Joey Rossa’s landscape business, JMR Landscaping, LLC in Libertyville, Illinois, is gearing up for the spring season, and for the first time he will be able to drive the company truck. That’s because the Libertyville High School sophomore just turned 16.
He’s managed to turn a fledgling neighborhood service, mowing yards for about $20 a week, into a $60,000-per-year business with staff, equipment and praise from the mayor for beautifying an area of Libertyville.
“Ever since Joey could walk as a toddler, he liked to work outside, digging holes and tearing up bushes in the backyard,” Joe Rossa, his dad, said. “It’s sometimes like these prodigies who are good in sports; he was born with this ability to do this.”
At only nine years old, he was armed with a mower, a backpack blower and a couple of hand tools to maintain his neighbors’ yards. Then, at 12, he progressed to a tractor. Now, his company employs as many as ten--though not all at once--during the summer.
Last year, Joey turned the business into an LLC that saw about 7,000 billings, despite only relying on word-of-mouth marketing. He admits that he gets skeptical looks in talks with potential clients, but then he shows them a list of references. “I’ve never felt intimidated about anything I’ve done,” he says. His biggest project cost about $15,000 for a front-yard makeover that included new plants, a brick sidewalk, drainage and grading.
In the last two years, his focus has turned to design work and plantings. He learns by networking with area nurseries, all while juggling his classes and baseball. With each new job, Joey tries to incorporate something new, and sometimes experiments with natural stones and accents.
He recruited his “right-hand man,” Nick Sternaman, 15, after they played baseball together in elementary school. Joey is so meticulous that he asked Sternaman if he could mow a yard in a straight line. “It just turned into a true passion for him,” Nick said. “He’s the most ambitious kid I’ve ever met.”
His goal is to expand the business with another crew, and possibly study horticulture or landscape design in college. “I’m running it like a full-time job,” Joey said.