Good Guys, Great Work 12

Local Men Shaping Our Community

Nick Brandenburg Jr.

A Young Entrepreneur

Not only does Nick Brandenburg Jr. dream big, he knows how to make his dreams a reality. His entrepreneurial spirit sets him, an 18-year-old recent Lakota West graduate, apart from others his age. Brandenburg is founder and CEO of Forever Green Lawn & Landscapes.

“When I was younger and would see my dad working in our yard, I always wanted to help. At age 13, a few of my friends and myself wanted to make extra money and one friend’s mother suggested we start our own lawn business. After other obligations kept my friends from staying with the business, I continued with it,” Brandenburg explains.

In 2014, at 15-years-old, Brandenburg registered the company with the state of Ohio, became insured through worker’s compensation and joined the Better Business Bureau, with which he now has an A+ rating.

Brandenburg has been honing his business skills by taking on many responsibilities that most young men will not learn until after college. As CEO, he oversees a team that includes full-time employees, a staff that performs weekly maintenance and an office assistant.

“I personally give all of the estimates and work directly with each customer in designing their new landscape,” Brandenburg says. “My favorite part of the business is watching the customer explain how they want their yard or landscape to look and being able to accomplish that and see how happy it makes them.”

Forever Green offers a plethora of services including cleaning flower beds, mulching, landscaping and weekly mowing and snow removal in winter months. The newest service to be added to the company’s lineup is stamped concrete curbing, and they are the only company in the tristate area offering this unique service.

“Even though I was only 13 when I started my business, I had goals and dreams that have been met and exceeded every day thanks to each and every one of our customers,” he says with a smile.

Brandenburg plans to attend the University of Cincinnati this fall, majoring in business with a minor in horticulture. He plans to continue growing Forever Green into a premier lawn care and landscape company in the tristate area. Even more than that, he hopes to inspire and lead his employees and invest in the future of others.

“I might want to teach classes to younger kids who show an interest and let them know that they should never think their dreams can’t come true,” Brandenburg says. ForeverGreen.pro

Ian Murray

Inspired By Family

Home is where the heart is and Ian Murray, vice president of the Reach Out Lakota board of directors, has a heart full of compassion for his hometown. A native to the West Chester and Liberty Township community, Murray is passionate about living a philanthropic lifestyle and that passion is fueled by his love of his family.

“I want to be a role model for my kids so they can see what it’s like to get involved, give back to the community and make a difference,” says Murray, who is a husband and father of two daughters. “I want to make sure the community I grew up in stays vibrant and sustainable into the future.”

Reach Out Lakota serves families in need in West Chester and Liberty Township. The organization runs a food pantry and clothing closet for families, and hosts additional events throughout the year, including Back to School, Thanksgiving and Christmas programs. While Murray recognizes that many people might not view poverty as a relevant issue in our affluent area, he emphasizes one point: anyone can fall on hard times.

“We have clients who are working seasonal labor all the way up to people who live in $500,000 to million-dollar houses,” he says. “We serve everyone in the community. You never know when you’re going to need help. Families use our services to get through the bump in the road and then go on to be successful.”

Murray is also able to give back to the community through his family-owned business, SpotOn Productions, a full-service corporate video production company. The company provides pro-bono videos for non-profit organizations throughout the year, and also sponsors various organizations.

In addition to the work he does with Reach Out Lakota and his family’s business, Murray serves as board chair for the Community Foundation of West Chester/Liberty where he helps non-profit organizations receive funds to make their missions a reality.

“I want everyone to know that there are ways they can get involved because it’s our community, and the more people get involved the better the community can be for everyone,” Murray says. “It pays it forward and pays it back as well.”

Steven Webster

Spreading Joy

Steven Webster is not your average carpenter. With each stroke of his hammer he constructs well-crafted products, but he also builds more than that. He shapes opportunities and fulfills dreams.

At four months old, Webster was diagnosed with brain damage from an unknown cause, resulting in seizures and verbal apraxia. He is completely non-verbal and experiences delayed development, but with Webster’s story comes a message: everyone has a purpose and anyone can serve a meaningful purpose.

