Young entrepreneur parlays series of odd jobs to business success His first venture was raking leaves

August 23, 1992|By Frank Lynch | Frank Lynch,Staff Writer

Brad MiLton is a man for hire.

Need a few cows milked? Want your lawn cut? How about a truckload of mulch? A cord of wood? Any hauling done? You can contact this 19-year-old whirlwind entrepreneur.

He can be found most any morning around 11 o'clock stocking his latest venture -- Brad's Produce Stand on Route 22 near Route 543. If you miss him, his employees will gladly furnish one of his business cards.

His odyssey in the business world began seven years ago. As a Churchville youngster, he tried playing soccer like most of his friends, but "it just didn't grab me," he said.

What did grab him was a day, any day, in the field, or in the barn, or in a truck bound for the Eastern Shore for a load of produce.

It all began when he was in the seventh grade and his father asked if he wanted to rake some leaves for a neighbor. He did, and told the neighbor he'd be back to do it again the following week. Word about his work ethic spread quickly.

In a few weeks he had 10 customers, and the money jar began to fill.

Cutting lawns followed, and when his bankroll reached $500, his father suggested he open a bank account.

"That's when I found out about interest rates," he said. "I couldn'tbelieve I could make money just by putting it in the bank."

Over the next two years, he added a paper route and quarter-acre vegetable garden to his income-producing sources.

Finding he still had time to spare, he took on milking cows on a Havre de Grace dairy farm. One day while he was putting the squeeze on ol' Bessie, his parents arrived on the scene with a present for his 16th birthday. "I flipped," he said, when they handed him the keys to a new 4X4 pickup truck.

"He had expressed a need for a truck," said his mother, Gail, "so my husband and I delivered." Just to make sure he wasn't a total charity case, young Milton paid for half of his gift.

Although his hectic pace continued for the next two years, it didn't affect his school work. He managed to carry a solid "B" average, earn membership in the National Honor Society and was awarded the Susquehannock Environmental Center scholarship, valued at $1,000.

Bob Chance, founder of the Susquehannock Environmental Center and former teacher at C. Milton Wright High School, said: "Brad Milton is one of those students a teacher never forgets. He is so industrious and level-headed. He is well-liked by customers and peers alike. I have no doubt he'll succeed in business."

His employees offer similar sentiments. "He's easy to work for," said Julie Meyers, who works a few days a week at the produce stand. "He doesn't act like a boss. He explains what he wants us to do and trusts us to do it."

When he graduated from high school in 1991, his graduation party was different from most.

"Brad made out the invitation list, and at least half of the names on it were adults he had met through his many jobs," his mother said. "He loves to be in the company of adults."

Area farmers like David Keyes, Jim Smith, Arthur Hopkins and Tom and Paula Harmans have been impressed not only by his work ethic, but also with his intense desire to learn from them.

"I found it highly unusual for someone his age [15 at the time] to have such an interest in the total operation of a dairy farm," said Mr. Keyes, a dairy farmer in Havre de Grace. "He's a hard worker, and if he can acquire the financing needed to purchase a farm, he should do well."

Meanwhile, Brad Milton goes about his business. Stocking the produce stand requires a daily trip to the Eastern Shore for a load of vegetables. His mother gets up at 2:30 a.m. during the week and rides with him to Chestertown.

"I know she's afraid I'll fall asleep," he said. His father, Jim, makes the drive on weekends while letting his son catch up on much-needed sleep.

Although he's slightly embarrassed to talk about his net worth, he says it is substantial and that he now has a financial adviser investing for him.

During the school year, his workload will be limited to a few hours each weekend. Now entering his sophomore year at the University of Delaware (majoring in agriculture/business management), this ever-smiling young man has a clear picture of where he wants to be by the turn of the century.

"I want to own a 200- to 300-acre farm producing enough vegetables to operate a string of retail stands in densely populated areas," he said.

"I hope to be able to take care of my whole family -- my mom and dad and my sister Stacey. My parents have supported me in everything I've done. I just want to be able to repay them."

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