NORTH STONINGTON – When nearly two and a half feet of snow blanketed the area during a blizzard in late January, Wheeler High student Mike Caster took the opportunity to take advantage of the snowy day to sit down and relax, something that would have been seen as an opportunity for many in their senior year.
Anyone who knows Caster, an energetic and charismatic member of the Class of 2022, will tell you that ‘sitting just isn’t what Mike is’ – and this storm has seen Caster take the lead, alongside his friend and Wheeler junior Nick Larkin, founding a full-time landscaping and yard work business, C&L Landscaping LLC.
“It wasn’t easy, of course, but every minute was worth it,” he said. “We work every day from after school until sunset, including weekends. Sunday is my day, usually for racing motocross, but it has already been rewarding.
Larkin said when the two men founded the company together, he wasn’t sure what to expect. Thanks to Caster’s hard work and enthusiasm, the company has already grown by leaps and bounds.
Over the next summer, they will begin working together full-time, and Larkin said he can’t wait to see what the future holds, both for the company and for his close friend.
“It’s something that I feel like we’ve been working on all our lives, having done landscaping and helping Mike and his dad on jobs before,” he said. “To be able to start and find opportunities so quickly, it was a great experience.”
For many students, life after graduation is about finding yourself and making your way to your destiny. Rather, Caster is pursuing his own dream as a full-time small business owner, and this is just the beginning.
Born and raised in the community, Caster said Wednesday he was following in the footsteps of his father, landscaper Erik Caster. He was inspired by both his father and his mother, Kara, a Fitch High School teacher whom he called the “strongest woman I know”. He said she was always a leader and taught her that if you want something, you can have it if you work hard enough.
Caster also credited her sister, UConn junior and psychology major Samantha Caster, as being a great role model and setting the bar high.
“They’ve all been there for me, every step of the way,” he said.
The venture itself began as a simple act of opportunity in January when the blizzard dropped snow over 2 feet, with drifts approaching 50 inches. Caster enlisted Larkin and his cousin, Westerly High sophomore Josh Zeppieri, and the two spent 16 straight hours working.
The three used limited equipment – there were only three shovels and a snow blower, which was carried by Erik Caster’s truck – but cleared 10 driveways and 3 commercial properties, collecting $2,500 in payouts.
“It ended up being more successful than I could have ever hoped for,” he said. “After the experience, Nick and I talked about continuing to try to find similar odd jobs, and soon after we had started the business.”
While at Wheeler, Caster had also worked with the Interact Give Back organization, was a football player who credited coach Joe Mendoza as another inspiration, and worked at Agway in Westerly.
Outside of school, Caster is also a talented motocross and motocross rider who has competed in various local and regional races over the past three years.
Wheeler manager Kristen St. Germain said throughout it all, one thing that stood out was Caster’s positive attitude. No matter how busy he was, he always showed enthusiasm and enthusiasm. She described him as one of the most polite people she worked with and said he was a great role model for other students in her class.
“Mike was a model of good citizenship, which is exactly the type of person we’re trying to develop during their time at Wheeler,” she said. “No matter how tough things get, he always finds a way out; no matter how hard it can be, he always does the right thing.
Although the venture is likely to remain an ongoing venture for some time to come, Caster isn’t content to stop there. He said he was still considering other options, including joining the Air Force to seek a pilot position, or applying for a highly competitive job opportunity at US Extruders in Westerly, a new company that produces single screw extruders, extrusion systems, and high performance screws for plastics, rubber and silicone.
Whatever life brings, however, he said he can’t wait to see it unfold.
“It’s too early to try to plan everything, but there are a lot of things I would like to do,” he said. “I’m ready to start.”