“Our hope is that others will be able to realize that they can live rich and fulfilling lives doing what they were designed to do and being who they were created to be,” says Gail Webster, Steven’s mother.

Steven’s parents, Gail and Kevin, have adamantly sought after resources and education to help coach their son into preparedness for gainful employment. After attending Lakota West High School, Steven participated in Project Life, a two-year program designed to help students with disabilities gain job and life skills. The family received additional support from Butler County Board of Developmental Disabilities, which educated them on the transition from high school into the working world.

It was there they connected with Buckner Employment Service and Training (BEST), a private provider of job placement services for individuals with disabilities, and the organization that matched Steven with MiddTown Custom Cabinets, where he works in the woodshop.

As a child, Steven loved hammering. His parents recall how he would hammer nails into a log and, when it was full, they would remove the nails and he would start again. When his job coach from BEST learned of his love for hammering, they began building projects together. The first project completed was the construction of a wishing well, which led to the birth of Steven’s Woodshop in 2010.

Together they craft wishing wells, bee houses, bird houses and beyond. The Websters do not measure their son’s success by the amount of profit being made, but by his engagement with others.

“People with disabilities are the same as everyone else. It’s not self-serving for Steven. To have him employed, he gets to work and serve other people in the community and be an encouragement to others,” Gail says.

For more information about Steven and to purchase his work, visit Etsy.com/Shop/StevensWoodshop. StevensWoodshop.com

Keith Wren

Running A Community Staple

As Keith Wren slowly swirls a cone back and forth, out comes creamy white vanilla ice cream and tangy orange sherbet, creating a perfectly cool and tasty summer treat. It’s his signature treat. And it’s what laid the foundation for this West Chester family-owned business, The Cone.

Drive down Tylersville Road on a summer evening, and you’re guaranteed to see a swarm of cars and people in front of the infamous cone-shaped building. Try a bite yourself, and it’s easy to see why this homegrown business has become a staple in our community.

“It’s nostalgic,” Wren says. “People grow up here and then they bring their kids back to The Cone, so now their kids’ kids are visiting. It becomes sort of a family tradition.”

Keith and his father, Ken Wren, opened The Cone more than two decades ago, after having transported the physical cone building—in eight pieces––all the way from Florida.

“My mom and dad were on vacation and spotted a cone-shaped building up for sale. We drove down the next week to buy it and haul it back to Ohio,” Keith laughs.

The Cone opened in 1995 and has continued to produce homemade favorites for years. No stranger to running an ice cream shop, Keith grew up in the business when his parents owned K&W Creamy Whip on Wyoming Avenue. He recalls that his younger sister would sleep in her crib (appropriately fashioned out of empty cone boxes) in the back of the store.

Since that original business in Reading, the Wren family has been making premium ice cream since 1973. Never compromising quality for quantity, they make many of their own products in-house and use only name-brand candies and toppings. Not only is the infamous orange-vanilla swirl a homemade creation, but also the peanut butter, strawberry, Italian ices and many more.

“Our orange-vanilla is a secret formula that my dad created at the original store,” Keith explains. “We grind up our own strawberries, pineapples, you name it.”

And it’s working. The delicious business has grown immensely in two decades, now offering three walk-up windows, a drive-thru window and mobile cone units that make frequent appearances during summer community events. In its 23rd season, The Cone is now co-managed by its third generation of the Wren family—Keith’s daughter, Tabby.

While Keith is still there each day, Tabby has been dutifully learning the ins and outs of her family’s business with plans to eventually run the community staple.

“People always ask what it’s like to run a family business. I guess I’m just used to it. I started working here when I was 12—and got fired a lot,” Tabby recalls with a laugh. “It’s a unique place. A lot of smaller businesses don’t make it and we have.”

The Wren family’s success can be attributed to two things: quality and service.

“Every one of these [employees] in here right now is outstanding,” Keith says. “There’s not one in there who I wouldn’t keep forever if they wanted to stay.”

Though he acknowledges it can be tiring, Keith is grateful to the community and his employees for embracing his business.

“It’s a lot. It can be overwhelming night after night,” Keith says. “But it’s a lot of fun.” TheCone.com