Senior Ben Seidel is not the type of guy to spend his summer napping at the pool and mastering the next level of "Call of Duty" — one is much more likely to find him in front of a computer running his website development and technology company, Igniting Business.
Seidel discovered his entrepreneurial spirit around the age of 13. A friend taught him how to create websites, and he learned much more through self-teaching and online tutorials. After making his first website, a personal page about himself and friends, he offered to develop a website for a business his father was a part of at a fraction of the price other website development companies charged.
“I turned this hobby of website development into a business,” he said. “We really focus on value.”
Igniting Business offers a multitude of services. Seidel and his four associates help small businesses with technology consultations, web solutions and marketing materials such as business cards, car decals and even professional photography.
Even as a child, Seidel knew how to be his own employer. He said whenever he saw an opportunity to offer his time or knowledge on a task, he did so for a nominal fee.
“The realization that I could do this for a living came out of that,” he said.
Prior to founding Igniting Business, Seidel spearheaded CentralMO.com, a community resource website for Missourians to peruse and post classifieds, event listings and information about local businesses.
Seidel’s work has been recognized by the National Association for the Self-Employed, a non-profit member organization that provides resources and benefits to entrepreneurs and micro-businesses. NASE offers services such as legal help, home office insurance and credit cards to its members. The association also represents its members in D.C., lobbying for small business needs such as affordable health coverage and retirement security.
Last year Seidel received the NASE Future Entrepreneur Scholarship, which is worth $16,000.
“The NASE's Future Entrepreneur Scholarship is the largest scholarship in the nation devoted to the promotion of entrepreneurship among young people,” the association’s website stated.
The rigorous application process for the scholarship took two months and required several essays, an interview and a business plan, Seidel said.
“The business plan helped us show we had the ability to think forward,” he said.
Seidel, who is also a part of NACE's member council, said he is the first line of feedback for new services the association wants to provide for its members.
“When the NASE is looking to put into place more benefits, packages and services that they want to test out, we represent (the members) and explain how we feel,” he said. “We take a look at the NASE’s initiatives and give them feedback.”
Seidel even went to Washington in May to discuss with other members what they wanted to achieve for the association in the upcoming year.
Seidel’s father, David, also an entrepreneur and NASE council member, largely influenced Seidel’s decision to deviate from the path of seeking employment with a large company after college. David Seidel owns an environmental and energy engineering firm.
“I was kind of raised knowing that I didn’t have to go the general path of working for another company,” Ben Seidel said. “There is always the option of pursuing what I really wanted to do. My parents encouraged me with ideas that were good and were openly critical of the ideas that were bad.”
Ben Seidel attributes much of his success to trial and error and studying the work of other entrepreneurs.
“A lot of it is learning by doing,” he said.
In May, Ben Seidel will graduate with bachelor's degrees in economics and marketing. He plans to focus solely on growing Igniting Business and expanding its workload. The company currently operates with four part-time associates.
The difference between Igniting Business and its competitors is the quality and depth of the work, Ben Seidel said. The company strives to include tools that manage inventory and social networking in addition to a functional website, and it also offers technology consulting for small businesses.
Ben Seidel's No. 1 piece of advice to aspiring entrepreneurs is to pursue one's passions.
“You don’t necessarily have to go the traditional route,” he said.