By Joe Buttweiler
MASON CITY – How many 15-year-olds do you know who own a business?
Josh Ressler does and he’s looking to expand, hoping to grow his landscaping and lawn care business by adding more clients to an already impressive list.
While most kids his age are at school by day and later working in retail, fast food or some other traditional type of employment, Ressler, who is home-schooled, is learning entrepreneurship from the ground up — digging trenches for retaining walls, talking with his banker, cutting grass or, soon, plowing snow.
Oh. And he’s buying his first investment property this month.
How does a 15-year-old buy a house? “We created a LLC (limited liability corporation). My mom is the custodian and owns the shares until I’m 18.”
Ressler founded his landscaping business a year and a half ago because “it was something I thought I was good at.” He’d previously managed Bert & Ernie’s Skateshop in downtown Mason City for friend and co-owner Spencer Stensrude, 24, who serves as an entrepreneur mentor for Ressler.
Owning and growing your own successful business lets you earn more than you could at a fast food or retail job, Stensrude said. “Not that those are bad,” he quickly added, “but you can set your own schedule and learn a lot about money and being successful with a business.”
“I like to see people take this route because they can do a lot if they take a chance” and work hard, Stensrude said.
Ressler said one of the biggest challenges to running the business is the lack of an unrestricted drivers license. “Since I’m not 16 yet, I’ve got to have someone … ride with me.” So the workday “gets all scrunched up sometimes, but we get it done.”
Another challenge was finding a bank that would work with him. One prominent local bank wouldn’t, but Ressler was able to do business with Jake Heimer at Farmers State Bank.
“Josh is mature beyond his years,” Heimer said. He called Ressler a “very energetic young businessman. He understands a lot of concepts that it takes to be a successful business owner. And that knowledge will only continue to grow with experience.”
Heimer said that when Ressler came to him he “just wanted someone to give him a chance, so he could start to build credit and develop a relationship with a banker. He has performed very well. “
Ressler has had a knack for landscaping since an dearly age. His mom, Laura, tells the story of how he landscaped her mother’s place when he was only 5. It wasn’t exactly to code – he moved landscaping rocks from the neighbor’s house to his grandma’s — but he did a beautiful job of it, his mom said.
Besides “a bunch” of mowers and a John Deere lawn tractor, Ressler owns two trucks, a skid steer and “a lot of trailers.” So he’s “always fixing something.” He also has access to other equipment.
He mowed lawns for about 25 mostly residential customers and had several landscaping jobs over the summer, including the removal of overgrown shrubbery at the former Fazoli’s site on Village Green Drive in Mason City. Ressler recently re-landscaped an area behind Schoneman Realtors in Mason City, putting in railroad ties and river rock.
Soon the red 1997 Dodge Ram pickup with the A+ Lawn Care & Landscape sign on the side will be plowing snow.
Ressler said he has five commercial and 15 residential plowing jobs (Stensrude and a retired uncle will be helping out), and is looking for more.
Ressler said he hopes to buy more rental units eventually. His goal is to have a net worth of $1 million when he’s a senior in high school. But he knows he’s got his work cut out for him. “I’ve got a million to go,” he joked.
Meanwhile, he’ll keep plugging away on schoolwork in the mornings and working in the afternoons and into the evening. He said he enjoys being able to work at his own pace and learn on the job about running a business.
PHOTOS, below: Josh Ressler loads a railroad tie onto a lift for a landscaping job at Schoneman Realtors in Mason City.