How I Started my First Company at 15

Justin Alvey
4 min readDec 5, 2019

A personal story about a young entrepreneur from Detroit

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I don’t talk about it much, but I started my entrepreneurial pursuits at a young age. The exact date I don’t remember, but it was on a warm, summer day that I had an itch I couldn’t shake. Today I call this the day that I caught entrepreneurial bug.

On this August day the neighborhood I grew up in had many different sounds and sights. People were out in their yards in the sun. But there was a smell and look that stuck out to me: Fresh cut lawn. I emptied my wallet but only had a few dollars and an old two-dollar bill that my grandfather had given me.

My stomach was empty, and I wanted to get a pizza for myself and a friend that was coming over later. That was when I had the idea: “why don’t I go cut some lawns?”

The idea was simple enough — I drag our family lawnmower around the neighborhood until I find a house that would pay me to cut their lawn. There was nothing stopping me after all. Today I still believe that anything can be accomplished with enough determination and tenacity.

So that’s what I did! I filled up the lawnmower with gas, put oil in the weedtrimmer, and lugged this old wagon I had down the block with the family lawn equipment in tow. After knocking on a few doors and refusing to give up because I was now very hungry, I convinced my neighbor to let me cut his lawn. In only an hour I had a crisp $20.

“Why don’t you come back next week?” he said, and I agreed that I would.

Afterwards I picked up a pizza and felt pride because this was a pizza I had earned. I finished the pizza and who knew, I was hungry for more. Not for some more ‘za, but for more out of life. I was convinced cutting more lawns could earn me some real money. All I had to do was keep at it and not give up. So that’s what I did for the next few summers and then took up raking leaves/shoveling snow because in Michigan you get snow.

I knew that I was onto something when individuals in the neighborhood several years my senior (17–21 years of age) started their own companies after seeing the dent I’d made in the community. There weren’t many other landscaping companies around — but I can remember two “competitors” vividly. They struck out to make an…



Justin Alvey

I’m passionate about #entrepreneurship, #programming, #space, #technology, and #writing.