ELORA – Jesse Duhacek thought he hit pay dirt when he received some funding from the Business Centre Guelph Wellington’s Summer Company student entrepreneurship program three years ago.
It was enough for the then 15-year-old to start a summer business, JMD Lawn Care.
So winning the Youth Citizen of the Year award this year from the Centre Wellington Chamber of Commerce was the icing on the cake.
“It was a bit of a shock,” the Elora youth said in an interview following the awards gala on May 30.
“To be honest, I was surprised to be nominated. So winning was great.”
Duhacek said he was looking for a summer job three years ago but found work hours conflicted with his rep baseball schedule.
“Then I heard about the Summer Company program and I was accepted. And I grew to love it,” he said.
He started with a bike and a landscape trailer but last year he got his driver’s license.
So now he has a truck and can travel a bit farther, though most of his clients are in Elora, with a few in Fergus.
“The funding helped me get the equipment to start,” he said.
“I’ve reinvested in the business and upgraded my equipment. But that initial funding, and the mentorship that comes with the program, really helped.”
He’s got such a handle on the work, Duhacek has decided to take a “gap” year when he graduates from high school in a few weeks to keep running his business.
“We’ll see how things go,” he said. “It will give me time to think about what I want to do.”
Duhacek’s father Mike Duhacek is known in these parts for his “Help Me Bury Cancer” campaign.
The senior Duhacek pulled a 200-pound sled with wooden cutouts spelling “cancer” from Owen South to Burlington in February and raised $21,000 for cancer research.
Is it hard living in his father’s shadow?
Jesse Duhacek laughed at the question.
“A little bit,” he said. “But I’m very proud of him. And he’s very proud of me.”