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Smells like teen money

By Preston Gralla
28 May 2001

There once was a time when, if ambitious adolescents wanted to make extra money, they would take on a paper route, mow lawns or wash cars.

But no longer. These days, they're turning to a more lucrative pastime than doing odd jobs -- they're becoming Webmasters, turning to the IT world or starting tech-based businesses.

Take Keith Peiris. He's only 13 and in the seventh grade, but as president, founder and CEO of the Web design, e-business and marketing company Cyberteks Design, he's already a veteran businessman, having founded his company in June 1999.

Don't think that his company is a small, one-person operation turning out cute little Web sites for friends and family. The company, in Canada, had $130,000 (Canadian dollars) in revenue last year and was named as one of the top 50 Canadian Web development and services companies. And Peiris was chosen by the Canadian Prime Minister, Joseph Jacques Jean Chrétien, to join him and other Canadian businessmen on a trade mission to China.

You might think that finding success at a young age would go to his head, but Peiris is unassuming and disarmingly articulate. And he started using computers at a very tender age.

"I started using computers when I was 3," he recalls. "When I was 9 or so, I started learning about building Web pages. I thought it would be really fun to do Web design and wanted to try something new."

Peiris didn't learn his skills in classes--everything he knows, he taught himself. He taught himself Macromedia Flash, for example, by spending 2 hours a day at it for 30 days.

A month after he started his company, he had his first client, a public school. And the clients have been coming back ever since. Companies such as KEWL, a hockey apparel company founded by Shayne Corson and Darcy Tucker of the Toronto Maple Leafs, signed him up to create their site.

Peiris spends about 2 hours a day after school working with his company, and from 2 to 10 hours on weekends.

While you might expect he would face ribbing from schoolmates, he said, "My peers don't really care...I keep my two lives separate." If anyone has problems with his success at a young age, it's a few misguided adults, not other kids, he said.

"A minority of adults say that I'm too young to be doing this or that by doing it I'm taking money away from adults... My advice to other kids wanting to do this is to ignore what adults like that say."

As to whether he'll be doing this job when he's an adult, Peiris said, "I'd like to stay with this company when I grow up, but the field might change. I'd like to be with whatever the next technology will be."

Given his success up to now, there's no doubt he'll be there. And by then, he might even be starting to shave.


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