Mowing for money

By By Nate Stevens

By Nate Stevens

When an older classmate offered Billy Van Drunen a job cutting grass a year ago, he didn’t think it was a big deal.

It turns out what he was really being offered was a chance to take over a lawn-care company.

“It has been the best thing to happen to me; I just was at the right place at the right time,” said Van Drunen, a senior in economics.

The business, now Van Drunen Lawn Care, is a student-owned and -operated lawnmowing and landscaping business that was started 12 years ago by U students, for U students.

The original founders got together and bought a few old lawnmowers and went door to door in their neighborhoods looking for lawns to cut. The company now cares for about 65 lawns along the Wasatch Front and employs as many as six people.

“The amount of lawns grows every year, so we have to get more students to do the work,” Van Drunen said.

It’s not just the work that gets passed down from year to year, but the equipment, as well.

“When I started, we had two old lawnmowers, but now we’ve got five new lawnmowers,” said employee Kellen Larsen, an undeclared sophomore.

Larsen said he has loved the job, and is going to start his third year with the company.

Taking care of many lawns every week requires the students to put in 12- to 14-hour days. If they get behind, they start the next morning at 6 a.m.

New employees without experience in lawn care make $12 per hour and lawn-mowing veterans earn $15 per hour. The longer a student works for the company, the more he or she makes. Second- or third-year employees earn $20 per hour.

“We try really hard to make it a team and fun atmosphere. Getting paid well

is always a result of hard work,” Van Drunen said.

A lot of thought goes into deciding who gets to take over the reigns of the business after each owner graduates. It usually goes to a student employee that has worked for a year or two, but sometimes the job goes to someone new.

“It’s going to be a long process to decide who to leave in charge. I’m trying to leave it in the best hands possible, so the tradition of the job will stay around for as long as it can,” Van Drunen said.

Necessary for the job are the time to devote to the company and the ability to handle the pressures of managing a crew working long days. Maintaining and getting along with employees is important to give the company a more loyal feeling, Van Drunen said.

“It just makes sense to all go to the same area and get all the lawns done together rather than work alone. We all become good friends,” Van Drunen said.