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ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — You might call them superheroes of spray paint, answering property owners’ distress calls and vanquishing vandalism, taking down graffiti with hard work and biodegradable chemicals, and all in time to be home for dinner.
Fifteen-year-old Jack Boland, 18-year-old Jacob Sheppard and 19-year-old Brandon Ivey are The Scrub Squad, a graffiti removal company. Their mission, they say, is to make St. John’s shine. Their slogan? “Keeping your walls clean, no matter how obscene.”
The business started with an idea to provide property services and it developed when, like all successful entrepreneurs do, they saw a need and filled it. Jack says he and Jacob were thinking of starting a pressure-washing company when someone suggested there were limited options for graffiti removal in town.
“Then news stories started popping up and we thought this was something we could do,” he says.
The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary says there has been a significant increase in incidents of property damage by spray paint in the past two years, to the point it has established a dedicated tip line (729-8800) to receive vandalism reports. In St. John’s, private property owners are responsible for removing graffiti within a specific time period.
First up for The Scrub Squad: lots of research. The teens investigated equipment, earth-friendly chemicals, types of reactions between various paints and surfaces, and how best to remove paint from delicate materials without damaging them.
“We researched the whole nine yards and asked ourselves how we could provide the most value,” Jack says.
Once equipment was acquired, the next step was to practise, which meant one of the guys had to convince their parents to let them vandalize their home and clean it up. Jacob’s parents were willing, and the graffiti removal experimentation got underway, with great results.
Since June , The Scrub Squad has been busy. Clients so far include the Town of Paradise, the Village Shopping Centre, Merchant Tavern and others, and the teens often post before-and-after pictures on their Facebook page with the tag “#satisfying.”
They offer a free second removal if the property is vandalized again within a week, and a “property checkup” whereby they identify areas at risk for graffiti and give recommendations to prevent it.
“Every single job we’ve taken came with its own challenges,” Jack says. “I enjoy every bit of it. The things people call menial office tasks and the manual work, I love it.”
Out with the blue
When owners of The Newfoundland Embassy pub found one morning last month their building had been tagged with a single line of blue spray paint — an act of vandalism police say stretched the length of Water Street and up to New Gower — they called The Scrub Squad and later made a social media post about their impressions.
“It’s really cool to see such young entrepreneurs working hard at their own business. The Scrub Squad were very professional, quick and incredibly easy to work with,” the pub owners wrote, recommending the teens’ graffiti removal service.
Jack says entrepreneurship is in his bones and something he has wanted to do since he was a small boy. He plans to stay on that career path, whether it’s The Scrub Squad that keeps him there, or another venture.
His family says he’s always been business-savvy.
“It’s not the money that interests him as much as the mechanics of business, making something from nothing and watching it grow,” says his dad, Grant Boland. “He’s not afraid to take calculated risks, setbacks are to be learned from, and his thinking is long term. He’s a true entrepreneur and we’re all very proud of him.”