Sun peaking through the blinds of his bedroom window, freshman Will Stapp’s alarm rings at 7 a.m. Saturday morning. Time for work. He drags himself out of bed, throws on an old T-shirt, gym shorts and his grass-stained, mowing tennis shoes.
He loathes the next step. He loads his two mowers, lawn trimmer, leaf blower, edger and rake into the trailer on the back of his charcoal grey, four-door Jeep. The Shell gas station workers expect him and watch as Stapp fills up his car in preparation for the 12-hour-day ahead.
First lawn of the day: he observes the characteristics of the lawn which determine the difficulty of the job. These include flat lawns, treeless, with sprinkler systems and friendly customers that trust him to do his job. These factors, when added up, make for a much easier mowing experience.
This year, Stapp has reestablished himself through reinventing the average high school job – mowing lawns. Though the hours can be long and tasks like gutter cleaning and weeding are not always easy, he has learned what it takes to create his own business, valuable life lessons and has given himself a more professional persona on the job.
Stapp has taken the next step of legitimizing what used to be a quick money-making business run from the trailer on the back of his bicycle to a business that it is now something that he can make a real profit off of, “Will’s KC Lawn Care.”
“I always carry business cards and hand out flyers, but word of mouth is the cheapest, most effective way to advertise,” Stapp said. “It really gets my business out there.”
Now averaging 10 lawns per day on the weekends, he brings in anywhere from $300 to $400 weekly, and even $500 on a good week. He plans overall to make around $15,000 this summer alone. So, while he may sweat many of his summer days, he packs up his gear with a deeper wallet, leaves with a cleaner lawn and a smile on the customer’s face.
“When I bring in this kind of money, I like to save it so that I can work to improve my business through buying better equipment,” Stapp said.
The work he puts into this business leaves a mark. Other big lawn care providers working around the neighborhood are left wondering how a kid his age is doing work like he does. They’re confused once they tie the professional-looking lawn to a freshman in high school.
“I always get weird looks and stopped while on the job by these lawn companies. They ask how I have time, why I spend my time doing it and why a kid in this area is working,” Stapp said.
He takes these comments and confrontations as an opportunity to step up and show his initiative by continuing to work hard.
“I just go on with my day and try to improve my work, lawn by lawn,” Stapp said.
One of his main motivating forces is his dad, Bill Stapp, who introduced him to the idea of a job with so much flexibility and a gateway to learning many valuable life lessons.
“[Mowing lawns] teaches a great deal of responsibility, dealing with clients and their varying expectations, it teaches discipline and how to schedule your time,” Bill said.
Stapp first started in fifth grade solely mowing lawns, biking from lawn to lawn each weekend. Eventually, after not just getting his restricted driver’s license, but learning other skills such as gutter cleaning and shrub removal, he decided this year to improve his business.
He printed banners, flyers and even large magnets for the sides of his car to display his phone number and email to neighbors and other residents. Slowly but surely, he began to see his business take flight.
Other lawn care providers are intrigued by the responsibility he has taken on at such a young age and amazed at the precision with which he cuts and manicures each lawn. The clients, too, are impressed with the clean cut lawn that they are left with after 20 minutes to an hour of Stapp hard at work.
Pat Thelen, a long time customer of Stapp’s, used to mow lawns through middle school and high school and hiring Stapp has been a way for him to keep that spirit alive.
“It was a good way for me to not just get some family time back, but pass the baton on,” Thelen said.
The feedback from his customers are part of what fuels Stapp’s motivation and overall success.
“Waking up on those early Saturday mornings absolutely kills me, but the cash they bring in at the end of the day and the smiles on the face of each client reassure the work that I put in,” Stapp said.