The High School Startup

February 13, 2014

General, Motivation, Stories

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As I opened the email three words jumped off the screen. High school students. Yes!, I said out loud to my wife. Some high school kids are doing this! Kyle and Nick, two high school seniors outside of Boston had started their own appliance business. Here’s their story.

It started for Kyle at the age of 9, when he started fixing up kid bikes. To most kids that would be the end of it, but it led Kyle to want to own his own bike shop one day. He enjoyed the simplicity of the bikes but was soon looking for more of a challenge. That came in the form of small engines in motorized scooters and yard equipment.

Along with his mechanical skills, Kyle is always coming up with ideas, many of them business ideas. This past August, Kyle was out in Montana on a family vacation. Stuck on a bus for about hour he decided he wanted to figure out how to make money on Craigslist. He and Nick had been brainstorming ways to support their weekend paintball hobby. So he searched on Google for how to make money on Craigslist and immediately found my ReCraigslist blog and started reading the posts. Kyle read about my appliance business and was confident he and his friend Nick could do the same thing.

Kyle immediately called Nick and talked him into joining the venture. Convincing Kyle’s parents to allow him and Nick to use their garage for storage was next on the list. They had always been supportive and encouraging of his entrepreneurial adventures. They said yes, on one condition, that the garage would not turn into a junk yard.

Armed with Nick’s truck, they each pitched in $75 and purchased a Whirlpool Washer and dryer set for $150. Two days later it sold for $350. Kyle and Nick were hundredaires.

This is when they faced their first dilemma. Should they spend the profits on paintball, or invest the money back into more appliances. They chose to do both.

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Over the next month and a half they continued to buy and sell washer and dryer sets weekly, and made a little over $1,400 for their efforts. Things were going well, but they had some questions they needed to get answered. That’s when they reached out to me for advice.

I told them I charged $50/hr for consulting, and I was confident I could make suggestions for how they could grow their business. When they agreed to pay for an hour of training, it blew me away. High school kids don’t like to pay for anything, let alone for information about how to run an appliance business. Yet, they saw it as an investment in their business that was sure would pay off.  (They also were among the first to join the ApplianceSchool community)

When I asked him what he learned from our time talking, he mentioned two things that helped their business. First, that I insisted they get a 220 volt outlet installed in their garage to test out appliances. The second was to carry out a plan to get more machines.

The outlet brought them to their next difficult decision. If Kyle and Nick wanted a 220 volt outlet installed in the garage, it was going to cost them $600 for an electrician to come and install it. Again, seeing it as an investment, Kyle and Nick forked over $600 of their hard earned dollars and got the outlet installed. (If you are comfortable running electrical lines, you can do it yourself for much cheaper.) The investment immediately paid off. They bought a dryer,sold it and hauled back the person’s old dryer. They fixed it and then sold that one, again receiving another dryer in exchange. They went on to repeat this 11 times in a row! They had the outlet paid off in two weeks.

Kyle and Nick are now gearing up for a big summer push. They are planning to add Kyle’s younger brother to the operation. They recently launched a Facebook page and made up business cards to hand out. They also are getting referrals from happy customers.

This next fall, both Kyle and Nick are planning on heading off to college, and both have specific goals in mind. Kyle is pursuing entrepreneurship and Nick is going after a business degree.

You won’t find Kyle and Nick on a paintball course anymore. They sold all their gear and have taken up another hobby they have grown to love. Fixing appliances. What brought about the change of heart? They lost a sale and started to realize that paintball wasn’t a wise use of their time or money. They also enjoy taking apart, fixing and restoring the appliances back to working condition.

I asked Kyle what advice he would give to other high school students. He wanted to share 5 tips:

1. Become confident. He said one of the biggest issues he sees with students today is a lack of confidence in themselves. Stop listening so much to your peers and what they say about you. Surround yourselves with good friends and influences. Find people to encourage you.

2. Think about your future. He sees so many students only focused on today, making decisions as if they will have no affect on tomorrow.

