by Sheldon Ocker
Emily Bernatovicz recalled that her son Will had a fascination with lawn care equipment when he was barely out of his infancy.
“He would make a pretend blower out of a hose and walk around like he was blowing leaves,’’ she said. “He was doing that when he was 2 or 3. He always liked the machinery.’’
His parents took the hint, buying their son John Deere mini-figures and a John Deere birthday cake. Cycle through the next decade or so, and nothing has changed except that Will’s desire to operate mowers, tractors and snow blowers has intensified.
Will, now an eighth-grader at Revere Middle School, no longer plays with miniatures. He operates the real thing. That means big-boy mowers like a Hustler Zero Turn and a used Wright stand-on. These motor-driven machines bear little resemblance to your grandfather’s push rotary mower; they are designed to manicure a five-acre lawn, one 52-inch swath at a time.
“The Hustler is a riding mower, I got it for my birthday about two years ago,’’ Will said. “The other one is my favorite. You can get it serviced everywhere, and it has a good motor.’’
The first time he asked to cut a neighbor’s lawn for money, Will was 9.
It’s safe to say that Will is part of a small minority of 14-year-olds who have started their own business. His is called “Will Do,’’ and he has already procured promotional shirts printed with the company logo.
“Will Do’’ specializes in lawn care, mostly mowing, mulching, edging, clearing leaves and weeding. His services have been in demand in his Bath Township neighborhood and he currently has four customers. It would be more, but transportation is a problem if he strays into other areas.
As Emily said, “I’ve gotten a lot of phone calls and questions about him going outside the neighborhood, but my husband says, ‘I can’t sustain my own job and Will’s, too.’”
Teenagers have been known to change their minds when it comes to choosing their life’s work. But Will seems determined to become a professional landscaper. For proof, he paid for the Wright mower with profits from his business. He also has explored educational opportunities that he thinks are necessary for success.
When his Revere Middle School class took a trip to Cuyahoga Valley Career Center, Will zeroed in on a course that teaches students to repair the kind of machinery used in landscaping.
A friend of the family had told Will he would save thousands of dollars by repairing his own equipment.
“Will kind of knows what he wants,’’ said Emily. “He’s not a huge fan of sitting indoors, like in an office. He loves being outside and working with his hands.’’
Emily helps Will with things like invoicing and bookkeeping. He knows at some point, he will have to learn the accounting part of the job, but that’s not what he enjoys.
Recently, Will had to stay home from school with a relatively mild case of COVID. He knew the necessity of returning to classes, but he wasn’t happy about it.
“I would rather not go back to school,’’ Will said. “It’s not fun.’’
The next milestone in Will’s chosen career is earning his driver’s license, as soon as possible after he turns 16.
“He talks about driving all the time,’’ Emily said. “He can’t wait.’’
Has anyone ever taken a driver’s test on a riding mower? ∞