FBLA helps local students become entrepreneurs

9 years ago

FBLA helps local students become entrepreneurs

By Scott Mitchell Johnson
Staff Writer

    PRESQUE ISLE — While being a high school student can be time-consuming — and sometimes challenging — on its own, two Presque Isle High School students have significantly increased their workload by becoming entrepreneurs, as well.

Staff photo/Scott Mitchell Johnson


    NICK POWERS, left, and Chris Carroll, both students at Presque Isle High School and members of the Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA), are young entrepreneurs, as well. Powers owns Powers Property Maintenance, while Carroll is the owner/manager of C-DJ Services. The two feel that their experiences with FBLA have provided them the tools needed to become successful businessmen.

Contributed photos


     CHRIS CARROLL, owner/manager of C-DJ Services, is a very busy 18-year-old. In addition to owning his own business, which provides event services including audio and lighting and emcee work, Carroll is a senior at Presque Isle High School and is the president of the school’s Future Business Leaders of America chapter. Here, Carroll stands at his booth at the recent Bridal Expo held at NMCC where he was promoting his business.


     POWERS PROPERTY MAINTENANCE, owned and operated by 17-year-old Nick Powers, has been helping customers with their lawns and driveways since 2009. Powers has been busy this winter doing such tasks as plowing, roof shoveling, cleaning walkways and sanding. The Presque Isle High School junior invests a lot of the money he earns back into the business and purchases the equipment needed — such as this compact utility tractor — to do the right job for his customers.