3. Find a hobby that will challenge you. Especially practical ones that will benefit you for years to come. If it’s bikes, learn how to repair bikes. Learn how to build things. Learn everything there is to know about the hobby.

4. Take an internship while in high school. Not just any internship though, he says. Pick one where you will learn a life skill. Take an internship with a plumber, an electrician or a welder. “Don’t just take an internship with a big company where you are just going to be getting coffee for someone all day,” he warned.

5. Save your money. Unless you are going to invest your money, don’t go out and spend your money on things that aren’t necessities. Kyle amassed $1,400 in six weeks mostly because he was saving all the money he was earning.

I don’t know if we are going to start seeing greater numbers of young people starting businesses like Kyle and Nick. I hope so. Even if the business is only for a season, Kyle said the learning experience has gone beyond just business. “It’s really taught us a lot about life.” That’s a great education.

I hope the story of Kyle and Nick will encourage not just students, but people of all ages to learn new things, take risks and maybe even start a business. If you have any questions or comments for Kyle and Nick, post them below in the comments and they will answer them as they have time.

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10 Responses to “The High School Startup”

  1. Mike Greig Says:

    Great job guys! Reading this made me reminisce of high school and all my wasted time. You two really are ahead of the game.

    Thanks for motivating and encouraging the next generation of entrepreneurs Ryan.

    Reply

  2. m Says:

    Hmm – I wish I knew some high school kids that I could invest in….I would purchase the course, and pay for initial start up costs in return for part of the biz!

    Reply

  3. Gregory Says:

    The dryer plug is really important. I do my washer/dryer operation on the back patio of my condo, and in our little storage closet off the patio I had a neat plug put in that runs off the hot water tank with a switch. Then I had an extension cord made that has a 3 prong on one side, and a 4 prong on the other side.

    Reply

  4. Charles, Seattle Serial Seller Says:

    Superb, guys! You’re doing exactly what I wish other kids I know should do with their spare time! you are going to be far far ahead in life that that you may not have to call someone else boss or wait 3/4 of a century to retire! I wish I had started at your age, but then I did not have Ryan’s blog to read back then.

    Reply

  5. Annette P Says:

    Love this story… and all success stories. Congratulations to these guys. Love your blog.

    Reply

  6. Alena Says:

    It’s refreshing to hear that these two had hearing ears to invest at such a young age. But I have a free tip for them. Don’t waste time and money on college. Life is too short. Keep making money. Life itself is a great education and times a wastin’.

    Thanks for sharing this! Alena/DallasTX

    Reply

    • A Mom Says:

      You’re so right Alena. They can learn what they need from their real-life entrepreneurial adventures. College is so fake. Just read a college textbook if you think you can’t do without it. (You’ll soon find that you are wasting your time and money.) Do worthwhile internships and find a mentor, someone local or from great web sites like this one. Learn from your successes and mistakes. For the money and years that they would be wasting in college, they could be making more money, growing their business, branching out in other spinoffs, etc… Unless you’re getting a science or medical degree DON’T waste your life in college! It’s such a scam! Learn from reality instead!

      Reply

  7. Aleks Says:

    This was an excellent post. I get more and more motivated with my business ventures every time I read stuff like this. I would say these guys are now smarter than 95% of their school when it comes to the future; it’s pretty awesome for a high school student to realize the power of saving so early!

    Reply

  8. Tom Says:

    As a business Account grad, I also have taken the approach of recommending skipping college to kids that have the entrepreneurship itch, guess what, you can and will make it! Not only will you make it, you are going to be miles ahead of myself and my generation (only 8 years ahead of you). While i’m lucky enough to have gotten out with a tiny amount of debt, which is now paid off, 80% of my classmates have student loans to the tune of 40+k, they are stuck working “for the man” and for “security” until those are gone.

    If you really do want to have a degree, work your way through, you will be wealthier and much wiser for it. You guys are awesome!

    Reply

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