From selling golf balls in 1st grade to making over $100,000 his last year in High School and multiple six-figures in college, Emil has a knack for business.
You will love reading his answers!
Sarah: Tell us how you got started in business Emil and where can people find you on the web?
Emil: I first flirted with business when I was in the first grade. Living across the street from a golf course provided a steady free supply of stray golf balls. I would collect the stray golf balls, wash them off in my mom’s sink, and then sell them nearby the fairway for a dollar a pop. By the time I was in the eight grade (13 y/o) I took out my first loan: $8000 to purchase a commercial lawn mower.
It was the beginning of Motycka Enterprises, LLC – a company which currently provides work for about 65 people in Northern Colorado. Motycka Enterprises offers everything from building and janitorial maintenance to lawn care, tree care, snow removal, and even Christmas light installation. The company helped me break six figures my senior year of high school.
I can be found via:
- Facebook: www.facebook.com/emotycka
- Twitter: www.twitter.com/emotycka
- LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/emilmotycka
- Website: www.emilmotycka.com –or– www.motyckalawns.com
- JuniorBiz: http://juniorbiz.com/interview-emil-motycka
- Amazon: JuniorBiz Lawn Mowing Guide
- Google: “Emil Motycka”, “Motycka Enterprises, LLC”, “Motycka Lawns”
Sarah: Wow! Six figures while you were still in high school! That is awesome! When did you start thinking about starting your own business and becoming an entrepreneur?
Emil: I never really thought about starting my own business initially – it just fell into place after my aunt & uncle asked me to mow their lawn for $10 a pop. Having grown up with no real “allowance”, I capitalized on the opportunity and started to pickup lawns within the neighborhood and soon I had a good afternoon’s worth of work every week. After a few summers of moonlighting it, the idea of having my own business grew on me. I wanted the freedom, the status, and the money of working for myself versus someone else. I had no idea about the stresses and responsibilities at the time, but I learned to handle those over time. Ironically, I’ve seemed to grow the business more and more as I get busier and busier personally (school, internships, sports, etc).
Sarah: So what things influenced you to start your own business?
Emil: The face that I never had an allowance made me appreciate the value of a dollar and what it takes to earn it, therefore if having my own business could result in more money in less time it was a no-brainer to me to be the boss verses the follower. I wasn’t a born-leader; I’m shy and introverted in nature, but always liked to do my own thing. I think that was a factor subconsciously since I hated answering to power figures (they always intimidated me). Furthermore, having parents that were entrepreneurs preconditioned me to the idea and lifestyle of having my own business over working for someone else. I think the majority of people are scared of venturing out on their own – but if you never try, you’ll never know.
Sarah: You are so right Emil! If you never try, you’ll never know! Interesting that you shared that your parents are entrepreneurs too. What do you think are the most important skills you have that help you in business?
Emil: I think it’s my good looks [joking] …actually, the real answer is work ethic and determination. If the job’s not done then it’s not done, BUT it will be done before I finish for they day. I only leave a job once it meets my standards – and I have very high standards (OCD to a degree) Although I love it, sleep is for the weak – I sleep 4 hours a night on average. There’s never enough time and if I’m doing something unproductive, it might be fun in the moment but I feel like I wasted that time and I can never get it back. That’s okay every so often, but I would rather put that time and energy into something more productive.
Sarah: Someone once said, “you can sleep when your dead but you will never get NOW back again.” It sounds like that is your approach to life also. What were the biggest obstacles you had in getting started in business?
Emil: My age, money, and transportation were the biggest obstacles I had getting started. Since I couldn’t drive when I started my business, it’s growth was dependent on other people being able to squeeze time in to drive me around. It was almost always my dad. Since this was limited to the weekends initially, I usually only took on jobs that were nearby and didn’t branch out beyond that. Money was (and is) always an issue for expansion. It takes money to make money, and especially in this business. The equipment is expensive – but you get what you pay for. With that said, it takes awhile, years upon years, to build up a fleet of trucks, trailers, mowers, and everything else you need to get established and have the capacity to handle any job thrown your way.
