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Still in school, and they're CEOs

(Page 2 of 2)

Among that group, it is certainly the most motivated teens who are the ones pulling ahead.

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Tutoring adults

Consider Aaron Greenspan, who has been running Think Computer, a consulting and Web design company, out of his bedroom in Shaker Heights, Ohio, since he was 11.

His mother gave him the idea after he installed a new computer in his uncle's advertising agency. (He now says that his mother had no idea what she was really suggesting.)

"I realized I could make more money doing this than babysitting," says Aaron (no relation to Alan), with a laugh.

And he has.

Since 1995, he estimates that he's earned $50,000 - some of which he's put into new computer equipment and some into the stock market.

His clients - 82 total - include everyone from mom-and-pop stores to small- and medium-size companies. Besides designing Web pages, he designs databases and tutors clients on how to use the Internet and the latest software.

Aaron runs the whole show from his bedroom. He shares a fax machine with his mother and installed a business telephone line in his room. He incorporated his business last year and now sports shirts that bear his corporate logo.

Somehow the straight-A student who plays the French horn has managed to keep everything in balance. He only works on the weekends. (Things should get a little easier now that he has his driver's license.)

"I don't let this take control of my life," he concedes. "I still need time to relax and talk to my friends."

What do his friends think?

"I try not to talk about it at school too much or it sounds like I'm bragging," he says. "But they do enjoy hearing my tales of crazy clients."

Indeed, the lifelong skills teens learn when running a business are invaluable.

"Not every client will cooperate and understand what you're telling them," Greenspan says. "I've learned you have to be patient with people and understand their point of view."

Adds Animalbytes' Abigael: "I had never [before] done something I had to stick with. You have to come through."

A creative outlet

The reality, experts say, is that few teens are able to pile up tens of thousands in profits.

"If you have a child under 20 who can do $800 a month in sales, that's the exception to the rule," says Steve Mariotti, founder of the New York-based National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship.

Most teen businesses average $40 a week, he says.

Still, for many teens the reason for being their own boss is simple: It's something to do.

"To be stuck in school with all of this knowledge of computers and not to be able to do anything with it," Aaron says, "is cramping."

And many hope they can keep on doing it for the long haul.

"I definitely want to be my own boss now that I have a taste of running things," Abigael contends. "I like being the one in charge."

Resources for young go-getters

* The Young Entrepreneurs Network, 4712 Admiralty Way, Suite 530, Marina Del Rey, CA 90292 310-822-0261 (

* "The Young Entrepreneur's Edge," Jennifer Kushell, Random House

* "Whiz Teens in Business," Danielle Valle, Truman Publishing (

* The National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship, 120 Wall Street, 29th Floor, New York, NY 10006 212-232-3333 (

* "The Young Entrepreneur's Guide to Starting and Running a Business," Steve Mariotti, Random House, 1996

* "Girl Boss: Entrepreneurial Skills, Stories, and Encouragement for Modern Girls," Stacy Kravetz, Girl Press


Founder, Animalbytes

Estimated monthly earnings: $700

Biggest revelation: 'I never

[before] had to do something I had to stick with. You have to come through.'


CEO, Vision Net Consulting

Estimated income over next two months: $6,000

Biggest revelation: "Channel whatever passion and love you have for something into a business. If you don't enjoy it, it won't be successful."


President & CEO, Think Computer

Estimated earnings since 1995: $50,000

Biggest revelation: "If you don't keep good records, you're sunk. I'm a perfectionist by nature."

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society