Mowing In America: 11-Year-Old Entrepreneur Tackles White House Lawn

Sep 15, 2017
Originally published on September 15, 2017 6:30 pm

Tens of thousands of people write letters or emails to the White House each day. Only a handful make it to the president's desk.

But when someone offers to mow your lawn for free, it gets your attention. Especially when that someone is only 10 years old.

Frank "FX" Giaccio made that offer to the president this summer saying, "I'd like to show the nation what young people like me are ready for."

Impressed, Trump invited Frank — who has since turned 11 — to spend a morning with the White House groundskeepers. And after donning work gloves and safety glasses, the young man went to work Friday trimming the grass outside the Oval Office in the Rose Garden.

"We're lucky," Trump said after watching Frank for a few minutes. "That's the real future of the country."

Frank had offered to bring his own mower and weed whacker, but the National Park Service, which maintains the White House grounds, supplied all the tools he needed.

"It was good, apart from the blazing hot sun," Frank said afterwards. "The good thing was there were no hills."

This was not Frank's first lawn-mowing rodeo.

After watching his dad do yard work for years, Frank was finally deemed old enough to operate a power mower this summer. He quickly showed his own entrepreneurial powers, passing out flyers in his Falls Church, Va., neighborhood in the D.C. metro area and lining up two neighbors as weekly mowing customers.

He pockets about $20 a week, which his dad calls good money for an 11-year-old. But Frank wanted more.

"'I could really grow my business if I wrote President Trump,'" Gregory Giaccio recalls his son telling him. "I was sure he'd get a form letter [back], which is more than enough."

Both Frank and his dad were surprised and pleased last month when White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders read his letter aloud during a televised press briefing.

"I didn't actually know I was going to come up on TV," Frank said. "But I was like, 'Let's see how far this gets me.'"

So far it's gotten him a handshake photo in the Oval Office with the president, a spate of TV interviews and a laudatory tweet from Trump that included a slick video produced by the White House.

Priceless memories, his dad says. And priceless marketing for his nascent lawn-mowing business.

Frank is still trying to decide how he'll spend the money he made this summer — perhaps on a big Lego set or a smartphone.

While he didn't charge for the Rose Garden job, the groundskeepers let him keep the work gloves. And two Park Service employees confirmed that Frank did an excellent job.

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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Every day, thousands of people write letters and emails to the president. Now and then, Press Secretary Sarah Sanders reads from one of those letters during her White House briefing. She read a letter last month from a boy who she said embodied the ambitious spirit of America.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS: Dear Mr. President, it would be my honor to mow the White House lawn for some weekend for you. Even though I'm only 10, I'd like to show the nation what young people like me are ready for.

SHAPIRO: Today that young man, Frank of Falls Church, Va., got his chance. NPR's Scott Horsley reports.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: In his letter, Frank Giaccio offered to bring his own power mower and weed whacker to the White House. But that turned out to be unnecessary. The Park Service groundskeepers had all the equipment he needed. So after donning work gloves and safety glasses, Frank fired up the mower and got to work.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAWN MOWER)

HORSLEY: The White House grounds cover 18 acres, but Frank was assigned to one high-profile chunk - the lawn in the Rose Garden just outside the Oval Office.

FRANK: It was good apart from the blazing-hot sun. But the good thing was there were no hills.

HORSLEY: Two of the regular groundskeepers were impressed, saying Frank did an excellent job. And it's no surprise. His dad, Gregory Giaccio, says this is not Frank's first time behind a mower.

GREGORY GIACCIO: Frank has always followed me around when I - doing the yard work. And he's always wanted to do it. And this year, he's 10. And he felt he was competent to use the power mower. And for the first time, he did a great job.

HORSLEY: Frank also showed off his entrepreneurial powers this summer, handing out flyers in his Virginia neighborhood and signing up a couple of regular lawn mowing customers. He earns about 20 bucks a week, which his dad says is pretty good money for a kid his age. But Frank wanted more. He figured he could boost his business by writing to the president who, after all, knows a thing or two about marketing. Frank was surprised and delighted when the White House press secretary read his letter out loud on television.

FRANK: I didn't actually know that I was going to come up on TV, but I was like, let's see how far this gets me.

HORSLEY: So far, it's gotten him a tour of the White House, a spate of television interviews and a handshake photo with the president himself, who watched this morning as Frank pushed his mower around the Rose Garden.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Future of the country right there.

FRANK: (Laughter).

TRUMP: We're lucky. That's the real future of the country.

HORSLEY: Frank might want to use that slogan when he updates the flyer for his lawn mowing business. He didn't charge for the White House job, but he does get to keep the Park Service work gloves along with what his dad says are some priceless memories. And the young entrepreneur is already thinking about how he'll spend the profits from his other lawn mowing gigs - maybe a smartphone, Frank says, or a really big Lego set. Scott Horsley, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.