Check out The Speaking Eagle, a student news site of Juan Diego Catholic High School, and read about this inspiring teen from Utah. If you could start any business now, what would it be?
Teen Owns Thriving Business
Tamara Gilbert, News Editor • May 13, 2015
He started out working in a nursery, selling trees in middle school, and now, at the age of 18, JD senior Chris Colling is the owner and founder of his own landscaping business, New Leaf Landscaping LLC.
Colling was 13 years old when he began his business, which updates yards and prepares houses for sale.
“A neighbor knew I worked at the nursery. [He] called me and asked if I would clean up the yard for them for the spring and spread mulch,” he said. “That was my first project, and I realized I had made more money in one week than I did in one month [at the nursery].”
Following this realization, Colling quit his job at the nursery. He started with a shovel, trash can, and rake, but since has expanded his business and hired employees. Colling’s parents have never needed to financially support New Leaf.
“Everything was all my savings since I was five years old,” Colling said. “I just continue to reinvest in the business to build it bigger.”
The business was inspired by Colling’s love of the outdoors as well as his desire to aid others. “I love to help people and the business is a good median to do that through,” Colling said.
Currently, the business serves about 100 clients and has nine employees. Revenue is about 250 times what it was the first year.
“I love working with people and running a business. I started out small and I’ve expanded from there,” Colling said.
Two-thirds of the business comes from developers, real estate agents, investors, and contractors that work with Colling. The other third comes from people who see the truck or the signs or from referrals. “We do a customer survey after every single project and we’ve only had positive reviews,” Colling said.
Colling says owning a business is difficult, but rewarding. “You need to be willing to work hard,” he said. “If you don’t work hard, and if you can’t be honest and learn from your mistakes, then you’re going to have a lot of issues.”
Colling has hired eight JD students and says he has a simple philosophy when choosing employees—he hires them based on work ethic and character. While he says it can be challenging to employ friends, and it is difficult to be firm sometimes, it can also be fun and productive.
JD senior Morgan van der Sluys has known Colling since sixth grade. He began working for New Leaf Landscaping this spring and plans to work throughout the summer. He says the work is physically demanding, but he likes to think of it as a workout.
Van der Sluys says Colling is pretty easygoing as an employer. “I think [working together] improves [our friendship] because he’s my friend but he’s also my boss,” van der Sluys said. “It makes our friendship stronger because we get to work together in a professional environment.”
Van der Sluys says he enjoys the job because he likes working outside and being with friends.
Recently, Colling’s business helped a lady who was divorced and living by herself. “She was all alone and she asked us if we could do something small,” Colling said. “Normally we wouldn’t take on a small project like she wanted, but we did it to help her anyways. She was extremely happy.”
Colling, who is studying marketing in college, likes to brand new businesses, gain new clients, and open new channels of opportunity. He says New Leaf will be one of many businesses he hopes to start.
Colling would like to expand the business to 25 times its current size. He would also like to pursue opportunities with real estate agents and investors. “And I’d like to open up a nursery down the road,” Colling said.
“I see Chris going very far with business and being very successful,” van der Sluys said. “He’s very professional, he’s a people person, he can relate to anyone. He’s easy to work with.”
Colling’s ultimate goal is to become a venture capitalist. “I want to take earnings from my one business and put them into a new one and repeat the process,” he said.
Colling’s website is http://www.newleafrestore.com/