What do YOU want to be when you grow up? Every kid has been asked this question at some time in his or her life. The answers are usually predictable. Doctor. Teacher. Veterinarian. Nurse. Firefighter. Astronaut. Entrepreneur. Wait… what?
We don’t usually hear that last one. But an entrepreneur is exactly what Andrew Pfluger has already been in his short but amazing life. At only 19 years of age, Andrew has demonstrated that hard work combined with clever imagination and a good business sense can net a young man some pretty sweet profits, to the tune of an R/C car business that has grossed well into six figures. (Click here to see Andrew’s business, AMP Hobby)
I met Andrew at a Dan Miller conference last May. We were both there for the purpose of continuing education, and learning more about how to form and pursue our business ideas. I was fortunate enough to be seated next to him during a lunch break. We talked about his background, and I was super impressed with him from the beginning. It didn’t take me long to recognize that this young man was one exceptional teen!
I hope you will enjoy reading all about Andrew, and that you might even learn a few valuable lessons from him in the process.
Q: At what age did you realize you wanted to become an entrepreneur? What types of experiences have you had with business as you were growing up?
A: When I was young, I did not feel destined for business or entrepreneurship. I had almost no experience with businesses of any kind. But I remember watching an episode of the PBS show Arthur entitled “Arthur Sells Out.”
In this episode, young Arthur learns about the world of selling items online, complete with photographing items, writing descriptions, and accepting payment, and sells some of his old toys in order to obtain funds to buy a game he wants. Eventually Arthur’s carelessness in his item descriptions leads to an unhappy customer and a test of his ethics. Arthur ultimately makes things right at his own expense.
This was my first exposure to the concept of online sales, and I was very, very intrigued. But it wasn’t until several years after I first saw this show that I delved into the world of sales myself at age 13.
A: I was deeply involved in the hobby of driving and working on R/C cars for a few years before the roots of my business were laid. I spent my summers racing R/Cs, working on them, and building tracks in my backyard with my friends.
I began selling R/C components online for the same reason Arthur began selling his toys – I realized I was in possession of items that still had monetary value – value that could become something new that I really wanted.
The sales of my own unneeded R/C parts and my first experience with online sales went so well that I started doing some research. I was aware of R/C “chop shops” that took apart R/C cars and sold the components at a profit, and (after much ado thanks to my wary parents) decided to try my luck.
At this stage, several hours of work and sales only netted about $40 in profit. But at age 13, I was only trying to earn some spending money. So I kept at it, and streamlined the process with new tools and templates to increase efficiency. Even with these improvements, it wasn’t until early 2013, 17 months later, that I applied my model to used R/C cars, saw the bump in profit margins, and started treating it as a real business. My efforts led to my being awarded 2nd place in the 2013 National FBLA E-business competition.
Q: You made a tough decision to leave college in favor of spending time on your business. That’s a really gutsy move. How did your family react to your plans?
A: My family, my parents in particular, have always provided much-needed pushback when it comes to my ideas, based on my enthusiasm and optimistic outlook. At age 12, I was too young to have a PayPal account, and it took a year of imploring my mother before she gave her blessings for me to create and use one under her supervision.
The college decision was roughly similar – it was a multi-year process. As a scholar student growing up in today’s education environment, it was always assumed that I would attend college; but as a junior/senior in high school, I decided to delay my decision to go to college while I researched other options. I knew already that my time in the classroom had little effect on my growth or skills compared to my efforts outside the classroom. But when I couldn’t identify an alternative to college that I could get excited about, I gave in and gave University a shot.
It was clear from the early-going that 4 more years of sitting at a desk was not going to serve me well, and as a financially-savvy guy, the cost of college loomed over my head and haunted me at every class. I kept my parents in the loop the whole time, and they were not surprised when I made the decision to call it quits. The decision was very gradual, and I withdrew from classes over time.
The transition was actually very easy, as I already had work, housing, and reasonable income lined up. I’ve convinced my mom that I’m on the right track, but my dad, who is a math teacher, wants to see some results, which I’m happy to provide!
I’m very blessed to have a family who loves me and has had my best interest in mind every step of the way.
Q: What types of different educational routes and resources do you plan to pursue in lieu of attending college? What are some things you have already done?
A: I think the greatest shortcoming of the educational system today is its narrow view of what it means to be “educated.” I think attending lectures and memorizing facts and processes for tests does little to develop a marketable skill set, much less foster personal growth.
In my newfound freedom from institutionalized school, I intend to utilize the wealth of resources at my disposal to acquire an actual education that puts the average college graduate’s repertoire to shame.
I am becoming an avid reader. According to a study by The Jenkins Group, 42% of college graduates never read another book after graduating. Imagine the wealth of knowledge that can be gained by reading one or two nonfiction books per month! I am also very fond of audio products, as they can be utilized while performing other tasks.
