KEARNEY — When Brandon Ross started his landscaping business, Ross Yard Sharks, in 2014, he wanted to find something to keep busy in the winter — as long as it didn’t involve picking up snow.
“I never liked snow removal,” Ross said with a laugh.
Instead, he decided to make holiday light installations. When he started this aspect of his business, he had about 15-20 clients. Now he has over 80, and he continues to take more.
Ross first thought he would be a teacher when he was growing up. Three of his four parents are teachers, as well as three of his sisters. While in college, he started working for a lawn care company and fell in love with the job. He started his own lawn care business in 2014 and started installing Christmas lights with just a few customers.
“I thought I would have 15 to 20 people and do this every year just for a little income during the winter,” he said.
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The demand has increased every year. In addition to Christmas displays at customers, he also wraps all the trees in the medians at Lighthouse Point in Kearney.
Because there is a lack of time when setting up the Christmas lights, Ross often enlists his family for help. His wife, Kelsey, and children, Austyn, 6, and Kannon, 3, will help place clips on string lights in their home to cut some of the time needed for an installation. His nephew, Lawson Cochran, 12, will help with home installations, and he has two part-time employees this year.
Ross usually starts hanging lights on Nov. 1, but he started in October of this year for a cold weather jump. New customers will buy Ross’ lights, and he will reuse them every year. The average first year cost for lights, setup, and teardown is around $600 to $1,000. The costs will drop the following year because the customers will already own the luminaires.
Just as his business has grown and evolved, so has the technology of Christmas lights.
“When I started, I had one of my first contracts with incandescent glass bulbs. They’re very susceptible. You drop them on the floor, they’ll crack, or if they don’t crack, they go out. With LEDs, I was probably changing one out of 10,000 a year, if that’s the case. They’re just built tougher and made to last,” Ross explained.
This year, customers can opt for a new technology called Dynamic RGB. The lights are controlled by a remote control with an option for eight different colors and 10 different functions. It’s cost effective and many customers are switching to RGB this year, Ross said. It will also wrap trees in lights and stitch lights along sidewalks.
He plans to take a course this winter on how to install permanent lighting.
“I can (install it) whenever I want. It’s something I want to move towards in the future,” he said.
Ross aims to have his customers’ decorations done by Thanksgiving, but he’ll keep working until December if he still has requests. Although it has to endure freezing temperatures and biting winds, having happy customers is worth it.
“I got a text a few days ago with a picture of the kids near the house with the lights on. Some of these kids had never had lights before and they’re all excited,” he said “I get text messages of thanks from people who appreciate it. When it’s (cold) we have no choice but to lift them. It makes the day so much better.