Youthful Williamsville Entrepreneur Answers When Opportunity Knocks
By Lonnie Hudkins
David Park of Williamsville, a sophomore at Babson College in Wellesley, Mass., is living proof that you don't have to be old to make it in the computer industry, just smart.
Park, now 19, started making money in the business by selling anti-static spray and anti-static cleaning cloths when he was 14 years old. He formed his own company in the summer of 1984 with a $ 500 loan which he repaid. He then talked 12 other kids into working for him on a commission basis.
He and his sales force used a pat sales pitch to convince a lot of personal-computer users that "static is an annoyance and attracts a lot of dust. dust can destroy the chips inside a computer." His zinger, of course, was that his products "can help your machine last longer."
By the time he was 17 and a senior at Williamsville South High School, where he was a goalie on the hockey team and a varsity tennis player, Park was selling computers and software on Friday nights and Saturdays at Amherst Computer Exchange.
"I was the first employee they hired," he remembered. "I love sales work and they gave me the opportunity to really do some selling."
Before going off to college, Park developed a big following of customers. Although aggressive at times, the friendly young man would advise would-be-buyers to "shop-around" before making up their minds. He made many sales that way because people trusted him.
After all, he had been using computers since he was 7 and his dad bought him an Apple II model to use. He was familiar with most brand-name computers and could (and still can) program in several computer languages including "C" and Pascal.
He also used a Tandy 100 portable laptop to take notes while in high school. Word got around in the affluent Williamsville and Clarence areas that Park was the right person who would steer you right when you got ready to buy a computer.
Park didn't make much noise during his freshman year at Babson where he is majoring in "entrepreneurial" business and economics. but he was busy selling computer products in his spare time while waiting or something to come along that he could really sink his teeth into.
He found what he wanted in a mouse pad with a plastic-coated surface that is lightly textured. He sold "more" than 3,000" of the pads a couple of weeks ago at a computer shop in San Francisco. When you consider that the small pads retail for $ 14.95 and the large ones for $ 17.95, he did well.
Park, who travels on weekends to California, Minnesota and other places on his three-day weekends from college, says his teachers at Babson "encourage this sort of entrepreneurial effort as long as it doesn't interfere with your education."Although he admits he could "do a little better," his grade average is good.
Parks' friends say he is very aggressive when it comes to making a buck and that he probably is earning well over $ 35,000 a year in salary and commissions while going to school. He reportedly also has stock options from the company that makes the mouse pads. Not bad for a college sophomore.
His room at college is equipped better than a lot of small offices. He has a fax machines that keeps him in touch with the Computer Giftware Company headquarters in California. He ha a filing cabinet and a Macintosh II with color monitor. He also has an answering machine.
Park said the one thin he misses is playing varsity hockey. "I still play intramural hockey but I have to watch my time. It's precious."
As for the future, Park said he would like to get a masters degree in business administration and then a law degree. "Then I'll have all the tools to do what I want to do," he confided. And what does he want to do?
"for starters, at some time in my career, I want to work for H. Ross Perot (the Texas billionaire) and Donald Trump, he said. "Eventually, I want to go out on my own, of course."