Being in the lawncare business has given Jim Zylstra and his family many stories to remember. There’s the time he thought he secured a mole in the back, and it crept under the driver’s seat. Or the time when his kids’ pet moles, housed in a dirt-filled aquarium, escaped to mom’s flower bed. And then there’s the story about winning a brand new Ford Transit in a national competition.
Jim began Tuff Turf lawncare 21 years ago from his parent’s basement. After only a year, he had 350 fertilization and weed control customers. After his acquisition of Molebusters in 2000, he combined the two services and began expanding. Now, he has a fleet of vehicles and a full staff, including technicians, mole specific technicians, salesmen, a service manager, an assistant, a horticulturist, and more. His Byron Center, Mich. business has grown exponentially, and in 2013, he even expanded to Detroit.
The 2014 Transit Means Business Challenge is a nationwide competition put on by Ford. Jim casually entered the contest while he was on vacation in August 2014. As an early riser, he was the only one awake at the time. He read an e-mail about the contest and decided to give it a shot. “It never even crossed my mind that I would win. I entered out of boredom,” he said, laughing.
By November, he received the news that he was a top 10 finalist, which was judged by a panel based on the originality and validity of the company, as well as the level of interest their story created. Natalie Olson, the communication and events coordinator at Ford, informed Jim that he had a good shot at making the top 30. Then, the probability heightened to making the top 10.
The grand winner was left up to the public. The judges stepped out, and the business with the most public votes was deemed the winner: Tuff Turf Mole Busters. “I wasn’t shocked when I received top 10 due to Natalie’s optimism, but to be the winner? That was a huge surprise,” said Jim.