It all started as a way to avoid hard work. Tired of working a "real job" as a luggage salesman, Yusef Qasim, at age 14, and his friend decided to start a Web design company. Though he hoped to make at least as much money as he did working his previous job, Quasim never realized how lucrative owning his own business would be.
Like most new companies with a low advertising budget, it took awhile for business to take off. Instead of money, he and his partner invested their sweat and time to get their name out to the community.
"At first we offered our services for free," Quasim remembers. "We would go down the strip of a major commercial highway and pass out flyers and visit small stores in the mall. Within a few months, we received a front page article in a major newspaper and started receiving favorable publicity."
After acquiring several clients, he realized that Web hosting was a great opportunity to create profit from any website being developed online. The young entrepreneur soon learned that instead of just developing websites, he could earn more money by hosting their online space for his customers.
Despite the fact the venture proved to be profitable, he sold GX Hosting, LLC for $750,000 after only a year and a half of being in business. At the time, the company had more than 3,200 paying clients all over the world, according to Quasim.
"Being so young, I think the best part about being an entrepreneur is the experience you get from being in the business day-in and day-out," he says. "It’s never a smooth ride and through months and months of being in operation, you learn that even the little things you do can show a great impact months down the road."
Today, Qasim has seven employees working for his three companies: eXoStream Communications, which now hosts more than 1,700 clients; DigitalEffex, LLC, which is the main holding company and also the development portion of the entire operation; and The Virtual Key, which is a small, low-cost hosting and domain registration company that DigtalEffex bought from another individual.
Quasim says the combined companies’ net income after expenses is about $140,000 per year for hosting and $112,000 per year for design. Not bad for someone who hasn’t even celebrated his twentieth birthday.
"I love the fact that things can be less corporate at times [when working with celebrities]," he says. "My clients give me a lot of freedom with what I can do with their websites. Plus, it’s the entertainment industry. No one works a typical 9-to-5 job, so I have the opportunity to work at any hour of the day. I think it’s cool that everyone is pretty young too, for the most part, and meetings can be held a lot less formal."
For fun, Qasim developed a system to sell and buy books online for his fellow students at Quinnipiac University in Hamden, CT. Last year, the website claims it helped students save $121,000 per semester by giving them the option to buy and sell books from each other. He also created an online venue for students to interact and find information about on-campus activities.
Responsibility can be hard to handle for someone so young. But along with managing his companies, a full-time college course load and a packed social schedule, the busy junior seems to be doing a pretty good job at it.
"I think the responsibility is great," he says. "I see all of this as a major opportunity that I will continue to take advantage of. DigitalEffex’s future success is highly dependent on our ability to generate a high quality work product, so I will continue to work hard to impress every DigitalEffex client."
© 2008, Young Money Media, LLC. All rights reserved.