Clutch MOV was proud to sponsor this year’s Mid-Ohio Valley Entrepreneur of the Year. We envision a community where citizens can take risks on the promise that a success would uplift the residents of our valley. Artists, creators, makers, and small business owners strive to build something anew, something worth putting their stamp on – to promote and share with each other – and entrepreneurs are on the edge, finding ways to build in a way that hasn’t been done before. This year we received dozens of nominations for innovative, forward-thinking, community-building entrepreneurs from the Mid-Ohio Valley. The panel believed five individuals stood out for the impact they are making through their work. We are sharing their stories in this series.

Andrew Lisk started out as a typical teenager in middle school with a mindset of success and determination with just one lawn to take care of. Now, Lisk Lawn Care has grown to be a well established business in the Mid-Ohio Valley. Having graduated from Marietta High School, Andrew is known for his quality work and positive attitude. Andrew established Lisk Lawn Care in 2013 while still in high school, adding snow removal services during the winter of 2015. In 2017, Andrew launched land management services, with the addition of a state-of-the-art articulating Ventrac tractor. Andrew services the City of Marietta, Marietta Township, Muskingum Township, Fearing Township, Adams Township, Salem Township, and Liberty Township in Washington County. He believes in supporting small business and is always ready to offer a helping hand whenever he can. During February’s flood threat, Andrew was Downtown every day helping business owners move inventory to higher ground. 

Why did you choose to start your own business? Since I was little, I have been exposed to working outdoors, tractors, heavy equipment, etc. My parents started having me mow at our house when I was five and that’s where I got my start. At the same time my grandpa who has been a fencing contractor for 50+ years started having me come out and working in the summers building fence. If I wasn’t doing any of that I was spending three or four days a week camping at our family property in Noble County. In 2007, in the spring of my fifth grade year, I started to get calls from a few elderly folks about having me mow. Up until then I never really thought of making a business out of it but I just decided to jump in. I think that year I mowed around four a week. By the time high school rolled around I was mowing around ten a week. As high school went on I was mowing around 15 a week along with several vacation mowing jobs in the summers. With being involved with the Marietta High School Wall of Sound, too, it definitely made for a very busy schedule trying to balance mowing, music, and schoolwork.

Up until the summer of 2013 I never really thought about making a full time company out it. Honestly, I don’t know what the deciding factor was to move on to making it a full-time operation. I had a good thing going and I had the work ethic to back it up so I dug in and made it happen. I never really agreed with the mainstream society’s views on higher education. Growing up society always preached if you wanted to be successful in life you had to get a formal college education and go onto a high paying 40 hour a week job. Like I said, I wasn’t a fan of that theory. I didn’t want my successes and failures in life to be in the hands of someone else. After spending the summer talking it over with my parents and getting them mostly on board with what I was wanting to do, I sat down with Pamela Lankford who was at the small business bureau at the time and made it official in November of 2013. I started full time in the spring of 2014 while still in high school. After graduation that May, the rest has been history. A lot of very long days have happen since then. 80+ hour weeks in the field mowing for 35 weeks straight, who knows how much more time working on invoices, quotes, equipment, 20+ hour days plowing snow in the winter, in the end it’s all worth it. I wouldn’t trade this lifestyle for anything. It’s all I’ve ever wanted. It’s what I want to raise my future family around.

What need did you see that you wanted to fill? I don’t think I realized this early on but I realize now that I want to help restore the pride, honor, and dignity of the blue collar worker or lifestyle for that matter. I may not be able to make a impact on a national level but if I can make a difference on a local level in a few zip codes, I’ll call it a success.

What is the most rewarding part of being an entrepreneur and working for yourself? Being able to own a business in the community that I have grown up in, being here with my family and friends, and being a part of the local small business community are all major rewards. When someone stops me at the gas station to shakes my hand or when someone has a conversation with me at the barber shop means a ton. I may not know them at all but when you own a business in a small town people recognize you and your brand a lot more. I wouldn’t trade working for myself for anything. You definitely have to be devoted and hold yourself to the highest of standards to make it happen because you can definitely get into a pinch if you slack off. I could never see myself as a employee somewhere.

What is the most challenging part of what you do? The weather. Period. I can handle anything else that’s thrown at me but the weather is completely out of my hands.

What keeps you energized and motivated to continue on? I just like to work. When my alarm goes off at 5:30 in the morning I am ready to hammer down, however long the daylight allows me to work.

I’m a big quote person. “Every generation has its share of men who fully live the art of manliness. But there may never have been a generation when the ratio of honorable men to slackers was higher than the one born between 1914 and 1929. These were the men that grew up during the Great Depression. They’re the men who went off to fight in the Big One. And they’re the men who came home from that war and built the nations of the Western world into economic powerhouses. They knew the meaning of sacrifice, both in terms of material possessions and of real blood, sweat, and tears. They were humble men who never bragged about what they had done or been through. They were loyal, patriotic, and level-headed. They were our Greatest Generation.” I heard this quote from Tom Brokaw for the first time during my grandpa’s eulogy in February of 2013. Ever since then it’s been something I think about every day.

The other quote is an excerpt from President Theodore Roosevelt’s speech “Citizenship In A Republic” more commonly know as the Man in the Arena. “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” I’ve always tried to mirror my work ethic off of that quote. It keeps me grounded, persistent, humble, and hungry to dig in and hammer down.

What do you wish you would have known when you first started? Just how fast things happen in business and being able to make decisions on the fly.

What advice do you have to others thinking about starting their own business or organization? Be ready to dig in, hammer down, and remain persistent.