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6/27/2004

Upwardly mow-bile

By Brandon Johansson
The Daily Times-Call

For most teens, the prospect of owning a successful business is little more than a dream.

Not for 16-year-old Emil Motycka of Longmont. For him, the responsibilities of being the boss are very real.

The Silver Creek High School junior’s landscaping company — Emil’s Lawn Service LLC, soon to be Motycka Enterprises — serves 15 to 20 clients a week and brings in about $3,000 a month.

“I never thought it would be this big,” Emil said.

The business got its start as part of a fourth-grade class project at St. John the Baptist Elementary School.

Emil’s teacher, Patti Lynch, had students imagine paying for college on their own. The kids had to come up with a business plan to cover the cost of their schooling.

“He just took it and ran with it,” Lynch recalled.

Emil’s first customers were his aunt and uncle, Jeff White and Patti Guren. He mowed their lawn with an old push mower.

Now his customers include commercial lots like the Diagonal Marketplace on Ken Pratt Boulevard and the Checker Auto Parts store on Main Street.

He isn’t using the old push mower anymore. Emil now has roughly $50,000 worth of landscaping equipment, including eight mowers, two trailers, a stump grinder and a pickup truck.

His father, Lyle Motycka, drove the truck until Emil got his driver’s license earlier this month.

To pay for the company’s growing needs, Emil has taken out loans from First MainStreet Bank in Longmont.

Because of Emil’s age, Lyle Motycka had to co-sign on the loans, but his son drew up all the business plans required to obtain them.

Thanks to his professional equipment and his work ethic, Emil now bids major jobs like shopping centers and homeowners’ associations along the northern Front Range.

He was recently asked to bid a job landscaping for a homeowners’ association in Brighton. If he gets the bid, it would double his business.

Emil said that when he bids, he is often up against bigger landscaping companies that have more experience than him, but he isn’t scared away.

“He’s been against the big boys,” his father said.

During the bidding process, there is usually a walk-through in which prospective landscapers get a look at the grounds.

When other landscapers see the teenager inspecting the lawn, some are a bit surprised by his age.

“It’s like they say, ‘Hey, what’s he doing here?’” Emil said.

Just because he owns and operates a successful business doesn’t mean Emil spends all his time cutting grass and trimming hedges. He is on the honor roll at Silver Creek, with a grade-point average of 3.9, and he’s on the varsity track and cross country teams.

Barbara Keith, Emil’s cross country and track coach, said his desire to succeed both in sports and in the classroom is unparalleled.

“He’s one of the hardest-working students that teachers will ever see,” she said.

Emil also is active with the Boy Scouts of America and expects to become an Eagle Scout in August or September.

His six years as a landscaper haven’t been without their struggles.

In November 2001, his mother, Jennifer Motycka, was diagnosed with colon cancer. She had to have surgery and undergo chemotherapy.

Around the same time his mother was battling cancer, Emil’s Lawn Service began to really grow and started taking on commercial clients.

“It got to be kind of overwhelming,” Emil recalled.

He said there were times when he wanted to quit landscaping, but he knew he had to stick it out.

“Once you start something, you can’t just quit,” he said.

Plus, he knew his mother would want him to continue.

Jennifer Motycka said she was glad Emil had the business to keep his mind occupied during her battle with cancer.

Last March, Emil helped his mom lobby the state Legislature to recognize March as colon cancer awareness month. He also helped her make blue colon cancer awareness ribbons that he distributed at his school.

After he graduates from high school, Emil plans to attend college somewhere close to home, possibly at the University of Colorado in Boulder.

He isn’t sure what will happen to the business when he goes to college, but he wants to keep it going.

Emil said he would like the business to grow enough in the next year to have a crew working for him while he is in school.

He is considering majoring in pre-med, architecture or business. If he majors in business, Emil wants to turn the landscaping company into his career.

“I like being able to turn back and see what I did,” he said.

Brandon Johansson can be reached at 303-776-2244, Ext. 389, or by e-mail at bjohansson@times-call.com.