Customers who drop by to purchase eggs or pick up a bundle of kindling at Hay’s Lawn Care in Nashwaak Bridge may notice that there seem to be more roosters crowing and ducks quacking than last year, and they’re right! That’s because, what started out as raising 10 chickens when he was 14 years old has grown to be more than a fledgling enterprise for owner and operator Tyler Hay, who is now tending over 60 chickens, four pheasants and two ducks.
“Tyler is our first up-and-running success story,” says Deborah Thomas, NBACL’s Self-Employment Coordinator. Debbie is in charge of “Open for Business,” an innovative project funded by the Department of Post-Secondary Education, Training & Labour (PETL) and the national Ready, Willing & Able Initiative funded by the Government of Canada. The program is aimed at recruiting and providing supports for individuals with intellectual disabilities or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) who are exploring or developing self-employment.
“Tyler wasn’t really interested in school,” Debbie explained. “But, as it turns out, he’s a natural entrepreneur.” He started with the chickens and eggs, then last summer, branched out to mowing lawns and doing odd jobs for his neighbours. This spring, when Debbie proposed that he might like to apply for a “Student Entrepreneur Loan” through PETL, he was all ears.
“Not wanting to overload Tyler with the extra work involved in developing his business idea and participating in the research and writing of his business plan, his English teacher agreed to count this as an English project,” Debbie recounted. This development “totally switched Tyler’s interest in school.”
The Open for Business program requires that participants learn what’s involved with being self-employed, come up with a business idea and then develop a business plan.
“We had to do quite a bit of research,” said Debbie. “Since he was selling eggs, and this year branched out to picking and selling fiddleheads, we had to make sure he was operating within all the government guidelines,” she explained.
Tyler didn’t limit his business to selling eggs and fiddleheads and mowing, either. Since it was a dry summer and the lawns didn’t need to be mowed as often, he branched out to cutting sod and offering painting services. He also buys wood scraps from the local mill and sells them in bundles as kindling, and he piles wood and does snow removal!
Now 16 and in Grade 12, Tyler says he thinks it’s pretty easy being a business owner.
“The best thing about it is there is no boss,” said Tyler. “I am the boss.”
But he also points out that it isn’t all fun and games being the boss and only employee. Collecting eggs, feeding all of the birds and topping up their shavings are daily tasks. And once a month the pens need to be completely emptied and cleaned.
That hasn’t stopped Tyler, though. He’s resourceful, and is always coming up with new ideas and finding new opportunities. For example, when a local farmer allowed him to plant a few rows of corn in exchange for help weeding his garden, Tyler quickly decided that his first crop wasn’t for eating.
“I’m going to hang the corn in the garage and dry it over the winter,” he said. “In the spring I’m going to put it in a PVC pipe with holes in it so the kernels fall out and I can replant them to get a bigger crop.”
Support like that farmer’s has been one of the keys to Tyler’s success, according to Debbie Thomas, who pointed out that the young entrepreneur has received exceptional support from his parents and family, as well as from neighbours and friends.
“Identifying and cultivating these supports is an important part of any entrepreneurial venture, and Tyler is great at it!” she said.
When asked what advice he has for others who want to start their own businesses, Tyler quotes the old adage, “You’ve got to spend money to make money!” Good advice for a young man whose future aspirations include purchasing heavy machinery so he can add digging to his ever growing list of services!
If you know a person who has a talent and an entrepreneurial spirit and may qualify for the “Open for Business” project, Debbie Thomas would love to meet them. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org, 506-453-6674.