Ashley Qualls does not look like a typical high school student. Maybe that is so because the 17-year-old girl runs her own million-dollar online business. Ashley heads whateverlife.com, a website she started when she was just fourteen with eight dollars borrowed from her mother. Now the site shows a return in nearly one million dollars a year. With this money Ashley bought a big house with an office on the ground floor.
Ashley became interested in graphic design just as the online social networking vogue began. She designed Myspace.com layouts for her friends. The designs turned out cheery and colorful with lots of heart shapes, Ashley’s favorites. She also pulled quotes from popular songs which reflected the website theme. Whateverlife.com created 3,000 designs, a third of which Ashley made herself.
About one million people a day visit her site. This fact could not help attracting advertisers. Ashley’s first check was for $2,700, the next one was for $5,000, and the third one – $10,000. When the first check arrived, Ashley’s mother doubted whether the website could bring money in the future. But Ashley was sure of success. She was right. The checks kept coming one after another and the business kept growing. The family soon saved enough money to buy a four-bedroom house, where they live now.
Ashley hired her own mother Linda to help her manage the company. Linda is very proud of her daughter. She says that Ashley was too shy even to order pizza over the phone. But now she makes presentations to businessmen.
Business has made teenager’s life much more complicated. Ashley, a former A student, had to quit school to concentrate on whareverlife.com.
“It’s a busier schedule,” Ashley says. “There’s more to keep track of, whether its finances or employees and making sure everything is up to date and the content is secure.” Ashley has created designs for songs by popular artists, Britney Spears particularly. Apart from her mother Ashley also hired three friends. She taught them design and required to make at least 25 designs a week.
Ashley is a better boss than her past employers, says Bre Newby. “It’s cool to have your best friend be like your boss. She’s not like rude or it’s not like working at McDonald’s where you have like supervisors and people over you all the time,” she adds.
Internet consultant Robb Lippit is Ashley’s consultant. He had concerns about working with a teenager, but Ashley dispelled all his doubts in the first meeting, he says.
“She is quite sensible and knows without being told, that she needs to keep developing her business, or it will stop growing,” says Robb. Unlike many adults Ashley has not succumbed to the temptations that the wealth can bring. Her own salary is $3,000 a month. Aside from the house, she has not made any other major purchases.
“I don't even know how to put this," says Ashley, "But it's just kind of like the shiny feeling that when you have this money, it kind of goes away after a while. It gets old, you know. Yeah, I can go out and buy you know something really cool. But at the same time I mean I don't really need too much. I like to invest it back into the business."
Translated by Ksenia Sedyakina