Sarah: I know that you said your aunt and uncle asked you to cut their lawns but did you do any other investigation before you decided to make a business out of it?
Emil: When I was in third or fourth grade, I had a teacher who wanted us to explore career paths. At that time, being an adult was so far away. The career I wanted was just whatever I thought would be really cool. Since I liked being outside, and big machines, I wanted to be a landscaper. She kindly pointed out that a landscaper wasn’t a career; it was a job. I ended up doing my project on being a landscape architect. But in the process of doing the paper, I learned a lot about the landscape industry and saw the potential money to be made in mowing lawns. $10 a lawn would make me $20 per hour – none of friends made that much! When I was asked by my aunt & uncle to mow their lawn, I didn’t think twice – the rest is history.
Sarah: Did you do any research on your target market?
Emil: To be honest, I never researched my target market until the last few years while in college. I took jobs that came my way, and never gave it any thought. However, today I use a number of subscription based databases to research trends, demographics and psychographics so I can not only describe my different target markets, but determine their size and thus profit potential.
Sarah: Well, lucky for you and your hard work you made your business grow without any of the research that is usually recommended. How about your age? How did that affect you?
Emil: When I was younger, everybody thought that it was cute. I just had to show up and they would say, “Mow my lawn.” When I was in high school, people questioned, “Should I let this teenager on my property?” They didn’t really trust that I would do the job. Through that, I learned the importance of building trust with the customer. Initially, they are hiring you for the price, but after you form that relationship they are hiring you for you and that is what gives your company value.
Starting when I was young helped, because at that time I didn’t have to worry about money. So I wasn’t really afraid to fail. I didn’t even think of failing. When you are young, you have that fresh perspective on life and an innocence towards business, because money isn’t really what’s important to you. I mean, when I first started, my mom was still tucking me in at night. When you are older, you worry about how you are going to fail. You almost plan it out. In a way a business plan is like a ‘here’s how to not fail’ plan. I never thought of failing. I never had a plan. I only thought of, “What am I going to do next?”
Sarah: I love what you just said about developing rapport and trust with your customers. That is so important no matter what your age is! I also love the comment you just made too about business plans.
So what about college? Are you planning on going?
Emil: Yes, I went to college. Although it’s not necessary to go as an entrepreneur, I highly suggest going. It will provide you creditability and help you to find your passion. College is also a great place to learn communication, networking, and social skills as few other environments expose you to everything college will. Lastly, the college degree is becoming the new high school degree. Should you fail in your business and need a backup option, having a college degree could come in handy.
Sarah: Here’s a fun question, what have been the best good surprises that you found in starting your business?
Emil: The freedom is the best surprise to starting my own business – however I didn’t realize this until I “lost it”. My experience in “loosing it” is rooted in my internships for college. I’ve worked at both “entrepreneurial” and “corporate” firms and have enjoyed the smaller firms much more due to the close interaction with the founder/owner of the business. Secondly, having my own business has allowed me to network with people and connect with them in ways I wouldn’t as an employee or non-business owner.
Sarah: So true that entrepreneurship can bring you FREEDOM! I don’t know that I could ever work for anyone again because of the freedom that I have grown accustomed to.
Do you do EVERYTHING by yourself or do you have people on your team that work with you? If so – how did you find people to help you along the way?
Emil: I have a team, there’s no way I could do everything myself and think it’s key to my success and long-term growth. Most entrepreneurs are self-centered in that they won’t give up control of their business or operations, therefore since there are only so many hours in the day, one person can only do so much. I find people by first learning about them as a person and then reviewing their accomplishments, failures, and references. People are human and will make mistakes, but you have to trust people, therefore I follow a three strike rule. As long as you’re doing your job and learn from your mistakes and don’t keep messing up over and over again, I’m fine.
Sarah: I think your willingness to trust people and delegate is what has allowed you to grow.
What ideas and approaches do you use to market your business and what do you find works best for you in getting the word out about who you are and what you are doing?
