ENTREPRENEURSHIP ECOSYSTEM STORIES
Cutting Edge Landscaping
On March 3, 2020 Michael Snelling, Matty Benisek, and Vinny Bandwen from Gilmour Academy participated in the small business track competition of the thinkBIG! Challenge with their business Cutting Edge Landscaping.
164 teams from 22 schools entered the online challenge. 21 semifinalists advanced to the second round where they received executive coaching support before submitting slide decks and videos for round 2 of the competition. The final four teams presented live in front of an audience of more than 300 people at Case Western Reserve University during the thinkBIG! Summit. Cutting Edge Landscaping won the small business track of the competition and took home the grand prize of $3,000.
We followed up with Matt Benisek at the end of the summer to see how their business was doing.
Tell us a little about your journey to entrepreneurship?
I started off mowing lawns on my street to help some older neighbors out, and as people started to notice me, I began to increase the number of customers I had. I continued to pay attention to the little details that the bigger companies skipped week after week. Two summers ago, I brought Mike and Vinny into the business in hopes to grow and expand. Since then we have been determined to bring high quality work for an affordable price to cities around us.
Who helped you get started as an entrepreneur?
It was mainly self-driven, but our parents have been a huge support throughout our lives and have always taught us to be self-sufficient. We were fortunate enough to be raised this way and it is really the heart of the source. Also, Gilmour Academy offered the Management/Entrepreneurship course taught by Mr. Polak which the three of us took together. We were able to use that class time to focus on ideas for our business, and we received good advice from Mr. Polak and other teachers.
What are you currently doing and what is the future of the business?
We are currently mainly mowing lawns. We also do small house projects, seasonal cleanups, mulching, and other miscellaneous jobs. We plan to get another crew out mowing lawns next year and increase the number of grass cutting and mulching jobs. We also recently put in a small patio which we are hoping to continue to do.
What takeaways did you have from participating in the thinkBIG! Challenge?
Participating in the ThinkBig Challenge was truly a huge morale booster for us. I think the major takeaway was that we realized we can do something special and unique with this business. Before the competition, we had a lot of hopes and aspirations, but the Challenge has helped make our business much more visible. The opportunity to share our vision more publicly is an incredible opportunity.
How did you use the funds that you won in the thinkBIG! Challenge?
With our funds from the competition we were able to purchase a trailer, t-shirts (uniforms), and a new lawn mower. These purchases have had a big impact on our business. The trailer and new mower made us more efficient with our time and allowed for us to take on more clients. The shirts helped us promote our brand and showed more professionalism to notify people that we were a real business.
You won the competition about two weeks prior to school shutdowns due to Covid-19. How did those changes impact your business as well as your personal development?
Honestly, it’s kind of helped us in a way. It was sort of difficult during the stay at home order, but after that we had a lot of extra time to do more work. We were able to work around our virtual school schedules more efficiently than being on campus. So, instead of starting in the midafternoon on school days, we were able to start earlier than normal and get more work done.
Do you find value in using an entrepreneurial mindset in other settings besides your business?
Absolutely. All of us have realized that having an entrepreneurial mindset is used in many aspects of our lives. Being able to communicate, work with others, and logically solve everyday problems outside of work are very important skills to have. Maintaining this mindset has helped us greatly improve.
What advice do you have for other students who are interested in starting a business or developing an idea?
The biggest piece of advice we can give to other young entrepreneurs is “don’t let anyone stop you.” This has been a big theme for us in growing our business. Many people have questioned if we are qualified for jobs or even disregarded us mainly because of our age. This was honestly fuel to the fire for us because we knew what our goal was, and we have been set on it. So, any aspiring entrepreneur should set goals and keep striving to succeed. Another tip would be to focus on doing the little things right. Your reputation is everything especially when you’re trying to start a business. We know from experience that customer referrals are the number one source of advertising. So, if you do things the right way, people will hear about it.
How can people find out more about your business?
People can follow our account on social media platforms. Instagram: @_CuttingEdgeLandscaping_ OR Facebook: Cutting Edge Landscape. We post pictures of work we have done and different flyers or promotions that we have going on. We provide weekly lawn care, spring/fall cleanups, mulching, weeding, trimming and small patio/stone installations. If you are interested please feel free to follow our media platforms or call Matt Benisek (216-387-1294).