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Teen Won’t Let Disability Interfere With Owning Business

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SHAKOPEE, Minn. (WCCO) — Many teenagers venture into the working world with that first job of mowing lawns. A recent Shakopee High School graduate is growing his own lawn business in a new way and beyond anyone’s expectations.

Nick Brown, 18, isn’t just mowing lawns, he’s laying the groundwork for the rest of his life.

Since birth, Brown has worked to defy a diagnosis of cerebral palsy. Now he’s an entrepreneur about to be honored by the Courage Center for his accomplishments.

“I just knew he would be something,” said his caregiver Betty Valiant, who has watched Brown since he was a baby,  when he was deprived of oxygen at birth and given the diagnosis. “They told his mom at the time he would probably never walk, never talk, never do hardly anything.”

Betty and Don Valiant both knew better. They are now Brown’s personal care attendants, and they never saw him as a child with disability.

“It’s about ability,” said Brown. “Ability.”

“I guess really it should start way back when he was five years old, he come in one day and says he wanted a bicycle,” said Don Valiant, who took Brown’s drawing and design and helped him rig his own special bicycle, with three wheels.

“Nothing surprises me with him, he’s very smart,” said Valiant. “After that, he kept coming in with different ideas. From then on, it’s just been one ride after the other.”

Brown is now the owner and operator of Nick’s Lawn Service.

Don and Nick first rigged up an old fashioned lawnmower to Browns’ wheelchair, then revved up to a power mower to his chair. But now Brown cruises Shakopee streets drawing attention from customers with his new mega “Toro” zero turn mower. The pair rigged it with special steps and handles so Brown can jump on from his wheelchair.

“It’s just like life. Everything is a progression. It’s something I can do on my own with no help,” said Brown, who said when he mows lawns, he feels “free.”

Ellie Mankowski is 84 years old and counts on him to mow her lawn.

“Here he is, I think I am more able than he is, but he is more able than I am really,” said Mankowski. “He is such a nice guy and is so determined.”

Brown said he soon plans to learn how to drive, and thanks to his lawn business, he now knows it’s a not-so-distant dream.

Brown will receive the annual Judd Jacobson Memorial award at the Courage Center on Wednesday Oct. 5 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30pm at 3915 Golden Valley Road. He will be honored an exceptional entrepreneur and will receive a $5,000 grant.

Brown said he plans to use the money to attend Hennepin Technical college next year. He wants to study computer aided design, and to no surprise to anyone that knows him, he has ambitions of becoming a design engineer.

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