    Chris Carroll, a senior, is the owner/manager of C-DJ Services.
    “We do event services — we provide audio and lighting, emcee work, and we just bought a photo booth … the kind you see at malls,” he said. “You walk in and push a button, and it takes three or four pictures. It can be customized to do strips or 4-inch by 6-inch cards.
    “We’ve done a lot of different events,” said Carroll, 18. “We’ve done weddings, school dances, Sweet 16 and 13th birthday parties, we’ve done parade music, private parties, corporate events and more.”
    Carroll said he started the business when he was a 15-year-old sophomore.
    “Nov. 1, 2012 was our first official gig; it was the Halloween dance at the high school,” he said. “It was definitely easier because I kind of know what my friends like for music, so I felt more comfortable. My first wedding was really when I first felt stress doing an event. At a wedding, you get all ages and you have to play for all ages. It’s different.”
    The idea to get into the DJ business, Carroll said, came after visiting the Portland mall.
    “We were actually on the Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) trip my freshman year, and in one of the stores at the Portland mall was an LED disco light. I thought that was the coolest thing. We had it set up in the room and we were playing music that night, so from then on, I thought, ‘Hey, I could probably do this,’” he said. “That year — during harvest — I saved up all my money and bought my first light bar.
    “I approached Mr. [Joe] Greaves, the class adviser, and said, ‘I know you normally hire a DJ, but I could probably rent speakers and do this cheaper.’ It ended up that I came up with a name, and I bought my own audio system, so then I had audio and lights, and it took off from there,” said Carroll. “I started investing everything I made back into equipment, and I still do. I try to have the most up-to-date equipment. Everything we have is computer controlled. We have concert level lights and speakers; it’s what you’d find at a concert whereas someone else who might say they’re a DJ wouldn’t put the time and effort into having equipment like that. We bring a lot to the table.”
    Carroll has an assistant — Colby Conroy — who he started working with in December 2013.
    “If I can do the event by myself, I will, but with weddings, I always bring an assistant. It makes things a lot easier,” said Carroll. “When we do an event, he’s actually my head DJ. I run all emcee work and crowd control, deal with the bride and get everything set up, and Colby’s job is to handle the music.”
    Last year Carroll worked 35 events. He hopes to continue to expand the business.
    “We now actually run two setups, so we can run two events in the same day. We’re starting to double-book weddings; I’ve got two double-booked for the summer,” Carroll said. “Colby and I will each take one; he has his own assistant, and I’m looking for a new assistant.
    “Down the road I want to offer full event services … photography, videography, audio service, music, lighting … anything that would go into a wedding. We’re your one-stop shop,” he said.
    Carroll, who is the president of the FBLA at PIHS, said the organization has taught him how to be a better businessman.
    “I’ve been in FBLA all four years, and with my business, it’s all about people — keeping your customers happy. You want your customer to walk away thinking they got something out of your service. We’re in the service industry,” he said. “Going to FBLA conferences, you meet a lot of different people and you learn how to talk to people. Conversation is really important. When I have a client email, call or message me on Facebook, you need to know how to respond in a polite manner, and to get your point across well. FBLA teaches you how to do that.”
    Carroll said his family has been very supportive of his business venture.
    “When I first pitched the idea, I needed a $1,200 loan from my Dad. I was supposed to pay it back in six months, but I paid it back in three,” he said. “Having a family business, Dad was really supportive of it. Both parents have been very encouraging.”
    In addition to C-DJ Services, Carroll has two other businesses — Mowing On Demand and Northern Maine Snowmobiling.
    “I have two mowers now, and I had seven accounts last year,” he said. “I’m going to run a crew this summer.
    “With Northern Maine Snowmobiling, I sell shirts and stickers online,” Carroll said. “We have 4,000 followers on Facebook. That’s more of a community thing than a business, but I do make a little money off of it. Mowing’s the biggest profit margin, but DJing is my biggest pull overall. It all keeps me busy.”
    Carroll plans to attend college outside of Aroostook County and study marketing or management. He will continue to be involved in his businesses. He can be reached by calling 227-6263.
    Nick Powers, a junior at PIHS, owns Powers Property Maintenance. He started the business in 2009 while he was still in middle school.
    “My next-door neighbor’s house burnt — and he’s older — and when he got a new house, he wanted someone to mow his lawn, so I started mowing it,” said Powers, 17. “Then I mowed his son’s lawn, and then the one across the street, and it kept on growing and growing.”
    The operation has evolved into a year-round business.
    “In the wintertime, I do plowing, roof shoveling, clean walkways and sanding,” said Powers. “Last spring, I had a sweeper on the back of a compact tractor so I could sweep lawns and parking lots. I bought a brand new tractor last year with a bucket, so my goal is to use that again this spring. I hope to get quite a few customers this year.
    “Summer is mostly mowing. I haven’t done any pesticide application yet because I’m not certified, but I’ll probably get into that in the future,” he said. “In the fall I do leaf cleanup, and can supply and stack firewood — or haul pellets — if they ask for it.”
    While earning money is important to him, Powers said he’s “always liked doing things for neighbors.”
    “It grew into wanting to make sure all my customers are happy, and grow future customers, and keep a positive attitude with every customer,” he said, noting that last year he had about 40 customers — half of them being elderly.
    Powers invests a lot of the money he earns back into the business.
    “I just bought a new one ton truck with a dump for plowing a couple of weeks ago,” he said. “I also have a pickup. As far as equipment, I’ve got a regular riding mower and a zero-turn, and my name is on another zero-turn in Caribou that I’ll get this spring. I’ve got two compact tractors, a pressure washer with a tank — all on a cart — for exterior house pressure washing, push mowers, weed whackers, pull saws, etc. Everything I’ve made has mostly gone back into the business to purchase equipment, but I’m starting to make enough that I can keep some to pay for college.”
    Powers said while he has friends he can call on if he needs a hand, he hopes to keep the business small enough so he can do most of the work himself.
    “I think it’s easier that way,” he said.
    It can be challenging being both a student and owning a business, Powers said.
    “Last spring, for example, I’d get up at 4:30 a.m. and go sweeping, and then bring the trailer to school and park it in the back parking lot, and leave after school and go sweep until dark. It makes for a long day, but it’s worth it,” he said. “While I like the money, I really like having satisfied customers. I like being able to help elderly customers — people that can’t do it themselves.”
    Powers is also a member of the FBLA. He said being in the organization has taught him some valuable lessons.
    “FBLA has taught me proper etiquette in dealing with customers, and making sure that I listen to what they want to say before I tell them my opinion of the job,” he said.
    Powers hopes to eventually attend NMCC so he can remain local and continue to operate the business.
    “I plan to do this both after high school and after college,” he said, noting that he would encourage other high school students to consider starting their own businesses, as well.
    “It’s worth it if you’re doing what you like,” said Powers. “If someone likes to sew, you can sew for someone, or if you like kids, you can babysit. While working at a grocery store is fine, I think it’s better if you’re doing what you like.”
    Powers can be reached by calling 551-7898.