I consider myself an excellent researcher, and put the internet to work to gain new skills and expertise. I have started businesses, built computers from scratch, and fixed cars using only information from the internet. I attend talks, seminars, workshops, and conferences at every opportunity, and schedule meetings and meals with those I want to learn from on a personal level. The rest of my skills will be attained though real-world experiences – volunteering and working. I go to school everywhere!
Q: What are some of your other passions and interests?
I am passionate about education and politics, but am not sure if I would ever pursue these areas professionally. The kid in me loves pyrotechnics and off-road racing – I love to go fast. I have recently developed an interest in aviation and intend to earn my pilot’s license in the coming years.
Q: What is your most important accomplishment during the past year? How will it affect you in the future?
A: My greatest accomplishment in the past year is translating my business, on which I worked for 4 years outside of school, into a full-time primary responsibility. I also was named the Wisconsin Young Entrepreneur for 2015.
When I left college I began to track my time, and became serious about investing 40 hours per week into my business. To my delight, my earnings scaled up to match my time investment, and I immediately began pulling in a very respectable income for an adult entering the workplace. This answered my greatest question, did wonders for my confidence, and affirmed that I made the right call leaving school.
Q: What opportunities do you think more teens should take advantage of?
A: I think far more teens should take advantage of the opportunity to start life debt-free, and keep it that way. During my senior year of high school, I watched peer after peer get on an educational track that would result in the accumulation of $100,000+ in debt over four years. This has become “normal” in our society, and is the path encouraged by educators, counselors, and parents.
I think far more teens should take advantage of the opportunity to start life debt-free, and keep it that way.
I think more teens should take the time to understand what being in this kind of debt does to a person’s health, relationships, and finances. Talk to someone with student loan debt, credit card debt, or huge car payments. Think about what they could do with their monthly payments instead of paying off debt. Research how much money you could retire with if you were to invest the average student loan payment in a Roth IRA. Understand you have the opportunity to be free of debt, and think seriously about whether or not you want this freedom to end.
Q: What is the greatest obstacle you have ever had to overcome?
A: The greatest obstacle I’ve had to overcome (and still struggle with greatly) is my own indecision. As an entrepreneur, and someone who is in complete control of my time and location, I have the freedom to pursue opportunities at a moment’s notice. But as someone who takes things very seriously and always wants to make the right choices, my indecision has often had negative effects.
Looking back on my life and career, there are several decisions I wish I had made much earlier. Quitting college is at the top of the list. I have missed scholarships, jobs, houses, and opportunities for growth because of indecision. I often wonder where I would be if I had gone with my gut and stopped deliberating so much.
Q: Andrew, tell us what is on the horizon for you. What are some other awesome entrepreneurial ventures we can expect to see from you in the future?
A: I am chock-full of ideas, interests, and passions, and I intend to use my time on earth to pursue as many of them as I can, always with serving others and glorifying God as the underlying focus.
I am chock-full of ideas, interests, and passions, and I intend to use my time on earth to pursue as many of them as I can, always with serving others and glorifying God as the underlying focus.
In the short-term, I intend to use my expertise in the world of radio control to bring R/C racing to the masses in the form of a high-school sport. Next summer I will at long last venture into the world of off-road racing, my childhood dream, though I am still working on crafting my unique angle of approach.
Long-term, I would like to be a part of designing an educational system that focuses on educating students in areas beyond core academic subjects. I want to design a new outdoor movie experience and venue. I will likely write a book or two along the way. My plans aren’t concrete, and by no stretch do I have everything figured out. But that’s ok – I can afford to pursue different things and try many paths, because I have chosen a life of freedom.
To say that I was blown away by Andrew’s answers to my interview questions would be an understatement. His insights and perspective on education, business, and finance show a maturity that is unmatched in many adults twice his age! Also, Andrew’s background proves a person can learn from scratch to do anything he wants, including how to run and manage a profitable business.
Even though Andrew has so many impressive accomplishments, I have to say I was most impressed by his devotion to God and his Christian faith. His goal to glorify God in all of his endeavors shows a solid foundation and an ability to set his priorities according to the things that matter most in life. It certainly seems to be working out very well for him.
I absolutely can’t wait to see Andrew’s plans and goals unfold in his life. No doubt we will be hearing from this young man again in the not-so-distant future. Look out, world! Andrew, Entrepreneur Extraordinaire, is making things happen!
Do you have an exceptional teen?
If you have or know of a teen who is exceptional – whether it be in school with academics, music talent, sports, heroic deeds, community service, or anything else that would make him or her stand out – I want to hear about it!
Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org to tell me a little bit about your situation. Give a quick sentence or two about why your teen is exceptional. I will be in touch with you with an emailed list of interview questions your teen can answer and send back to me. The world needs to know there are wonderful kids out there doing outstanding, praiseworthy activities. I would love to feature your exceptional teen.
Also, leave a comment in the section below if you enjoyed reading about Andrew.
Check out our other exceptional teen features. We’re showing the world how great kids are – one teenager at a time!