Three years ago, Dimitri and Philip Coupe launched an all-electric lawn care business called Solar Mow. Today they’re up to 30 customers and continue to grow.
CAPE ELIZABETH, Maine — It’s often said that business and family don’t mix well, but for twin brothers in Cape Elizabeth, going into business together was not only a no-brainer, it’s something they’re using to market themselves.
“Being twins, everybody just loves that. It’s an extra boost for us,” Dimitri Coupe said.
The other thing that sets these entrepreneur teens’ lawn mowing businesses apart is the equipment they’re using: all-electric tools from the trimmer to the push and riding lawn mowers, and all powered by solar panels at the family’s home.
When the teens were freshmen in high school, their parents stopped paying for their treats at “Cumbies” and told them they had to get jobs. Their father, Philip Coupe, who is the co-founder of Solar Revision, suggested the boys consider running an all-electric lawn care business.
It was his idea, but Philip and Dimitri took the idea and ran with it, starting Solar Mow.
With a $6,000 loan from their parents, the twins purchased their electric equipment from Home Depot. To drum up business, they knocked on neighbors’ doors and explained the advantages of solar-powered tools.
“It’s better for our planet, it’s quieter, the equipment runs better. There’s less maintenance,” Philip Coupe explained.
During their first summer, the brothers accrued 12 clients, all purposefully close to their home. They used their father’s Nissan Leaf to get to and from jobs — which meant their entire enterprise was a zero-emission, environmentally-friendly business.
But it wasn’t long until they started running into problems. The batteries on the riding lawn mower started to die after just a couple of lawns. The boys were forced home to charge batteries for five hours before being able to get back out on the green.
“It was a typical argument for anti-electrical people who always say, ‘I don’t want to buy this because it’s just going to die on me.'” If we hadn’t run a lawn care business with that household grade mower, it would be completely great,” Dimitri said.
Two summers ago, the brothers took things up a notch when they purchased a $24,000 industrial-grade electric mower. The price tag was intimidating, but they’ve already paid for the mower in full and can continue growing their small summer business with a mower that can cut lawns all day without stopping.
Their business is part of a national trend to phase out gasoline landscape equipment and replace it with battery-operated tools.
The Nissan Leaf eventually couldn’t tow their equipment. The Coupe’s alternate using an electric Ford Escape and a Ford Truck.
“That’s our only gas kind of kink right now in the business,” Dimitri explained.
On top of drumming up interest, working with your twin brother has its advantages.
“You don’t feel bad yelling at each other and fighting. We are not afraid to put each other in each other’s places,” Dimitri said.
But these teenagers are playing off each other’s strengths. Dimitri is good at being on time and keeping a schedule while Philip is good at pitching the business and adding more clients.
In May, the brothers were selected to give a TEDx Talk at Cape Elizabeth High School titled “The Future of Electric.” It’s also helped generate business.
Whether they will stick with the business or sell it when they go to college is yet to be decided, but the lessons of being young entrepreneurs will stick with them.
“I have learned I want to be my own boss,” Dimitri said.
Innovation is fueling their business and Philip and Dimitri hope what they’re doing will help change other people’s minds, or at least get them thinking about new ways to do old chores.
“Once you begin using electrical equipment, I don’t think you will ever want to go back. That is what I have seen. It might be kind of hard to get started… but once you realize the potential that electrical equipment can have it becomes easy,” Philip said.
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