Three years ago, Dimitri and Philip Coupe started an all-electric lawn care business called Solar Mow. Today they are up to 30 clients 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 wasn’t just a no-brainer, it’s something they’re using to market themselves.
“Being twins, everybody likes that. It’s an extra boost for us,” Dimitri Coupe said.
The other thing that sets the businesses of these teenage lawn mowing entrepreneurs apart is the equipment they use: all-electric tools from trimmers to push and ride mowers, all powered by solar panels on the family home.
When the teenagers were freshmen in high school, their parents stopped paying for their Cumbies gifts and told them they had to get jobs. Their father, Philip Coupe, who is 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 bought their appliances 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 works better. There’s less maintenance,” explained Philip Coupe.
During their first summer, the brothers amassed 12 clients, all purposefully close to their home. They used their father’s Nissan Leaf to get to and from work – which meant their entire enterprise was a zero-emission, eco-friendly business.
But it wasn’t long before they started to run into problems. The batteries in the lawnmower started dying after just a few lawns. The boys were forced home to charge their batteries for five hours before taking the field again.
“It was a typical argument for the anti-electric people who always say, ‘I don’t want to buy this because it’s just going to kill me.'” If we hadn’t run a lawn care business with that home grade mower, we would it was absolutely brilliant,” said Dimitri.
Two summers ago, the brothers kicked things up a notch when they bought a $24,000 industrial-grade electric mower. The price was intimidating, but they’ve already paid for the mower in full and can continue to grow their small summer business with a mower that can cut lawns all day long without stopping.
Their business is part of a national trend to phase out gasoline-powered landscaping equipment and replace it with battery-powered tools.
The Nissan Leaf eventually failed to pull their gear. Coupe alternative using an electric Ford Escape and a Ford Truck.
“This is our only type of gas in the business right now,” Dimitri explained.
Besides the increased interest, working with your twin brother has its advantages.
“You don’t feel bad yelling at each other and fighting. We’re not afraid to put each other in each other’s shoes,” Dimitri said.
But these teenagers are playing to each other’s strengths. Dimitri is good at being on time and keeping a schedule, while Philip is good at opening the business and adding more customers.
In May, the brothers were selected to give a TEDx talk at Cape Elizabeth High School titled “The Future of Electricity.” It has also helped in business creation.
Whether they will stay with the business or sell it when they go to college is yet to be decided, but the lessons of being young entrepreneurs will stay with them.
“I learned that I want to be my own boss,” said Dimitri.
Innovation is driving their business, and Philip and Dimitri hope that what they’re doing will help change other people’s minds, or at least make them think of new ways of doing old jobs.
“Once you start using electrical equipment, I don’t think you’ll want to go back. That’s what I’ve seen. It can be a bit difficult to get started… but once you understand the potential that electrical equipment can give you easy,” Philip said.
For more information about Solar Mow call 207-210-1998 or 207-295-5632.
Click here to sign up for the Maine Break Time NEWS Center’s daily newsletter.
For the latest news, weather and traffic alerts, download the NEWS CENTER Maine mobile app.