The power of youth


Every Thursday at 1 p.m. Professor McCafferty sat in her office, gazing out the window. She wasn’t daydreaming. She was waiting for me. But I’d just pulled an all-nighter at the college newspaper.

While Professor McCafferty was waiting for me in her office, I was halfway across campus, oversleeping my independent study in fiction writing.

Today, I’m feeling much more inspired. Not because I’m especially energized. Or because I woke to the sun streaming through my window. But because I’ve spent a good deal of time interviewing sources for this month’s cover story.

They’re all landscape business owners who launched their companies while full-time students. They’re all much more disciplined than the stereotypical college student—and they’re all quite inspirational.

“I had a lawn mower and figured if I worked hard I could succeed,” reasons Craig Ruppert, CEO and founder of Ruppert Landscape, Laytonsville, Md., who launched his business as a high school student.

In interviewing such former and current student business owners, I was struck by their wisdom, their foresight and above all, their determination. They attended class during the day, worked until dark and studied at night. They took the train home from college to work weekends. And they sacrificed much of their social lives for the sake of financial independence.

What stands out most about these men is the value they place on a college degree. They recognized that a degree would empower them. They took what they learned in class and used it to strengthen their businesses. They also kept in touch with their professors, relying on them later to expand their networks.

When I was in college, I didn’t work during the school year. I suppose it would have been nice to have had additional spending money, but the thought of getting a job—much less running a business—didn’t even cross my mind. It was hard enough writing my senior thesis, surviving chemistry and rising for an 8 a.m. gym class.

By waiting for me to arrive every week, Professor McCafferty taught me as much about patience as she did about fiction writing. The people in this month’s cover story, however, taught me much more than that.

For a valuable lesson from them on how to run a business well, see “The old college try.”

Reach Geraci at bgeraci@northcoastmedia.net.


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Beth Geraci

Geraci is a freelance writer based in Cleveland. She has worked as a professional journalist for more than 15 years, including six years as a writer for the Chicago Tribune. A graduate of Allegheny College and Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, Geraci began her career as an editor at a newswire service in Washington, D.C., where she edited and distributed press releases from the White House and congressional leaders. She went on to become the community news reporter at the Jackson Hole Guide newspaper, winning two national feature writing awards. Her other experience includes working as a book editor in Chicago and as a professor of business communications at Cleveland State University.

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