Leaders in Action: The business of success

Pierson Painter’s small business plan put UND among the lights of Times Square

Starting with his father’s lawn mower, Pierson Painter built a successful lawn and property maintenance, landscaping and snow-removal business — a perfect background for his UND marketing and entrepreneurship dual degree. Photo by Mike Hess/UND Today.

What started as a small endeavor that provided Pierson Painter with the flexibility to work and play three sports in high school grew into a business that earned him the rare opportunity to ring the closing bell for the NASDAQ Stock Exchange.

Painter, who is a native of Grand Forks, North Dakota, launched Dakota Lawn and Landscape in 2017. “I was a three-sport athlete in high school,” said the University of North Dakota senior. “I didn’t have time for a normal job. I needed something that I could work around with my schedule. And this was it.”

In the early days, Painter had a single piece of equipment: his father’s lawn mower. Some thee years later, Dakota Lawn and Landscape does lawn and property maintenance, landscaping and snow removal. Aside from residential clients, the business caters to large, commercial customers such as local strip malls and churches.

Painter’s firm is also the first one in Grand Forks to introduce liquid salt for deicing in winter time. Liquid salt is an eco-friendly way to dissolve ice that is also more effective and less costly than the widely used rock salt.  Painter’s business plan for liquid salt won the 2020 Red River Valley Business Plan Competition. One of the prizes was ringing the NASDAQ closing bell on Sept. 2, 2020. Due to the pandemic, Painter rang the bell virtually, while the UND logo loomed over Times Square in New York City.

“It’s unbelievable,” Painter said of the experience. “It feels very good to be recognized, not only running the business, but incorporating what I’ve learned at UND into the business and being able to win a competition on a viable business expansion plan that I’m implementing now.”

Pierson Painter often works early in the morning during the winter, clearing snow for local businesses and residences, before heading to class. Photo by Mike Hess/UND Today.

At UND, Painter is pursuing a dual degree in Marketing and Entrepreneurship. In fact, it is UND’s Entrepreneurship program that attracted him to the University. “I looked at a couple of other schools, but not very many schools have an Entrepreneurship degree, which was the main degree that I was focused in,” he said of his decision to attend UND.

While Painter has a talent for customer service, at UND he has learned other valuable business skills such as social media advertising and pricing strategy. And, yet, running a business and attending classes at the same time has not been easy. Painter has had to plan ahead, completing his course assignments early, especially in winter, when snow fall means long hours on the job and little time for homework.

Painter doesn’t know what the future holds for his business, but he finds his motivation in the unknown, the opportunity to explore new ideas. “I tell myself not to limit myself,” he said. “Take every opportunity as it comes. Don’t say ‘no’ as often. Just see what comes about.”

For more Leaders in Action stories like this one, visit und.edu/leaders.