Design Vetica: The Double Lives of High School Entrepreneurs

Design Vetica is an interactive design agency based in Vancouver, British Columbia. The principal players in the company are 16- and 17-year-old high school students, who are juggling client meetings and final exams in order to grow their business.  We talked with David Kim, a partner at Design Vetica, about running their own show, managing their money with Harvest, and what’s next for the fledgling company.

How did you guys come together as Design Vetica?

We have all either worked as freelance web designers/developers, or have built websites on our own, and we’ve all been tinkering with the web since we were around 12- and 13-years-old. We’ve been involved in web design about 2 years before we started the company, and most of the projects we received were referrals from friends. William and I started talking about building a company for web design and media production in a shared IT class, and we pulled in Alex as he had worked on previous projects with William. In February of 2009, Design Vetica was born.

What’s it like to run a business with a team that is all in high school?

Working with a team that is still attending high school definitely has its pros and cons. Our most challenging aspect of being young entrepreneurs is that we are STILL in high school!  This means we have many obligations: we have to juggle school work and getting good marks, while keeping up with deadlines from multiple projects with clients. Recently, we had to decline potential clients during final exams, to keep up with the combined workload. Being a young entrepreneur also has its benefits, as many companies are looking for young talent, on the cutting edge of the industry. The experience we have gained is invaluable, and we often feel it’s the best course we ever took in high school!

Have you found that the Vancouver community has embraced supporting a company with such a young team?

The Vancouver community has been very supportive. For example, when we rented our office, the owner of space, Minna Van, gave us a discount because we started our business while in high school, and she has also helped us network with many other influential people. People like Jon Chui, curator of the Startup Digest for Vancouver, and Brian Wong, founder of Follow Formation, also inspired us with their ideas and have made themselves available to us as mentors.

What does a typical day entail for you?

In the early morning, we get up, put on our backpacks, and go to school. We occasionally receive clients emails and calls during classes. After school, we come back home to work on Design Vetica. Most of our client meetings are scheduled on weekends. Every two weeks, we also have a company meet-up, where we attend fun events together, like watching a movie or iceskating at Robson Square Ice Rink.   Sometimes, we feel like we live two different lives.

What programs and resources keep Design Vetica up and running?

We use the usual suspects, like Basecamp, and Google apps, but we still prefer to do the initial draft of any design work in our Moleskine and dotGrid notebooks. Nothing beats pen and paper!

What do you like most about running your own business? And what’s the hardest thing?

Everybody loves to run their own show, and we established this agency because we love what we do. Meeting new people, going to conferences, and working with clients every week really makes the experience enjoyable. The hardest thing right now is managing our money. Without any accounting background, we had trouble finding anything to track the status of our invoices, and manage our income. But with the help of Harvest, we hope to improve our finance management.

How do you use Harvest?

Coming from the stone ages, we actually never tracked time, as all of our projects have a fixed price. We would manually invoice and have to stay on top of the status of each invoice. Our accounting is very rudimentary, but with the help of Harvest, we hope to streamline this part of our business. Not only will we save time to do more creative stuff, but also we can finally rest assure that it’s done properly.

How do you see Design Vetica growing over the next 5 years?

Our goal has always been to establish a premium design agency, and we will be looking to expand and grow, with a new motion graphics team, and the development of web applications.  We are all considering going into either computer science or business for university, but whether we are all at the same school or working as a distributed team, we will definitely be working together in the future.

We’re proud to welcome Design Vetica to our ever growing stable of Harvest New Founders, and are happy to support this group of high school students establish their business at such a young age.

To help companies get on their feet, The Harvest New Founders Program gives one year’s subscription of Harvest time tracking service to a new company each month. Think you might be a good fit for our New Founders Program? Learn more and apply.

15 Comments so far
  • nice interview, I like the photo. lol

  • wow. talk about heart.

  • They are so young, and have so much passion. It’s very cool. I’m 27 and running a web company, can’t imagine doing it at 16 or 17.

    Well done kids.

  • This is pretty awesome. I am with Michael and I’m in the same boat, except I am 26 and freelancing. It’s difficult to keep track of everything, but it is true that Harvest helps the business side TREMENDOUSLY!

  • I’m just like you guys Michael and Jeffery – 23 and freelancing. My first reaction to these kids was, “Damn you!” but soon followed with heart-felt appreciation and admiration. Keep up the great work!

  • I’m 16 and working on a recording studio with a friend. We’re hoping we can follow this example and become our own entrepreneurs! Great article – provides lot of inspiration!

  • Kathy Snavely February 3, 2010

    Terrific, guys – turning those dreams of entrepreneurship into reality while those fires burn brightly! I’ll share this with my entrepreneurial students at Harrisburg Area Community College (USA, PA) in hopes that you will inspire them.

  • This is fantastic! I think we are going to see an army of young entrepreneurs in the coming years.

  • Yusuf Sheth February 3, 2010

    Wow. This is a dream for me.

  • Fantastic! Great job you guys.

  • I’m working hard to get to this stage … having my own office is a big plus … plus a few staff… i just wish i had a big house… but web design in manchester isn’t the biggest market …yet ;)

  • This is great I am just starting to think that something like this is what we will be seeing allot more of. Young people have allot of opportunity these days.

  • Very inspiring to see talented young folks going at it. Much success!!

  • As someone pushing towards the big 5-0, I would have loved to have had an opportunity like this when I was starting out. I wish you all every success!

  • Anyone know how these guy’s are doing now?

Comments have been closed.
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