Tackling debt one lawn at a time 4

EDU Lawn Care helps students invest in their future

The average college graduate is tasked with finding a job, paying back college loans, and the mountain of stress that comes with those two things. For many of these graduates, finding a job that will pay enough to pay back those loans can be difficult. Todd Coleman, director of operations for EDU Lawn Care, hopes to change that with a new business model.

 “EDU Lawn Care originally began as a lawn mowing business for my son about four or five years ago," Coleman says. "As a competitive swimmer, with long practices in the morning and in the evening, shift work wasn’t feasible. I wanted to make it a teachable moment, running a business and the responsibility that comes with that. But then we started researching post-secondary options for him, and it became apparent something is wrong with our system. The cost of education is going up in price, and the cost is growing faster than the demand. Then I started thinking if we built stronger communities with kids and business tools, where they built their own business and supported the community, that would be a different atmosphere."

What developed is not just the average lawn care service, but rather a business model to teach students how to run a business, with a goal of the student graduating from college debt-free, or as close to that as they can get. Employees work on all aspect of the company, from the actual lawn services to networking with businesses and politicians to marketing services and bringing in new clients, and are paid a wage similar to other lawn care companies. Once the employee graduates from college, they are responsible for hiring their replacement, and Coleman hopes they will be set up with the correct business connections and skills to build their own company in the community that supported them.

“What really sets EDU Lawn Care apart is this: every employee is required to put 10 percent of their wages in a 529B college fund—which I can help set up—and then when all A+ money has been exhausted, EDU Lawn Care cuts a check for the matching funds for educational purposes," Coleman explains. "We can help them set up checking and savings accounts too; the key is learning and moving out of education into the business world with real life skills. We’ve been working since October 2014 on the educational side, and so far, we’ve been able to pay for books for all our employees. That’s just with us getting started. Hopefully with a full season under our belt, that will grow."

Jerry Nolte, current Presiding Commissioner of Clay County, has used EDU Lawn Care since the beginning for rental properties.

“It’s a good price for a good product," Nolte says. "They are not only providing a service, but learning a business. The skills these employees get are skills larger businesses are finding harder to fulfill. These kids are work ready, and the entrepreneurship skills can’t just be found in reading a textbook, but hands on skills. I have confidence they are here for the long term; with the snow removal service, we have a 12-month relationship, and that makes them reliable."

Right now, EDU Lawn Care has been operational in Clay and Platte Counties with four paid employees and four volunteers, but as the business grows, Coleman anticipates more employees, and eventually, satellite offices in other communities. That too is a learning experience for the student–learning how to start a new office, and how to become part of that community.

Services offered are basic lawn care, fertilization, landscaping, and snow removal for both residential and commercial accounts. EDU Lawn Care uses professional equipment only. More information can be found at EDULawn.com.