A fresh crop of college seniors has just started a search, trying to find a job that will lead to a career filled with enjoyment and, of course, financial rewards. Some may even contemplate starting a business or writing a book. But New York University senior Michael Simmons won’t be pondering these possibilities: He’s already been there, done all three.
Growing up in Hopewell, N.J. with his mother, the former high school tennis star became interested in business during the dot-com boom when his friend Calvin Newport began doing Web development work for several companies. Simmons saw a possibility for someone his age to make some real money, it wasn’t long before the two friends, just 16 years old, decided to use their combined talents and energy to turn a profit.
After some time working as individual contractors for established companies, the pair formed their own company, Princeton Web Solutions (PWS). In 2000, Youngbiz Magazine rated PWS the #1 youth-run Web development company in the nation.
Simmons and Newport were able to compete in the Web development world by keeping their prices low. Charging $75 per hour (half the rate of many of their competitors), they still managed to make an average monthly income of around $30,000, far more than other high school students whose newspaper routes, allowances and jobs at the local mall yielded less money and résumé filler.
Now Simmons, between classes at NYU’s Stern School of Business, has written an eBook, The Student Success Manifesto, that chronicles his experiences with what he calls "extreme entrepreneurship," and advises other would-be early earners along their path to profit. The subtitle says it all: "The All or Nothing, Now or Never Guide to Creating a Life of Passion, Purpose, and Prosperity."
Here’s our interview with Michael Simmons, including his reflections on the people who helped him make it to the top, the advice he has for any young person looking to make their own money, and what he plans to conquer next.
YM: What made you think you could start a business at the age of 16?
SIMMONS: I don’t have a glamorous answer to this question. Both my co-founder and I were very ambitious. We read these articles everyday about how people were becoming millionaires from the Internet and we for some reason (call it youthful ambition) believed we could too. So we created a website and submitted it to the search engines, which cost about $80 in total. Within a few weeks we had a $1,000 Web development client and we were rolling. From that point on, we developed more confidence and commitment with each subsequent project.
YM: Why did you decide to write the book?
SIMMONS:I decided to write the book at the end of my freshman year when I realized, after my experience as an entrepreneur, that I had knowledge which could help my peers find passion, purpose and prosperity in their own lives. Also, I saw it as a way for me to make a profit, and a difference.
YM: Speaking of making a difference, I understand you were involved with the Liberty Partnership Program, which teaches entrepreneurship to inner-city youth.
SIMMONS: Teaching this entrepreneurship class, I had certain perceptions going in that were changed after I really experienced these influences on an environment that was very different from the one I was raised in. I really came to understand that there’s such an important distinction between having access to certain programs and benefits when you are young, and having in-your-face exposure to them.
YM: What’s the best way the average college student can make more money? Multiple jobs? Saving? Investing?
YM: What are your future plans? I take it you’re shooting for eventual millionaire status. Is there a certain age you hope to achieve this by?
SIMMONS: I don’t know what I’ll be doing 10 or 20 years from now, only that it will be something I am passionate about, something that makes a difference, and probably something that involves making a lot of money. However, I hope to be a millionaire next year when I’m 22. I just have to sell over 100,000 books to get there…
To get your copy of the Student Success Manifesto, or to learn more about Michael Simmons, check out SuccessManifesto.com.
Copyright © 2003. YOUNG MONEY®