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WVU Tech senior graduates with honors while owning small business

Graduating from college is a milestone achievement in anyone’s life. Graduating from college with honors while being a young business owner and working full time in your small business is another milestone entirely.

Hunter Tolliver owns Tolli’s Lawn Care, a small business that handles lawn care, mulching, landscaping and more. Tolliver is a Beckley native who graduated from Woodrow Wilson High School and was drawn to WVU Tech initially because of the engineering program and location.

In the past two years, his business has taken off. In addition to his demanding school schedule, he’s taking care of up to 70 yards a week.

“I’m getting five or six calls a day for work,” he says. “Right now, it’s just me and one other guy taking care of 70 yards a week, plus all kinds of other stuff. We stay busy.”

After graduation, he hopes to pick up around 100 yards a week.

His interest in landscaping and yard work came from his grandpa. When he was 10 or 11, his grandpa asked him to mow his grass. It was the first time he had mowed grass, and he says while he missed several spots and kept working until his grandpa was happy, he enjoyed the work.

“I missed so much stuff,” he laughs.

His grandpa also loves plants and gardening, which is where he found his enjoyment in landscaping. Tolliver started mowing people’s yards in the neighborhood and realized he liked landscaping more than mowing so started doing more of that type of work.

Tolliver has officially been in business since 2018 but has done this work for the past ten years. Still, Tolliver has successfully run, grown and maintained a small business during his four years at Tech.

“You become very good at multitasking. It’s a full-time business plus being a full-time student. I don’t know how I do it. In the summer I really wonder how I do all this plus school. It’s definitely a challenge,” he says. “But I keep looking forward to graduation.”

Tolliver wasn’t always in construction management, however. He started at Tech as a civil engineering major. While calculus proved difficult while balancing school and work, he discovered it wasn’t his path when he shadowed someone at a civil engineering job. 

“I knew a civil engineer who told me I could job shadow him at the Army Corps of Engineers. I was like, ‘I can’t sit inside on the computer all day.’ I’m not an inside person, I need to be outside,” he says.

“I’m glad I did that, though,” he recalls.

Tolliver said he knew he liked math and was good at it but wasn’t sure what to do after he realized civil engineering wasn’t his future. He found the construction management program more his wheelhouse.

“I’ve always loved building and landscaping. We’ve always done patios and retaining walls and that type of thing, so I thought if I decided I ever wanted to do something besides this [his business] then construction management might be a good thing,” he explains.

“I’ve enjoyed the program. I’ve learned a lot more and I think it will help moving forward whether I continue to do landscaping or if I decide to go into the construction industry,” he said of his time at Tech.

He shared that his professors have been great to work with, and while they know he is busy, they expect the same things they’d expect of any other student.

“Luckily, they don’t care if I show up to class dirty or covered in grass either,” he laughs.

Tolliver said he’s taken a few business classes at Tech but has learned most of the business from trial and error and figuring things out as he grows his company.

After graduation, Tolliver plans to continue growing his business for now.

“The goal is to keep growing, get some commercialized contracts and hopefully I can find some people to work for me too,” he says.

He has a few people that help him out during the summer, including his younger brother and his friends when they’re not in school. Another construction management senior was also helping him out, though he has had to cut back due to the workload and getting an industry job, Tolliver says. His grandpa will also helps him out.

“He’ll probably be out with me today – he loves helping me with landscaping work. Every time I’m out he wants to know why he didn’t call him,” he says.

Tolliver gave some advice for those who are working and going to school.

“Try to keep your weekends free and manage your time well. Get to know your professors. Show up and communicate, and a little caffeine helps,” he laughs. “My brother will be going to college in a couple of years, and I would tell him the same thing,” Tolliver says.

Tolliver will be graduating with honors on Saturday, May 6. You can find Tolli’s Lawn Care on Facebook.