There are at least seven people who depended on Middle Creek kicker Jared Shea more than his football teammates this season – his employees.
Shea, 18, is the owner of Limitless Lawns, a small landscaping company. Three school days out of the week in the fall, he would leave class and go to work. On the other two, including game days, he kicked.
Business is booming. Limitless Lawns has been formally registered as a business for one year, and this is the first year he’s expanded it to doing large-scale commercial work.
His leg was booming as well. He made all-conference for his efforts this year, making 46 of 48 extra points and 5 of 8 field goals with a long of 36 yards.
While many classmates know him as the football team’s kicker, or the guy who nailed the game-and-conference-winning 25-yard field goal to defeat rival Fuquay-Varina in overtime, fewer know him as the landscape entrepreneur. And that’s the way he likes it.
“I don’t like to brag at all,” he said. “When someone brings it up, I try to back out of it.”
Starting up his own business
When Shea was 11, he asked his dad for his broken John Deere riding lawnmower. It had a broken carburetor, but Jared wanted to start cutting grass for his neighbors and making money that way.
But Jack Shea didn’t want to give it away that easy.
He had made some money doing odd jobs growing up and wanted to instill a life lesson about earning what you have to Jared. He offered it for $100, which Jared bought using saved-up birthday and Christmas money.
“We’ve kind of had that mentality all along with our children that you don't just get what you wish for,” Jared’s mother Janet said.
When Jared did buy it, he had a new Christmas wish.
“He plops on Santa’s lap on Christmas Sunday and looks at Santa and says ‘I want a carburetor for my John Deere’ and Santa’s face was pretty priceless,” Jack said.
Santa came through and the rest is history.
Jared’s business started with just cutting the grass for his friends’ families and his neighborhood just down the road from Middle Creek High. But the broken lawnmower that he started with grew into two trucks, seven employees and different services like mulch and seeding. He’s making a five-figure salary.
Turning 16 and getting his driver’s license was a game-changer; he no longer needed mom or dad drive him to a job.
Building a business from the ground up required some grassroots help.
Sometimes he recruited his friends to help for $10 an hour. His girlfriend, Molly Carmichael, helps keep the books and the company’s only advertising – putting fliers on mailboxes.
At 17, he was getting so many jobs that it took on a life of his own. He needed employees. He needed to register as a business.
When Jared registered his business, now called Limitless Lawns, he became a student with his own business card (and company logo, T-shirts and salary).
The second truck gives him the ability to assign employees to some jobs while he and his brother Jamison are in school. The company does roughly 400-500 small jobs a year at about 200 different just in the southwestern Wake area.
He’s starting to add commercial jobs too. He also maintains a Christmas tree farm on Lodge Acre Road.
But he has the maturity to handle it, even in football season.
It’s sometimes hard for even his parents to grasp.
“When I speak to people about what he's doing, they always respond with 'Oh my gosh, that's amazing.' Jack and I have supported him along the way with what we can but Jared has certainly taken the initiative to build his company and progress,” Janet said. “When I say I'm overwhelmed, I'm very proud of him is mostly what I mean. He is not the average teenager, yet he takes it all in stride like it's sort of normal for him.”
One of the reasons Jared was confident he could play a varsity football season while owning a business is the ability to set his own hours.
During the summer, Jared may work from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. During the school year, he starts from the moment he gets out at 2:18 p.m. until he tires or it gets dark. He gets to about 40 hours a week with Saturday work added in.
As a junior, he was required to be at practice each day, but when new coach Randy Ragland arrived for Jared’s senior year, he worked with Jared and only asked he kick on Thursday and Friday.
Though landscaping is tiring, it didn’t seem to affect his performance.
It may have even helped it. He kicked a 55-yarder in practice.
“It helps me to take those three days off,” Jared said. “It takes a lot of effort but I stay in shape and when I come here on Thursday and Friday, it builds my leg because I’m walking around and moving stuff.”
The season was going well until an injury suffered in a pickup basketball game threw both of Jared’s interests into a tailspin.
Jared broke his collarbone.
He was out for five weeks in football, and unable to do many landscaping tasks. He wasn’t allowed to drive and his brother doesn’t have his license.
“My dad, he’d come home and pick up what I couldn't do,” Jared said. “The stuff my brother would normally do with me, he would get driven there by (friends T.J. Weinberg or John Alvarez).”
He was a fast healer, however. In his first game back on the field, he made the game-winning kick against Fuquay-Varina. The rivals were each 8-0 at the time in what was one of the most hyped regular-season games Wake County has had in the last decade.
Is there more pressure in a game-winning kick with your team’s season on the line, or in the day-to-day tasks of running a business?
“That was a lot of pressure, but day-to-day it does tend to be more pressure (working) than kicking,” Jared said. “It's people’s jobs that are at hand and they’re counting on me to put work in front of them for them to pay their bills. (The job) is also following up with people and keeping track of people is a lot of pressure to make sure we do a job right and effectively and quickly, whereas kicking is kind of a one-time deal.”
Shea doesn’t like to talk about his company to classmates, especially about the financial parts. Sometimes a friend will ask him for a job and it’s hard to tell if it’s a serious request.
But he has enlisted the help of a few buddies.
Three of Jared’s employees are his friends, but the other workers are much older than him. He has learned about managing people as he’s gone along. He stays focused and positive.
“His wheels are always turning,” Jack said. “It’s very fulfilling to see one of your children be as successful as he’s been and go after some of the things he goes after.”
His workers appreciate his flexibility and fresh approach and his company may get some jobs because of his youth, not in spite of it.
“They’d rather give the opportunity to someone younger. People want to help me grow,” he said.
Next year will have a new kind of balance for him, as he hopes to attend N.C. State. While that’s local enough to keep working at Limitless Lawns, the ultimate goal is to make the company profitable enough to sell it.
He’d like to do get into radiology and leave the mulch and grass behind.
“I honestly do not think I could do (landscaping) as a full-time job. It would wear me out as I get older,” he said.
Perhaps the most striking part of Jared’s management style is his principled approach. When he was young, and his mom drove him to jobs, he’d offer to pay her for her gas and time.
“Just the fact he thought that was important,” Janet said. “He's never taken advantage of the help he's been given. That's big. What kid would even think of that?”
One that thought of running his own business at age 17.