Paul Hoffman continues to build business at age 20

Category:  News
Wednesday, May 24th, 2017 at 9:43 PM

A lawnmower makes its audible hum across the bright green grass, a 12-year-old boy with big plans and aspirations guiding its path. Navigating the lawnmower as hePaul Hoffman is forging his own path in the Erie community, Paul Hoffman completes his landscaping work. With each line the lawnmower makes, a desire is formed – a desire to make a difference in the city he calls home.

Three lawns soon grew to eight, and eight increased to 16, then 40, and eventually, 50Mowing lawns and completing landscaping projects until daylight became nightfall, and weekends blurred into weekdays, Hoffman laid the foundation for his first company – H&M Landscape and Construction, a company he formed with family friend and construction professional, Paul Mabie.

Hoffman, now 20, saw Mabie’s talents when it came to construction, as well as the potential for business growth, and had the idea to rebrand the company as Hoffman United in order to move away from landscaping and focus more on construction, rentals, and tackling the blight issue in Erie.

We started with conviction instead of rational thinking because rational thinking said it was impossible, but nothing is impossible and anything can be built as long as you truly believe in yourself,” Hoffman said.

Despite his conviction and the passion he felt to transform Erie, Hoffman’s young age proved to be a hindrance in the beginning. Remembering all too well the years from age 12 to 18 when he would say his age and potential clients would seek someone olderHoffman is reassured by the recent shift that appears to be taking place.

I notice now, with the credibility of the website and our marketing and branding, they take us a lot more seriously, but, before that, we got turned down a lot,” Hoffman recalled.

The middle child of triplets, Hoffman’s older sister Christine, currently serves as vice president and property manager for Hoffman United. Although she is older by minute, a fact she says with pride and a smile, she spoke on the close relationship she and her brother share and the drive he exhibited at young age. She admitted she wasn’t all that surprised by his entrepreneurial pursuits.

“I think because I know him so well, I honestly was not shocked because he’s been an entrepreneur his whole life,” Hoffman’s sister said. I guess I was more proud than I was in shock. Then I was like ‘Ok, I like where this is going, I want to join in.’”

While Hoffman does maintain a close relationship with his family, and he and his sister work together, he does not categorize Hoffman United as a “family business.”

“Everybody has to perform and produce to get their position,” said Hoffman. He went on to say while his parents serve as investors, his sister is the only family member who currently holds a position in the company.

Hoffman and his sister shared a laugh as they remember being 12 years old, Hoffman driving around on his riding lawnmower from house to house, the tires of which eventually wore outFour years away from the legal driving age, he would load his lawnmower into the back of the family van and his mom, Paula Hoffmanwould drive him to his mowing jobs as his earliest business venture grew, lawn by lawn.

Hoffman’s mother reminisced about the car rides shared with her son and the times he relied on her to get him to his destination.

“It was time consumingbut, as a parent, I loved doing it for him because he was becoming independent,” she said. “He loved what he did and it was also a way for us to stay close because we’d have that quick conversation in the car…so, it was a fun time. I miss those days actually. Now he’s independent, driving by himself.”

Paul and Christine’s father, Tom Hoffman, an attorney at Knox Law in Erie, also recalled his son’s days as the “boy next door” mowing lawns. He remembers one day in particular, seeing his son surfing the web in search of purchasing a used John Deere garden tractor. His father suggested he look into a tractor for commercial use and, knowing the cost associated with it, offered to split the cost with him. Hoffman’s father also acknowledged the support system surrounding his son, including parents, grandparents, siblings, and others who “love Paul dearly.”

Starting with the tractor, all the way up to this day, a lot of people used the words ‘I wouldn’t,’ which is a very negative thing,” his father said. “I used the words ‘You should.’”

Jenny Poff, chief branding officer at Hoffman United, acknowledges the passion the Hoffman children share for what they do and believes it is the passion and intention they exhibit that helps set Hoffman United apart from other companies in the region.

“I like impact-driven businesses versus filling the pocket. I just can’t connect with that,” said Poff. “So, to tell the story through visuals, through marketing, through advertising, is really easy. Not only because they’re passionate, but I’m passionate about their passion. It’s all those things.”

Poff remembers her sister, a teacher of Hoffman’s at Cathedral Prep, telling her that she “had to talk to this kid,” even letting him conduct business calls in study hall. It was the education Hoffman received at Cathedral Prep and his sister received at Mercyhurst Prep that their mother credits for their desire to give back to the community.

You’re not an island,” their mother stated. “You need to give back. They love Erie and they want to see Erie grow and improve and I think that having those values that they were taught – their morals, and their faith, and community – that’s all very important. To be successful is good, but just to have money, unless you can give back to other people and help other people, what good is it?”

These are values they continue to build upon, as all three Hoffman children recently completed their freshman year at Penn State. It is with the degrees Hoffman and his sister are pursuing in higher education that they hope to continue to grow Hoffman United.

As of today, 80 percent of the construction profit earned goes back into the company. This is a cycle aimed at acquiring more blighted properties to rehabilitate in order to transform Erie. For Hoffman, that means using your imagination.

I live by ‘You’re only limited by your imagination,’” Hoffman said. “So, I could see Erie as Pittsburgh, that’s what I believe I can do, but if you look at it as you’re stuck with what you have, that’s what you’re going to be stuck with. If you go after your imagination, you’re not going to be limited by anything.”

Sarah Gillingham is a contributing writer for EdinboroNow. 

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