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Young entrepreneur, 19, is giving back

WILTON — As youth throughout New Hampshire contemplate whether to seek a summer job, a local teen has already started his own business and is donating a portion of his profits.

Since a young age, Sam Schwanke’s family has instilled in him the value of hard work and a strong work ethic. The Wilton teen, who just turned 19, is paying his way through college by sealing driveways one job at a time.

And although his mission is to raise money to pay for his schooling, it is also his hope that this new business venture will help others suffering from various addictions, including drugs and alcohol.

Schwanke started his own business, Schwanke Sealing, in the summer of 2015 after a neighbor taught him how to sealcoat driveways by hand. He did not envision becoming a young entrepreneur.

“I never thought I would be buying commercial-grade equipment, but I saw an opportunity,” he said. “There is a need out there to be able to sealcoat at a fair price.”

The risk has been worth it, according to Schwanke, who sealcoated 20 driveways in the summer of 2015, and 50 driveways and two parking lots last summer.

This summer, he is preparing to work on 200 driveways and about 10 parking lots.

Schwanke, who graduated high school from Dublin Christian Academy and just finished his freshman year at Pensacola Christian College in Florida, is studying business management.

He has two friends who help him with some of the work, which includes cleaning debris to the base of the asphalt, filling cracks and using quality rubber products.

He hopes to someday expand his business into a franchise sealcoating company. In the meantime, Schwanke is donating 20 percent of his profits to the Manchester chapter of Reformers Unanimous, a nationwide faith-based addiction program operated locally at the Gospel Baptist Church, 52 Concord St., Manchester.

“Schwanke Sealing is all about lowering the number of broken families due to addiction,” he said. “What strives us to keep working long hours in the heat and sun is the goal of lowering the addiction crisis in New Hampshire.”

Schwanke is hopeful that the money he earns will allow him to graduate debt free, and also help others struggling with alcohol or opioid misuse.

“This is my way of helping, my way of giving back. It is often said that you can’t run from addiction unless you are running toward something else,” he said.

Nationwide, studies have shown that about half of millennials are interested in starting their own business, but about 75 percent of them do not know how to go about doing it.

“There is a generational gap there,” said Rich Grogan, state director of the New Hampshire Small Business Development Center. “What I hear constantly is that there is a real impediment to youth entrepreneurship, especially for the college age, because of the exponential growth of the cost of higher education.”

Having a large amount of debt while in college and after graduation can reorient a person’s perspective when it comes to their job search, according to Grogan.

“They don’t see a pathway to becoming bankable where they can borrow money,” he said.

The advantage of starting a business at such a young age, said Grogan, is that young entrepreneurs will learn valuable lessons early on in their careers that will make them stronger in their business ventures later on.

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