A young Freeland entrepreneur is defying stereotypes about a younger generation that it is lazy or entitled.
Oliver was only a teenager in 2016 when he began his own home services business, cleaning windows, gutters and roofs. Now he is nearly 21 years of age, and his business, Let There Be Light, has grown. Oliver oversees two full-time employees and a part-time office manager.
“It’s a challenge, just trying to put yourself in their shoes and to make the best work environment for everyone,” he said about being a boss and supervising a staff older than himself.
Oliver described himself as always having a sort of “entrepreneurial spirit.” He worked for his uncle’s window-cleaning company in Seattle starting when he was 12. His experience there made him confident enough to consider the possibility of starting his own business.
The South Whidbey native earned his associate’s degree through the Running Start program, but he found himself at a crossroads as he neared the end of high school. He loved the island and wanted to find a way to stay. Starting his own business, instead of attending college far away, seemed like the solution.
“I knew it was always something that I wanted to do, and I would regret it if I didn’t at least try it,” Oliver said.
To bolster business, he hired a pair of brothers and longtime friends of his, Cameron and Joe Williams.
“I’m quite a bit older than he is, but I’ve learned so much in the way of how to manage a business and start a business,” Cameron recently said at a job site. “You don’t really learn that in school. I know he didn’t go to school for all of that stuff, and he just seemed like he figured that out really quick.”
According to one study conducted by America’s Small Business Development Center Network, 30 percent of millennials — people born roughly between 1980 and 2000 — have already started some kind of business.
In a letter to the South Whidbey Record, Kerry Hansen said his son, Oliver, is a well-respected business owner despite his age.
“At a time when millennials are not always presented in the best light, I am proud to say that my son is not one of them,” Kerry wrote. “Oliver has over eight years of experience in the industry and has built and maintained a strong business due to the quality of his work, honoring the appointment schedule and operating in an ethical and professional manner.”
Oliver said 60 to 70 percent of the services his business provides are for cleaning windows. Most of his clientele are retirees who are unable to get on ladders and reach their windows.
“There’s a lot of scary work that we do that we need to be professional at it to make sure to do a good job,” he said. “Anyone can go out with Windex and clean a window, but if you want to hire us, you’ll get the best results and I think that’s the reason we get called for window-cleaning.”
Although the office for Let There Be Light is based in Clinton, Oliver said his company services the whole island, including Oak Harbor.
Every once in a while he does work in Mukilteo and Seattle, and even has a couple of contracts in Leavenworth. But most business is conducted on the island at private residences and commercial facilities, such as the Freeland Ace Hardware.
“I think the initial challenge was going over town. He thought he was going to make a splash over Highway 99 doing commercial work,” his father Kerry said. “He realized Whidbey Island was a better place for his business to thrive.”
Kerry added, “I’m just proud of him. He’s a young guy and he’s done well with what he’s doing.”