UConn senior starts his own company
Published: Monday, February 4, 2013
Updated: Friday, August 23, 2013 17:08
UConn senior Ryan Gauvain is doing exactly what he wants to do with his turfgrass management degree – he has kickstarted his own landscaping company.
Gauvain has always loved nature and the outdoors, and knew he wanted to own and operate a landscaping business ever since he was a little kid.
With an uncle and a cousin that work as landscapers, Gavain said he grew up helping with yard work and found it rewarding. Gauvain got his foot in the landscaping world around age 11, when he began mowing the lawns of his neighbors’ houses. Seeing the difference his work made on the properties was “very fulfilling,” he said.
“At Christmas, I’d always ask for tools and equipment when everyone else asked for toys,” Gauvain said with a nostalgic smile.
Gauvain is an exception among soon-to-be graduates because he not only has a job already lined up in the field he studied in college, but he also created his job by starting a business: the Litchfield-based Oak Hills Landscaping.
The U.S. labor market has an 7.9 percent unemployment rate, and almost 30 percent of recent college graduates work in fields unrelated to their majors, according to Bloomberg Businessweek. Gauvain has overcome the statistics, and is launching himself full-speed into a career he is passionate about.
Although landscaping is Gauvain’s dream job, owning a business hasn’t completely been a bed of roses. Gauvain has worked hard to balance his academics with his business, which was officially registered with Litchfield and Connecticut as a company in January.
Every weekend in the fall and spring, Gauvain travels back to his hometown of Litchfield to tend to his clients’ lawns. He plows through 15-hour days to work on as many properties as possible. After a long day of laboring in the heat, cold, wind or rain, Gauvain sits down at night to record what work he completed that day and fills out his billing accounts.
There is less yard work to be done in cold, snowy New England weather, but Gauvain supports his business during the winter by selling firewood and doing maintenance work.
“All of my friends will go out to party on the weekends, but I just don’t have the time,” he said.
Gauvain decided to attend UConn in high school when he saw the university offers a turfgrass management major. Since UConn is only about an hour and a half commute from his hometown, he has been able to manage his customers’ lawns while completing his studies.
Gauvain chose to officially launch his business before graduating so he could glean knowledge and expertise from his professors.
“I just wanted it all set up, and I wanted to experience dealing with the business before I went out into it by myself,” he said.
Gauvain is one of about 20 students in UConn’s turfgrass management major. The program is designed to prepare students to manage lawns, golf courses, athletic fields, parks, roadsides and other areas that have grass. Gauvain’s studies have left him well-equipped to handle the challenges of running his business and keeping up with his work.
“The professors do a lot of real-life scenarios, a lot of hands-on experience,” he said. Part of Gauvain’s classes involved maintaining and mowing the UConn athletic fields.
UConn professors and Gauvain’s family have been supportive and helpful in getting his business off the ground. His whole family will often help with his landscaping work on the weekends.
Gauvain currently has 25 customers and is hoping to expand his business after graduation. After graduation, when his business kicks into full gear, he hopes to hire one or two assistants.
“I’m excited to really launch the business and be able to run it at full potential,” he said.
One of Gauvain’s goals for his business is to implement organic, sustainable landscaping methods. Using recycled leaves as mulch, rain gardens and rooftop gardens are techniques he will use to help his business reduce its carbon footprint.
For now, Gauvain is gearing up for the busy springtime and is working on improving his business. He offered advice for others who have a dream they want to pursue.
“You have to be motivated and proactive,” Gauvain said. “I had a vision and I knew it would happen. I worked hard for it.”