A CEO at 17: How this Colorado teen transformed his side hustle into a legitimate business

Posted at 2:05 PM, Jun 27, 2018

For most kids in the summer, having a lemonade stand or mowing lawns is a right of passage. But one Colorado teen's side job has turned it into a legitimate business.

RJ Duarte is just 17 years old and owns his own landscaping company called Green Worx. He started mowing lawns at 8 years old to buy candy at the convenient store. Now, 10 years and 14 full-time employees, later Duarte is running his own company.

"It's been a long road here so far," says Duarte, CEO and founder of Green Worx. "But, I feel like I m just getting started."

The journey for the teenager is far from over, but the road to get to where he is was a challenge because he was a full-time student.

"Last year we do contract mowing at 4 a.m., then go to school, and then do school for eight hours, right after school we would work up until dark," Duarte says.

Besides being a working student, there were a lot of other struggles he had to overcome.

"The hardest part about being a business owner is there's never a set schedule, you're the last to get paid, you take care of everyone before yourself," the teen business owner says. "Another struggle we have is being so young — financial institutions, insurance companies don't take me seriously."

He might be a teenager making more money than some adults, but he says he has had to sacrifice a lot to get to where he is.

"We work 80, 90,100 hours a week in the summer, so the summer for us is like work-cation," he says. "I missed out on birthday parties and grad parties."

Now a high school graduate, Duarte will be going to college in the fall and says his next challenge will be growing Green Worx while away at school.

"It wouldn't be fun if there weren't challenges and problems," he says. "If it was the same old thing I wouldn't be doing it."