Kaufman strives far, achieves 2009 YEK award Friday, May 08, 2009 By Erin Bradley
For his fourth time in two years, senior Evan Kaufman traveled to New York for a business event. There, he received the national Young Entrepreneurs of the Year award at the 2009 Global National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) Awards. Students from 18 countries received the same honor. "I was shocked at how large the program was, how they reach into 18 different countries," Kaufman said. Kaufman won the award for creating and running his business, Grassmasters. Initially, Kaufman wanted to build sheds and eventually a house for his sister, but his parents did not want him building houses quite yet. They were afraid he would make too much money and think he did not need to go to college. Kaufman wanted to start a lawn maintenance and landscaping business, and his parents agreed it was okay. "It wasn’t your normal ‘Johnny mow the lawn’ professional at the end. No other company in Newton, I believe, has the look that we had," Kaufman said. "Khaki shorts, matching shirts, matching shoes. We matched socks. We almost had matching hats, but that’s a little too much." In preparation for going to the Air Force Academy next year, Kaufman recently sold Grassmasters for $12,000 to Gregory Beltz. Kaufman said it wasn’t the business itself that he would miss. "I like landscaping and lawn maintenance, but that’s not what I really love about it," Kaufman said. "I love the feeling of providing something to the community." Kaufman said it was a unique experience. "When you actually pay other friends or other employees, it’s just a unique feeling, something you don’t get when you work for minimum wage, something you don’t get when you fry waffles," he said. One reason Kaufman began Grassmasters was because he realized minimum wage would not get him where he wanted to go. "You can’t live off of minimum wage. You can’t do it," Kaufman said. "My mom, she teaches at Hutch. She has so many kids drop out, and they think they can make it because their husband, at age 17, will make it on $10 and hour. It doesn’t work." To be successful, Kaufman believes that everyone should take a Youth Entrepreneur of Kansas (YEK) class. Although he is going to college and no longer owns Grassmasters, he says he loved every minute of running the business because it is something students don’t get in the classroom. "I loved it, 100 percent. It’s something that is totally unique," Kaufman said. Kaufman says he is now on to bigger things. "Entrepreneurship is a whole different feeling to life. It gives you freedom in what you want to do. You’re not being stuck behind a desk, not stuck doing something you don’t want to. You find out what you want to do, what you really love, and then you get the opportunity to do it. That’s what entrepreneurship is," Kaufman said. "Entrepreneurship is a whole different feeling to life. It gives you freedom in what you want to do. You’re not being stuck behind a desk, not stuck doing something you don’t want to. You find out what you want to do, what you really love, and then you get the opportunity to do it. That’s what entrepreneurship is," Kaufman said.