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Whiz Kids // King of the computer business

Like a lot of teenagers, Matt King doesn't want to spend his whole day in school. The difference is the Leesburg High School freshman just might get out of going to classes all day.

After all, King, 14, has a business to run.

In August 1994, he opened the Mac Outlet, a computer store, in a strip mall on Citrus Boulevard, a road that doesn't seem to have any citrus trees but does have plenty of chain restaurants and banks.

Business is going very well, King said. So far, he has sold about $800,000 in computers and has reinvested profits into the business.

Now King wants to invest more time in his store. He plans to petition the Lake County School Board to see if he can get out of class at 11 a.m. to run his store, said his mother, Selena King.

For now, Mark Ayoub, a friend from church, runs the shop until King gets to work after school. King's mom keeps the books and signs the checks and legal documents. His grandfather, Jessie Edwards, who owns the nearby Cherokee Trading Post, offers guidance and financial support.

When King gets in, he takes care of the customers and computers. "For someone my age to start a business, you need a lot of support," he said.

It also helps to ask questions, explore the unknown and trust your curiosity. King, a gregarious sort who blushes easily, queries others about their businesses, straight down to asking the Federal Express delivery man about his salary structure.

His curiosity about computers stems from a basketball accident in gym class. He was reaching for the ball and snapped his hand back, breaking it. That meant he couldn't participate in gym and had to spend that period in the library. So he started playing on the computer. And loved it.

That was when he was 10. At 12, he turned his hobby into a business.

King advertises in MacWorld magazine, on the Internet and through word of mouth. It seems to be working. He has expanded into three adjacent stores to make room for inventory, which he'd like to start stocking up.

Right now, when a customer orders a computer, King immediately orders it from another source and resells it to the customer. King is not an authorized Apple reseller, so he's not getting his computers directly from Apple, according to Pam Miracle, an Apple spokeswoman.

King won't say where he purchases his computers, but he promises he can beat competitors' prices by selling products at a lower markup. And he said he is applying to become an authorized Apple reseller.

But his dreams don't stop there.

"I like to sell things, and I like business in general," King said. "I'm hoping, once I've got this one fully operational, to start up another type of business. And it could be anything. It'll probably be something I suddenly take an interest in."

He may still be a kid, but as King puts it, "I'm already doing what I want to do when I grow up."

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