Young entrepreneurs launch landscaping business

What started as a way to make some extra cash in the summer has grown into a full-blown lesson in business ownership
The Churchills added a landscape construction division in 2018. (Photo: Mountain Sky Landscaping)

Like many people in this business, Shiloh Churchill and his brother Luca got started in landscaping by mowing lawns as kids over the summer. A lot of people reading this will have to look back a couple of decades to recall their early days, but the Churchills, owners of Mountain Sky Landscaping in Boulder, have a shorter walk down memory lane.

[Related: Grow your landscaping business with trust, communication: GROW 2019]

The 15-year-old brothers started an LLC back in 2016. Colorado requires that the organizer of an LLC be at least 18 years old, so their father, Peter Churchill, is the legal owner, and their accountant, Tracy Slaughter, organized and filed the articles of incorporation on their behalf. Neither the elder Churchill nor Slaughter are involved in the business’s operations or management.

The boys started with a lawn-mowing operation, then “last spring, spring of 2018, we started to kind of go all in on the landscaping side,” Shiloh Churchill said. “We still kept lawns, the lawns that we had … and then we went into the landscape construction side of it and started doing a couple of projects last year.”

[Related: How homeowners really feel about lawns: NALP]

The Churchills used the winter to focus on the business side. The company has separate lawn maintenance and landscape installation divisions, two employees and plans to grow.

“As soon as spring hit, we really just kind of exploded,” Churchill said, adding that his company is booked to the end of June. “Now we have two employees [and] we’re hiring another two.”

Churchill acknowledged that a lot of his and his brother’s practical education comes from his crew, which has more experience in the field.

“One of our employees has eight years and the other has three,” he said. “For actually learning how to do some of the skills, our employees know quite a bit.”

Suppliers and social media are also useful sources for industry education, Churchill said, noting CPS Distributors has been especially helpful. “We’ve taken quite a few classes from them on irrigation design and lighting and all that kind of stuff,” he said.

A Facebook group of 120 contractors provides moral support and mentoring. “That’s really helped us a lot,” Churchill said. “We can always ask them questions … . That’s helped with our mindset a lot as well, and the business side of it.”

[Related: NALP launches a landscaping apprenticeship program]

It helps that landscapers’ busiest time coincides roughly with most schools’ summer breaks, but Churchill said he and his brother balance the business with school work by taking online courses.

“In the evening, we actually do a couple hours of that. Throughout the spring and next fall, we’ll be doing that: working all day, and then in the evenings, we do the school and business management,” he said. “Usually we do estimates on the weekends, and writing proposals, communicating with customers, all that stuff.”


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