Here’s an interesting story (well…I think it’s interesting because it’s about me) that might inspire some of the younger crowd.
As you may know, I’ve never had a real job before. I’ve always started businesses that have been successful enough to sustain me and then some. I’m not saying everyone should choose this route, but it IS pretty damn cool.
Like any result, there’s usually a story behind it, and mine started sometime in middle school when I had a mean peach-fuzz mustache growing and embarrassing gold-rimmed glasses that took up my whole face. In a nutshell I “accidentally” became a businessman by starting a CD making business. I had a CD burner when most people didn’t, I knew about downloading MP3’s when most people didn’t….therefore I had a resources people wanted…and would pay to get. I ended up making more money than I could stuff into the little change jar in my room. You can read more detail here.
So some stupid kid stumbles on how to make some money….
I thought it was pretty cool, but never took it super seriously. Back then my parents provided me with everything I ever wanted, so making money wasn’t top priority.
In high school I started getting more and more into computers. I took programming classes and was even accepted to the first ever public school course funded by a private organization (or some crap like that). There was a Cisco certification course I worked hard to apply for, and I got in! Only a select few students from our entire district got in….all day long we learned how to setup LAN, MAN and WAN networks, hack into routers, design more efficient networks, diagnose problems. It was a FUN class and I was proud to be in it. I was surrounded by smart people all day and had $40,000 worth of networking equipment at my disposal! I was Cisco Certified when I was a senior in high school…that was pretty cool back in the day.
However I think where my entrepreneurial spirit started grabbing roots was in my high school computer science classes. We had normal class during the day, but AFTER SCHOOL we had a teacher who let us do whatever we want.
I used to stay after school almost every single day for various clubs, but me and some friends would always stay late as possible screwing around on the cool new computers (and fast internet) the school had just acquired.
We were CONSTANTLY looking for cool ways to make a buck….I mean nothing serious like building a business, more like simple get-rich-quick schemes. Back then a lot of companies offered you money for browsing the internet if you kept advertisements on your screen. So with our programming skills we setup 30 different computers to constantly browse random webpages and collect money! Was this allowed? NO! Did we care? NO! Did it teach us something…I think very much YES. Although it was just screwing around, it kind of made computers and the internet “fun” for us….not just boring tools.
We also scoured penny stocks to try and buy and strike it rich “if ONLY the stock would go up to $1.00!” We tried dozens of silly ideas.
We wrote programs that would make annoying sounds based on a timer…and loaded them on the library computers. It was HILARIOUS to watch all the computers start making annoying beeps at once….the librarians would come over to see the commotion, then they would all stop!! Stupid pranks, but they made us think creatively.
Our school used Novell to administer the computers, and I found out a way to login to the “unlimited access” profile which let you play games. We setup a folder on the network with all sorts of cool games and would play them before class. None of the other students could do it.
Through Novell and my Cisco class skills, we found out a bunch of other things about the school network and would frequently be called in by school officials to help with problems! I remember one school administrators baffled and nervous look when I simply logged into the administration without him giving me any password information!
Even though we could sneak in and out of the school computer system, we never did anything bad or malicious. If one of our pranks (like the annoying library sounds) got too much…we stopped. We were more interested in having access to something forbidden than actually DOING anything harmful. Because of this we never got in trouble for anything, and it was actually good for school officials who could ask us computer questions at any time and have them fixed immediately without calling a tech guy and looking dumb.
In addition to all this I started making webpages for fun. I remember registering Neville1.com (my FIRST domain name), and posting pictures of cars on it. I would Photoshop pictures of cars to make them computer screen background wallpapers then share them online via Neville1.com. I called the page “Neville’s Cool Car Archive” and it started getting lots of traffic. It was enough traffic that all the free hosts I was on started kicking me off. I’d have to PAY for hosting, and that wasn’t an option back then. You see, at the time there was really no way to monetize the traffic….so I’d just pay money for hosting, and wouldn’t be able to easily make that money back from the users. I wasn’t interested and pulled the plug.
Another unique experience I had was through my Parsi Zoroastrian (my religion) community we had some exceptionally successful people we knew. With the help of my mom I got around to asking some of these people…“Ummm….so like….what do you do?” Basically that question was masking my true question of, “Why do you have so much more money than everyone else?”
….every single time the answer was they owned their own (successful) business. I would inquire further. What did they do? How did they do it? Who buys from them? How come people buy from you, not someone else? Then I’d ask the clincher question: “Can I come see your business?”
Every single time the answer was yes. They were all proud of what they did and were happy to show an inquisitive young person around. I saw large ecommerce warehouses, housing tracts, large apartment buildings and various other projects these people ran. They explained the ins and outs, the advantages and downsides….all sorts of valuable information I was lucky to have…but brazen enough to ask for.
This appealed to me. I don’t know why, but I always thought what they did was so much “cooler” than what most other people did.
Thus started my journey into entrepreneurship. It shakily started out as just messing around and inadvertently being creative…but after years of experimenting and trying things out, it started working pretty well.
Be curious…try things….don’t let people’s warnings stop you…..be creative and have an almost childlike curiosity about everything.