local lawn care company you can work for during the summer. This is actually what I did during my first year in business. I knew the owner of a local lawn care company, and I worked with them throughout my first summer while also gaining my own clients.
Whether you start your business while working for another company is up to you. I will say that working for a legit lawn care company was a GREAT decision because I learned so much.
All that to say make sure you practice before you step foot on a paying customer's lawn.
Step 3: Find Customers
The million-dollar question that everyone should have. After all, without customers, you have no business and no cash flow… no bueno. So Nathan asked the same question that many ask…
Below is my response to the question.
This is the key:
“If I were you, I would focus on door-to-door sales and Nextdoor app. For door-to-door, get out and knock on doors. I even used to offer a free first cut… it’s a small upfront cost for a potential long-term payoff. It pays off far more times than not. For Nextdoor, post on the app and look for people posting about lawn care.
One other thing, use your age to your advantage. Many people feel good about helping a teenager or at least giving them a chance. The key is to go above and beyond to WOW your customers. Not just once, week after week.”
This is the starting point for everyone… I don't care if you have $1 or $100,000. When starting out, you should experiment with things like knocking on doors, NextDoor, Facebook, and flyers (if you have a budget.) This doesn't have to be fancy… my first flyers were TERRIBLE.
Once you find something that works, double down! Go all in.
Don't worry about a website, running ads, SEO, or any other “fancy” marketing until you have a few customers. Remember, customers are everything… not a fancy website.
You are much better off going door to door and providing INCREDIBLE service than some fancy marketing tactics. Keep it simple.
Here are a few of the links I mentioned to learn more about marketing your lawn care business.
Below is the early success that Nathan created. He took action, got creative, and did things he didn't necessarily enjoy. Trust me, there will be parts of the job that you dislike, but it doesn't matter… the customer is what matters.
Step 4: Scale
Once you have a few paying customers, it's time to expand and scale. If you begin with inexpensive equipment, it's time to upgrade. Get a zero turn mower (can still be used), a commercial weed eater, a commercial edger, and a commercial backpack blower.
Then, take your marketing to the next level. Create a Facebook page, website (here's how to do that), and run Google ads.
You can also run Facebook ads if you want to try that, but I prefer Google. Here's why… on Facebook, people are aimlessly scrolling. You have to STOP them, catch their attention, and distract them away from their scrolling. On Google, the person is actively searching for lawn care or a related service. In my experience, Google is a customer actively looking for your service(s), and Facebook is a customer passively interested in your service(s.)
The real place for Facebook is using retargeting ads. This is simply serving ads to those who have visited your site. This can be a little more difficult now than in the past because of new laws regarding privacy. This can still be worthwhile, though.
In conclusion, I have to say this is one of my favorite articles I've written. It is personal to me. It sparks a fire inside of me and exudes passion.
Nathan, I commend you for taking action, getting creative, and not letting anything stand in your way. These traits will serve you well in the future, and I look forward to keeping up with your story.
Always remember: everyday matters. You're either getting a little better each day or a little worse. You're either getting closer to achieving your goals or further away. Nothing in life is stagnant; it's always in motion. Find joy in the simple things, the mundane tasks. One day you'll wake up and be so happy you did.
I often think back about what my life would be if I never started a lawn care company as a teenager. I'm 100% certain it would look different. I would be different. No book, course, or teacher can mold you into the person you want to become, quite like getting into the game and playing.
Not saying to ignore these though, but they're supplements… not the main course. Build a learning habit. Find things that interest you, and always experiment. How's that phrase go? Shoot for the stars, you just might land on the moon.
Alright, I'm done. Cheers!
If you want to follow along with Nathan's journey, his Facebook page is here!
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