In the 9th grade, Anthony Carmona was looking for a weekend job. Instead of seeking out employment at the local mall, Anthony decided to use his technology background to sell himself to small business owners. He contacted Prime American Homes Realty, Inc., a local real estate firm to see if they needed help managing their office technology. Shortly afterwards, Anthony secured a job maintaining their network. After learning a little about how the real estate office operated, Anthony noticed that the office had some unused space and he inquired about renting the space to operate a computer business. Marco Seijoo, owner of Prime American Homes Realty, Inc. was so impressed by Anthony’s work ethic and determination that he decided to rent some office space to Anthony. After securing the office space, Anthony obtained a business license, tax identification number, and launched Anthony Knows Computers. Last year, Anthony’s business was featured on NBC Latino.
This past January, Anthony graduated ahead of schedule so that he could focus his efforts on growing his business. When asked if he plans to attend college, Anthony said, “In my business training, I learned to conduct a ‘Cost versus Benefit’ Analysis and right now the cost of attending college out-weighs the benefits.”Below is my in-depth interview with Anthony Carmona, CEO of Anthony Knows Computers.
Phillips: How and when did you start your business?
Carmona: When I was kid in elementary school, my big brother always had the latest and greatest technology. Me being the little brother that I was, I almost always found a way to break my his gadgets. Usually my big brother would yell at me for breaking his tech toys but he would just end up buying another one. But one time, I broke a high priced tech toy and I don’t think my brother had the money to buy another one. He told me that I better fix it! I was a little nervous because I knew that my big brother might ruin my life if I didn’t find a way to fix his gadget. I did eventually fix his gadget, and I think that was the beginning of how I started my business.
Later on in middle school, I was exposed to several computer courses which provided me with additional computer skills. In January 2010, I took a Network For Teaching Entrepreneurship (NIFTE) course that required me to write a business plan. The more involved I became with writing my business plan, the more I wanted to launch a computer consulting business. After I finished my business plan, in June 2010, I launched Anthony Knows Computers. I used my winnings from NIFTE’s business plan competition to help get my business off the ground. Between the local and regional competitions, I won $1600 which was more than enough to help me enter the computer business.
Phillips: Who was your first customer?
Carmona: In July 2010, Teresa, my first customer contacted me because her computer was operating very slow and seem to be dragging along. She learned about me through a friend from the NIFTE Regional Business Competition. Teresa’s invoice was $200 which was much more than I would have earned if I worked at a local fast food restaurant. Teresa continued to have several computer related issues and was impressed with my customer service and professionalism. So, I implemented what I learned from my NIFTE training, I converted a short-term customer into a long-term client by setting Teresa up on a six-month $1,000 retainer.
Phillips: What did your friends think about your computer business?
Carmona: In the very beginning, my friends didn’t know how serious I was about starting my business. I think they thought it was just an idea that I had in my head. But shortly after I launched my business, I think my friends knew that I wasn’t playing around. The good thing is that I have supportive friends who were behind me the entire time. My friends were a constant source of business by referring their parents, family members, and their friends. After my business began to grow, my friends began asking me to hire them to work with me.
Phillips: What’s been your most important business lesson?
Carmona: Before going into business, I didn’t really understand time management. Since I was a student entrepreneur, I was forced to learn how to devote time to my schoolwork, my business, and myself. Over time, it seemed like my business was become more important than my school work but in order for my business to grow, I knew that I had to continue to learn. If I didn’t go into business, I don’t think I would have understood the importance of time management until much later in life.
Another important business lesson was learning how money really works. Most people get really excited when they begin to make money but it’s not about how much you make, it’s about how much you keep. Your business can generate $100,000 in revenue but after you deduct all of your operating expenses you could be left with only two dollars. As a result of this understanding of money, my personal and business savings have skyrocketed.
Phillips: What advice can you share with other aspiring teen entrepreneurs?
Carmona: I think it’s very important to understand your business and your industry. It’s very important to become confident by really knowing the in’s and out’s of your business. Especially when you are young, you can’t afford to slack off and not be ahead of the information curve. No one should know more about your business than you. Next, I think time management is also very important. I had to learn how to fully use all of the time in each day. I created a schedule for working, studying, and hanging out. When you know your industry, your business, and management your time effectively, your family, friends, teachers, and other adults will take you seriously.