The interview for this story was postponed because Luca Franz’s truck broke down, and he had to see to getting it fixed.
Equipment repairs are an ever-present concern for this teenage entrepreneur.
Luca, a Brookfield High School senior, opened Red Leaf Lawn Care about a year ago, and registered the business as a limited liability company on Sept. 1. He cuts grass, clears leaves and does landscaping tasks such as weeding and applying mulch.
He got the idea to open his own business after working a couple of years at the former Sikora Gardens in Brookfield.
“I just liked it and I kind of wanted to do it by myself, but had to wait until I could drive and save up some money,” he said. “I started doing leaf removal last fall.”
He added grass cutting in the spring, and things took off – to the point that he was working 60-hour weeks over the summer.
“There’s points where I start cutting grass at 7 o’clock in the morning, and I don’t finish until 8 or 9 at night,” said Luca, who recently turned 18. “It definitely did get pretty crazy at one point.”
But, not too crazy to deter him – he wants to grow the business.
“I really enjoy doing it,” he said, although he would like to move more into managing a crew than providing the labor himself.
Luca is a high school senior but because of Brookfield’s dual-enrollment program with Youngstown State University, he doesn’t actually have to go into school. He takes YSU classes online, and they count as both high school and college credit.
“I just do that (college) and work when I can, so I’m able to balance it pretty well, because I can kind of make my own schedule,” he said.
He expected the business would be a way to save for college – and he still plans to attend college – “but I think I can definitely make it something more than that now, because I’ve seen the potential of how much money I can make. Even if I didn’t make money, I figured I could learn something, which I definitely have. I thought I might as well try. It doesn’t really matter, if I mess up now, it’s not too big of a deal.”
The bulk of his clients are in Brookfield and Vienna, and most of them are residential customers, but he has done work in Hermitage, Cortland and Canfield, spreading the word through social media, paper fliers and word-of-mouth.
“I definitely want to do more next year,” Luca said. “I’m not sure what, but I’m looking into different things.”
That “more” could include small scale snow removal, lawn treating – he has to get certified with the Ohio Department of Agriculture first – and gutter cleaning.
He noted that he has taken small jobs that others have not been interested in, and they have turned into more lucrative work.
“I’ve done weeding for people and they’re like, ‘Hey, can you cut my grass for the summer,’” Luca said. “It works out nice when that happens.”
The most surprising thing about running the business has been the cost of doing so, he said.
“It really adds up. Equipment, maintenance costs, gas is huge. Even with insurance and stuff like that, you don’t realize it until, ‘Look at all this stuff I have to pay for every month.’ That’s taught me a lot, too, just seeing all that stuff and being able to budget for that.”
He puts money back into the business, and is eyeing some new equipment, such as a commercial zero-turn mower to replace the residential one he has now.
Luca said he gets business advice from his parents and grandparents, and a friend, Jed Detelich of Aardvark Services LLC in Vienna. He also has an accountant handle much of his finances, although he handles billing through a phone app called Joist.
The business takes him away from hanging out with his friends as much as he might do, and he had to quit the high school football team, “but I enjoy it,” he said of working. “I still make time for my family. Obviously, I like to be home for dinner. It’s kind of my hobby and job all in one. I don’t really mind spending more time doing it.”
Luca hasn’t figured out what he wants to major in in college, or what kind of career he wants to aim for, but he’s glad he took the leap in starting his own business.
“It definitely teaches you some responsibility, communicating with different people,” he said. “I think that’s helped me a lot, like, learning how to negotiate. I think it’s just a good experience in general.”