Schenectady 8th grader not your average lawn guy
Published by the Times Union on July 31, 2019.
When he was 3 years old, Adam Engert told his grandparents he wanted a lawn mower for his 4th birthday.
That was nearly 9 years ago and since then the precocious youngster has turned his passion into a business venture called Mo’s Mowing.
“It’s just something that I enjoy doing and it’s calming for me,” said Adam with his mother Lisa Mareno and grandmother Bernadette Lise Mareno by his side.
“Since I was 3, I’ve been mowing with her, ” he said, referring to his grandmother. “I just kind of gained this liking for doing it and I haven’t stopped doing it since.”
Lisa Mareno, 39, who Adam lovingly calls his business secretary, said her son handles most aspects of the business, including soliciting customers by himself.
Through mostly word of mouth and knocking on doors, he’s up to eight customers, with the largest lawn being about an acre. His fleet of equipment includes two riding mowers (one of which his stepfather Keith Schaffer found on the side of a road for free in Vermont), two self-propelled push mowers, a weed trimmer, three blowers and miscellaneous other tools.
John Ward, who winters in Arizona but owns property in Rotterdam, is one of Adam’s satisfied customers.
“He’s a very polite young man, he’s very prompt, he does an unbelievable job,” said Ward, a retired Schenectady police detective.
Tony Pantelleria said Adam, who lives around the corner from Adam in the Goose Hill neighborhood, cuts his grass every other week.
“He’s a good worker, very reliable, and well-mannered,” said Pantelleria, who has been using Adam’s services for the past three years.
At first, Adam would leave it up to the customer to pay him what they thought the job was worth, which in many cases was more than he expected.
But these days, he sets the prices based on the size of the lawn and the labor involved.
“There’s actually a way you can do it through Google maps and then there’s different software you can get online or you can go out and do it the old-fashioned way which is the measuring wheel,” said Adam, who turns 13 in December.
While he said he would like to stay in landscaping as he gets older, the Christian Brothers Academy rising 8th grader said he is also looking at possibly going into the military.
He runs track and cross country at CBA and is a member of the Schenectady County Explorers program that exposes youngsters to law enforcement.
Adam says there is an art to cutting lawns that a lot of people don’t fully appreciate.
He explained that he first loops around the edges of the lawn and then cuts diagonally, that way you can see the strips better from the road as you pass by the finished lawn.
“If you can see a different pattern, it makes it look better,” he added. “You can zip through mowing but the trimming and the cleaning take the longest.”
His mother recounted the time she texted Adam to find out what he was doing and he told her that he was watching a lawn specialist.
Bernadette Mareno recalled that an inquisitive Adam first showed an interest in mowing the lawn when he was 2 years old and watching her do it. She guided him but not for long.
“By the time he was 3 he was pretty comfortable pushing the machine because it was self-propelled,” said Mareno, 68.
Before long, he told his grandmother that he wanted a mower for his 4th birthday.
She and his paternal grandparents obliged and together they purchased him a machine on clearance at Wal-Mart.
“When it was time for his gifts, they brought in the lawnmower, and he was beside himself,” she said.
Adam said cutting grass is cathartic.
The business-minded youngster landed his first customer, outside of family, when he was 6 years old and asked a neighbor if he could do his grass. The man said yes.
“That really started me wanting to build (the business) bigger and bigger,” he said.
To maximize his profits, Adam said he tries to do most of the repairs himself when the equipment breaks down.
Bernadette Mareno, a retired business analyst, said she opened up a bank account for Adam and his older brother, Hayden Engert.
She urged them to invest the money and taught Adam how to use a spreadsheet.
Adam said running his business has taught him the importance of money management.
“He thinks twice about spending,” added Bernadette Mareno.