Toronto university student founds business while seeking summer job

TheMurtons
Keith and Christy Murton celebrate their silver business anniversary alongside Sierra and Dakota, their two dogs.

Keith Murton wanted a summer job. But the 21-year-old security guard was tired of working indoors. Starting a business was his only answer.

“It was something I wanted to do outside,” Murton said. “I started (the Kutting Krew) with two friends from Ryerson (University.)”

It wasn’t long before he borrowed money from his parents, acquired a lawn mower and started advertising the trio’s grass-cutting service. One friend named their business after the popular 80s band, the Cutting Crew.

 

After designing and printing  5000 advertising flyers, the young Krew found starting a business wasn’t easy. Knocking door-to-door was time consuming and required the investment of many unpaid hours.

The original group disbanded after several weeks when one friend quit, preferring to hold onto his other job, while the second took some of the customers and formed a separate business, following a disagreement.

It didn’t stop Murton. He kept the name and continued running business from his parents’ basement, encouraged by their first success with a customer.

“It was pretty exciting, like, oh, something worked,” he said. “Before you sign up your first customer, you think you’re never going to get one.”

During his first year, Murton worked on 17 lawns. He remembers his parents were very supportive and understanding, especially when Murton got the family car dirty, which he used to transport the lawn mower.

Christy Murton, his wife, says the students wanted a higher profit ratio than what they could make working for someone else.

“They had the initiative,” she said. “They thought it was better, financially, for them to start their own business and create some independence and start a legacy that they could continue off their own work, as opposed to relying on an employer.”

Both of them met while on vacation with groups of friends at Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, in 1993. Christy managed a McDonalds at the time and they discovered a shared interest in financial planning. Falling in love, they soon became both life and business partners.

“We joined forces… he’s very good with paperwork and taxes and the whole accounting thing, which I’m not good at,” she said. “I’m better with relationships with employees – I really love my employees – they’re like my kids, honestly.”

The Kutting Krew expanded over time, becoming a landscaping company, providing gardening services and cleaning properties from leaves and sticks, trimming bushes, trees, preparing perennials and various plant pruning, including fertilizing, weeding and fixing lawns and flower beds, in addition to grass-cutting.

For customer Geoff Clark, it also meant removing wasp nests.

“Keith had to come back more than once to fix them,” Clark said. “It was a test of his ingenuity, because they were pretty tough, we had to actually sort of board them up inside, because we just couldn’t get them away.”

It was his most memorable moment with the company since he signed up for their services, over 20 years ago. Clark switched from a previous landscaping company after one of his bushes was ruined. In the present day, he continues recommending the Kutting Krew to others.

“They’re just great, we love Keith and all of his people, they’re all conscientious and do a good job,” he said. “We know several people around here who use Kutting Krew and nobody’s ever had anything negative to say about this firm.”

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