by Sara Shay

Homework That Pays: High School Senior Runs Profitable Web Business

May 15, 20022 mins
BPM Systems

Bill Gates isn’t the only high-tech magnate in the great state of Washington. Deep in his parents’ basement in Richland, 18-year-old high school senior Joel Cline runs a profitable technology business of his own: Cline Communications (www.cline CIO recently spoke with him about his life and work.

CIO: What does Cline Communications do?

Cline: We’re into Web development, hosting and marketing for small businesses and individuals. I started the company in 1999 with the idea of helping small-business owners jump on the Internet. A lot of companies charge nothing less than $399 for a business to get on the Web. That is ridiculous.

What do you charge?

We design websites for $200 at the most. I do trade and barter with people quite a bit, though. For example, I received my senior portraits for free when I designed the photography studio’s website. There’s a company I do a website for that rents out those big toys that blow up and you bounce around inside of them. In exchange for their website design, I had them bring one to my house one day to give my two younger brothers something to play on.

How do you get prospective clients to take you seriously?

Many think that it’s some lawn-mowing business. Sometimes, I tell [prospective clients] it’s more of a family-owned business so that they think I’m not the owner, and then they seem to want to work with me.

Which is harder: going to high school or running a business?

Going to high school, because it keeps me away from running the business. I go to school in the afternoons so that I have time to work in the morning. But in high school, I also run on our cross-country and track and field teams.

What’s your best mile time?

I’ve run a 5:09 mile. It’s not all that great, but we’ll see what I can pull off this year.