I started working for a local lawn care company in 1985. I worked on a mowing crew for 2 years. I started applying fertilizer and weed control in 1986. It was a great seasonal job that allowed me to work my way through high schools and college. I graduated Calvin College with a bachelor’s of science degree in Accountancy in 1993. I worked the summer of 1993 fertilizing lawns and took a job in the fall at Source Club (Meijers’ attempt at a warehouse club). When I was at Source Club for one month, they closed their doors. I decided that my heart was in lawn care. I started Tuff Turf in January of 1994. I knocked on doors and hung a lot of flyers advertising my service. I ended my first year with 350 fertilization and weed control customers. My mother worked part time as my secretary, which was convenient because I had moved back into my parents’ basement.
I hired my first technician in 1995 and shared the technician with a colleague since I did not need a full time technician. In 2000 I had 2 full time technicians and hired a part time secretary since the office work required more hours than my mother wanted to work. In the fall of 2000, the owner of Molebusters, Lee Bunker, passed away in a tragic accident. I purchased the business from his widow. The rest, as they say, is history.
As of August 2016, I have two full time assistants, one part time assistant, a full time general manager, 2 full time salesmen, and 12 full time technicians. The mole and mosquito businesses have really grown. I have 8 full time mole and mosquito technicians. In 2013 we expanded our mole and mosquito services to Detroit.
My equipment has evolved over the years. I used to walk behind a motorized push spreader. I bought my first riding fertilizer machine in 1995, and started to make my own machines in 1996, replacing the equipment every other year. My fleet of trucks keeps changing also. I customize my trucks so each truck is specially equipped for the services it provides. I put the first mole on my truck in 2004. For my 2008 truck I have changed the artwork and did a custom vehicle wrap. 2009 is when I was told I bumped my head hard and switched my color schemes to fluorescent orange and green. I have not been able to convince my wife Vickie how nice her mini van would look with orange rims and a mole on the roof.
Thank you for taking the time to read my story and my history.
Jim Zylstra, Founder