While some teenagers mow lawns and rake leaves to earn their spending money, one tech-savvy 13-year-old has instead taken the high-tech route. Joshua P. Bates, who goes by the nickname Jake, an 8th grader at the Oak Ridge School in Sandwich, has launched his own tech support business, called JPB Tech Tutoring.
Since starting his business one month ago, Jake, has helped eight clients with their computer challenges, from speeding up slow computers, recovering lost files, to setting up security filters, building websites and setting up blogs.
When asked what he wants to do when he grows up, he said, "I either want to work for Google, because they have cool offices, or I want to start my own software company."
Jake has been using computers since he was 4 years old. Blessed with a curious nature and inspired by his grandfather to find out how everything works, he was ripe for information that an afterschool BASIC programming club had to offer. The program was taught at the Oak Ridge School once a week, for one year, when Jake was a 6th grader. Jake soaked up the information, and his computer skills and interests, took off from there.
"I am amazed by how much he knows about computers because I don't understand them and worry about breaking them," said Jake's mother, Lisa Bates. "This kid is not afraid of them and if he doesn't know an answer about them, he knows what to do to find that answer."
"A computer isn't built to screw up," Jake said. "It is a machine that takes commands." The trick, he said, is knowing those commands—"speaking" to a computer in the language it understands.
"A computer isn't built to screw up," Jake said. "It is a machine that takes commands."
Ms. Bates was hesitant for Jake to start this venture and wanted to be sure he knew what he was getting into. To convince his mom, twin brother, sister and dad, that he could do this, he googled "how to write a business plan." It took him a month to write the plan during his summer vacation, but once his mom read it, she gave the thumbs-up for the business. Jake began passing out flyers in September.
Now, Ms. Bates, considers Jake her business partner and IT guy. She runs her own business teaching and giving workshops about all things that help us live better. Jake built her website lblivingbetter.com, complete with videos and snapshots of what she does. Her current project is a book entitled, "Raising an Organized Child."
Jake is saving the money from this work to buy a new laptop and fund any other tech gadgets that his parents will approve.
"My kids don't have phones and iPods and haven't been on social media because I thought they were too young and I wasn't ready for it," Ms. Bates said, "but now that Jake has started this business and proven to me how good he is at all this tech stuff, we might have to change our policy on that. Especially since Jake now has a Facebook business page with 24 likes."
Jake's first customer came one week after he handed out his flyers. "It was a lot of hard work to get my flyer ready and then I went door to door as far as I could walk to get all 100 flyers passed out," he said.
Waiting for the First Call
He was anxious for that first call to come in.
Elaine Crooks was that first customer, living just a few streets away. Ms. Bates accompanied Jake on his first house call.
Jake was fascinated by how old Ms. Crooks' computer was and by the mouse she used. It was not a mouse he had ever seen before. Despite that, he was able to unfreeze her computer, clean up her files and boost the computer's speed.
A Scituate resident is the farthest customer he has problem-solved for. He was able to work with this person online to assess the issue, work the problem out, and to present his solution.
Ideally he would like to help four people every weekend, and after school during the week, based on how urgent the customer's needs may be. Someone whose computer is not working at all will take priority over someone who may only need to speed things up.
Besides computers, Jake enjoys international studies, another learning opportunity offered by the Oak Ridge School. Through this program, he plays a United Nations representative for the country of Peru. Each week the mock UN is given a problem, the student delegates debate their solutions and eventually they all come to an agreement on the best one. Jake also plays the baritone horn in school band, participates in recreational basketball, baseball and has just finished with tennis lessons.
The next step for Jake's computer business is to pass out flyers at the Sandwich Council on Aging and the Sandwich Public Library, but he may want to do some pro bono work there to reach out to the community. While he figures out that plan of attack he can be found studying computers on codeacademy.com, or chatting with computer experts on Google IRC channels.
One day he was posing a question to a computer expert on a Google Hangouts channel. After 10 minutes of computer jargon chat, his mother, who was supervising the chat, suggested that Jake tell the expert, "I am only 13 years old." The expert typed back, "I can't believe it. WOW!"
JPB Tech Tutoring has a website (JPBtechtutoring.wordpress.com) that Jake created himself, with some copyediting done by mom. He has useful computer tips and a blog on this site as well as his contact information. He also has a Facebook business page found here.
His pricing is very similar to what you would pay a teenager for yard work. Jake has a 100 percent satisfaction guaranteed policy. If he can't fix it, there is no charge. But so far, he has been able to resole all of his customer's computer conundrums.