Emil: I’m a fan of word of mouth advertising and selling without selling – if that makes sense. People either want your service or they don’t. If they’re not open to your services, its just a downhill battle with price to win the bid, but you can’t run a business on low-bid forever – even Walmart has strong margins despite being a “discount” retailer. Service businesses are different since we have high labor costs, thus there’s limits to how low we can go before it becomes pointless to pursue work for no money. If you put your name out and do a good job, people will talk and business will grow.
Sarah: Word of mouth really is where it is at and now that we have social media, what people think travels even faster! Emil, how do you balance it all?
Emil: I’ve never really thought of it as a balancing act. I always put school first (to the best that I could) and business second. But there were days when I would miss school because I would be out scooping snow all night and I would just be too tired to go to school. This hit me hard my freshman year at college, when there was a blizzard during finals week. One of the hardest things for me to do was to call up my customers and tell them that I wouldn’t be able to do the work for them. I promised them it would never happen again. I was forced to learn and understand the business of sub-contracting. Through that process, I learned the power of hiring out to people underneath you.
Maybe I haven’t done as well in terms of putting aside set time for friends and family. When there would be a family event, like a dinner, I would always get there – but not usually on time. My family understands and my friends respect that work is important to me. Unfortunately, there are times when I haven’t been able to go to a party or an outing because of my priorities.
Sarah: I think most successful entrepreneurs have had similar experiences to you. In closing, what final words of advice or tips would you like to give to other CEO Kids and entrepreneurs?
Emil: I didn’t think of what I did as being an entrepreneur until I won some awards and that funny word happened to be in the title. I think kids need to not be afraid of the word ‘entrepreneur’. It took me a while just to learn how to spell it.
What I’ve done isn’t hard – anyone can do it. I’m not a genius, nor do I come from a wealthy background. I’ve built my business from the ground up and today it’s my baby – a child I am hoping to raise to serve as my retirement account when I get older.
I know a lot of people who have jobs that pay the rent but they hate going to it, and so they don’t ever become good at doing it. I have other friends who love what they do and then it never feels like work. If you keep that in mind, then the money is never going to be an issue. There are a lot of people who think, “What job can I do to make a 100 grand a year?”
Going into entrepreneurship as a young person is great because it gives you a lot of flexibility and you learn about yourself and others.
Entrepreneurship is a calling – you either want it or you don’t. It’s a roller coaster ride that has its lows an highs but it’s an adventure you’ll never regret. You learn things you can’t learn anywhere else – at school or on the streets.
If you follow your dreams, you can have a lot of fun doing it, but if it’s forced on you, it’s never going to be fun.
In short, to start a business you need to first go and do what you love to do. If you’re not into it, it’s not going to be any fun. You’re definitely not going to want to stay up all night to get it done – and you may have to pull all-nighters routinely.
Secondly, don’t let people tell you that you can’t do it. Just look them in the eyes and tell them ‘thanks’ and that you value their opinion. Then use it as fuel to prove them wrong!
Finally, start today, not tomorrow. If anything, you should have started yesterday. Just like investing, the earlier you start, the more time you have to mess up.
Don’t consider messing up to be a failure. The biggest failure you can have in life is not trying at all. You’re not risking anything by trying, especially if you are young. Go try – and don’t look back. Just, have fun. The money will come.
Lastly, never forget to thank those who help you. Being young, you don’t have much to offer besides a “thank you”.
With that, I would like to thank my parents for their support and encouragement, my third/forth grade teacher for introducing me to a new way of thinking, my aunt & uncle for asking me to mow their lawn, my mentors and advisors, and to all of my customers over the years for all of their support, guidance, and tolerance in my business ventures.
Sarah: Emil, thank you! You are truly an inspiration and I am so grateful for the time you spent interviewing with me! That is excellent advice! Tell us one more time where can CEO Kids and parents find you and do you have any special offers that you want to tell them about?
Emil: Definitely – go get a copy of the book I co-authored!
Amazon: JuniorBiz Lawn Mowing Guide: http://www.lawnmowingguide.com/