In a little more than a year, 24-year-old Humberto Barrera has gone from founding a modest computer consultancy to reaping tens of thousands of dollars in sales.
Rhino Computer Systems, based in Brownsville, Texas, is projected to gross more than $100,000 in its first fiscal year and already boasts a clientele that includes doctors, lawyers, and Fortune 1000 companies.
Mr. Barrera runs Rhino Ė which he started with his own savings Ė out of the one-bedroom apartment he shares with his newlywed wife. For the time being, he is the companyís sole employee, though he has ambitious expansion plans.
Being an entrepreneur is nothing new to the Harlingen, Texas, native. At age 7, he opened a bicycle repair shop that earned him about 75 cents a day. He went on to receive police training and later became certified as an ophthalmic assistant, but he continued to dream of being his own boss.
Today he says his success is nothing less than a triumph over his humble upbringing, which included summer work picking vegetables with his eight brothers and sisters.
Q: What services does your company provide?
A: Computer construction and upgrades. I also build and maintain computer networks for businesses.
Q: How did you get started in the computer business?
A: I basically woke up one morning and decided I was going to dedicate myself to learning computers. A great deal of money is spent on computers each day. The question is, how do you get a piece of the pie? Itís not about age anymore. The computer industry is rapidly creating cultural and economic change. Lead, follow, or get out of the way.
Q: How would you describe your business philosophy?
A: My parents taught me that honesty goes a long way in the business world. I offer good-old-fashioned service and a handshake. I also believe that determination and persistence pay off. My strategic approach is to find a product that is in demand, and offer it at a lower price.
Q: Do you plan to take on investors?
A: I plan to start partnering with investors in about six months to one year. Iíve already received inquiries from potential investors, but Iím still studying the market to determine the tools and the kind of people I will need to expand successfully.
Q: Do you plan to add staff?
A: Yes, in the next year I plan to add upwards of 20 telemarketers, a manager, a full-time secretary, three technicians, an accountant, and a market researcher.
Q: How do you attract new clients?
A: The Internet, of course, and business cards. I also get a lot of clients by word of mouth. I impress my clients by showing up at a convenient time and offering rock-bottom prices. I also make house calls and offer 24-hour service. I may start advertising in local and regional publications Ė newspapers and magazines.
Q: What is your long-term vision for the company?
A: Eventually, I plan to own one of the biggest computer centers in Texas, with 24-hour technical support, same-day delivery of systems, and same-day repair. I hope to work with needy families, help them obtain computers for their children.
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