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UConn student's company expands

A Year Ago This Week

By Alban Murtishi
On February 6, 2014

A year ago this week, The Daily Campus ran an article about then-graduating senior Ryan Gauvian. For our weakly series, reporter Alban Murtishi met back up with Gauvain to see how his first year as a business owner faired.
Most college students face dim job prospects - even entry level positions - after graduation; however, in one year Ryan Gauvain is already the boss of his own company. Gauvain, who graduated UConn in 2013 with a degree in turfgrass science, is the owner of Oakhills Landscape and Design, LLC.
Gauvain's business is the culmination of his lifelong interest in gardening and landscaping, which he got into with the help of his uncle and cousin. "At Christmas, I'd always ask for tools and equipment when everyone else asked for toys," he said.
It's been more than a year since Gauvain graduated and started his business, which has become an official LLC in that time. The past year has been busy as he has expanded from 25 to 60 customers, as well as hired a new full-time employee and part time employees for larger projects. The league of his work has also changed as he moves from his neighbors' lawns, to public works projects.
"It's been a big learning experience for me. I'm now just learning how to deal with larger projects than I was last year, now I'm starting to get more into commercial properties," Gauvain said.
These commercial properties are bigger, higher maintenance, higher responsibility and demand a superior quality of work, but Gauvain's UConn education has been instrumental in taking on these complex projects. "They want their properties to look really nice when people drive by, and that requires elaborate gardens, mulching plans and mowing schedules," Gauvain said. "Pretty much everyday I use what I learned in school for landscape."
Gauvain's education is also imperative for daily management of his business. As sole manager of the company, Gauvain has to deal with all the paperwork, bills and communications that seem to bombard him at both work and out in the field.
As well as the bureaucracy of running the business, Gauvain is also rolling up his sleeves, doing the same thing he had been doing since he was 11 on his neighbors' lawns and during his time as a turfgrass sciences major at UConn - mowing, mulching, and sweating.
"Being your own boss is pretty nice, it's very rewarding," Gauvain said. However, he also noted, "Being your own boss is a negative in a way because if someone below you screws up, the customer comes after you. And the hours are stressful, you can't leave your work at work, so you're always working."
At 22, Gauvain is an inspirational entrepreneur, but he said his age often ends up being a competitive disadvantage. Gauvain said he's mostly dealing with customers older than him, which can be intimidating. So, he finds himself having to sell and prove himself as capable.
However, he still finds the fun in lawn care that got him interested in the field in the first place. "My favorite part of completing a project is taking pictures from before and after," he said.
Gauvain urges other turfgrass majors and future entrepreneurs to apply what they learn in school to the jobs and businesses they end up at. To pass his pesticide license exam, Gauvain studied everything that was covered in his turfgrass sciences classes, and the business plan of Oakhills Landscape was originally an assignment from a professor in a UConn business class.
Even though Gauvain has graduated, as a business owner in the quick and volatile world of capitalism, his education will never truly be over. Gauvain still attends the yearly UConn Turf and Landscape conference, hosted by the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, where he and other groundskeeping professionals talk about hotbutton landscaping topics, such as the ethical use of pest control.
"The big movement these days is to be organic, people don't like to use pesticides," Gauvain said. "So people are trying to find more organic ways to get rid of pests and improve the quality of the turf without using pesticides."
Gauvain's business uses proper mowing techniques and fertilizing practices to keep lawns healthy.
As for other students hoping to follow Gauvain's lead, he offers some advice: "Networking is the key, I think - getting your name out there and getting to know businesses around you, continuing education after college because things change so fast, keeping up with the latest and greatest of landscaping and being honest, respectful, responsive, as well as stern and self confident."

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