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How a 17-year-old built a six figure business

Charlie Kerrigan knows something about the world that most people simply don't. His answer to a fulfilled life was found through delayed gratification, a hunger for knowledge, and a passion for the outdoors. 

At 17, Charlie is the founder and President of V.I.L Landscaping. What started as a 10-year-old kid knocking on doors with a push mower turned into a full-fledged landscaping business with nine employees and, as Charlie puts it, "nine families to feed."

Ben Brown
Ben Brown

He started his company at 14 as a grade 9 student with a bike, lawnmower, wagon, and phone number written on the side.

With school being online, he devoted plenty of time and energy to growing his business. While other students might have seen online learning as a challenge, Charlie saw it as an opportunity.

In this world, we celebrate students who achieve academic excellence. Parents are proud when they see their children pursue higher education and secure a stable jobs.

But for Charlie, the conventional path was never appealing. He didn't find joy in the rigid structure of classrooms or textbooks - and realized that the learning style just wasn't for him. He didn't want to learn how to be an employee; he wanted to succeed on his own in something he was genuinely interested in.

His passion ignited in 2016, and Oakville provided Charlie with the perfect canvas to make his entrepreneurial mark. 

When I spoke to Charlie, it was clear that he had something 99% of kids his age might spend their whole lives searching for: a clear sense of purpose.

It was funny, meeting him at a Tim Hortons and noticing that he had parked his big V.I.L Landscaping truck right in front of a row of houses. It was a testament to his innovative thinking - even during a casual coffee meetup, he was actively promoting his business.

When I asked Charlie what it is that's driven him to dedicate his youth to owning and operating a business, he responded that this was the best form of education anyone could ask for.

"I'll learn more in a meeting with my accountant or my legal team than I ever would in a classroom," Charlie said.

"My dad would always tell me not to leave the lights on in the basement. I never want to have that argument with my kid or look at the price of anything; a $500 dinner shouldn't be something to stress over."

Ben Brown
Ben Brown

As a kid, he was written off for not conforming or trying to excel in traditional academics. What his story demonstrates is that there are multiple paths to a fulfilled life.

After speaking with Matt Cahill, a psychotherapist who specializes in working with business owners, we highlighted the metaphor of the "C students."

The "C students" aren't necessarily the ones who get bad grades; they're the ones who pursue unconventional paths, often disregarding the conventional norms set by society. 

Cahill outlined that often the most successful entrepreneurs are non-conformists, and when it comes to education, the one size fits all approach doesn't always nurture their true potential.

For Charlie, he has been fortunate to recognize this early and find a passion that fuels his drive and motivates him to succeed.

"So Charlie, you're 17 years old with employees twice your age and a receptionist, looking ahead 10 years from now at your 27-year-old self, where do you think you'll be?"

As easy as it would've been for anybody in Charlie's position to boast, he remained humble and professional in his response.

"In 10 years, I see myself leading a diversified business empire. V.I.L will have expanded into new territories, and I'll be involved in other ventures, like real estate, that align with my vision for the future."

This is not a mentality built at 17 by believing there is only one path to success. Parents and children alike can draw valuable lessons from Charlie's story.

He illustrates that what may seem unconventional to others can actually be your unique key to success and fulfillment.

For anyone interested in creating their own business in Oakville, the Halton Region has a Summer Company initiative for those aged 15-29 that aids with start-up costs and mentorship.

This year's application deadline has passed, but let it be something to think about and a reminder that there are resources and paths available for young entrepreneurs in Ontario.

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Ben Brown

About the Author: Ben Brown

Ben Brown is a local news reporter from Oakville, Ontario, a graduate from WIlfrid Laurier University and a self-published author. His main focus is reporting on crime, local businesses and achievements, and general news assignments throughout town
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