Interview with Young Businessman Cameron Johnson

Cameron Johnson started his first business at the age of nine. He has started, run and sold 12 successful companies, and he's now only 22. Houston Public Radio Business Reporter Ed Mayberry has more.

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Cameron Johnson has lived a business life that others two and three times his age only dream about. The Virginia native began that first business at the age of nine with just $50 and a home computer. He later started an online Beany Baby selling business, a desktop printing company and a Web site for swapping gift cards and certificates.

"This has just been my life, so it's not that, it's not anything special to me because I've grown up doing it, but when we first pitched this to, you know, the major publishing houses a year ago, they responded and said, you know, this book is so special because it's like Donald Trump meets Harry Potter."

When Johnson was 15, he became an advisory board member of a Tokyo-based company. His autobiography "15-Year-Old CEO," published in Japanese, became a best-seller.

"Well, I had an Internet company when I was 14, serving about a billion ads a year, and we were bringing in about $15,000 in revenue per day. And an article got printed on my story in Nikkei, or the Japnese equivalent of the Wall Street Journal. Basically, I was contacted by a Tokyo-based company that asked me to join their advisory board. So I did just that, and I started traveling to Japan and then I was approached by a best-selling author there who said, 'Hey I'd love to write your story and ghost-write it for you and do a book,' called "15-Year-Old CEO." And it came out in Japan and it made it to number four on the bestsellers list."

Johnson says he comes from an entrepreneural background, but Bill Gates, Michael Dell and Donald Trump are inspirations.

"You kinow, one of the things that I learned from Bill Gates and Donald Trump and Michael Dell, they're not afraid to go out there and do it. And I wrote a letter to Donald Trump long before I even started my first business--I was eight years old--because we were staying in his hotel and I wanted to see the suite where they filmed "Home Alone 2." And he responded by not only letting us see the suite, but he arranged for us to stay in the suite the entire time because he still owned the Plaza Hotel at that time, and I think that really kind of inspired me, just because I wrote him a letter and he responded in this way."

Johnson says you have to have passionate about your work. He's aware that many people his age--and older--are unsure or unmotivated about their lives.

"You know, I think that's because they haven't found what it is they love. So here we have college students that are dspending $40- to $50,000 on a public education--more than $100,000 on a private education--to get a degree in a field they're not even going to use. Comes back to the principle of talking about, you know, at earlier ages what is it that you want to do when you grow up. I think that's very important, though, to have that conversation and that dialogue with young people. It's just to get them thinking and, you know, kind of show them the real world."

Johnson consults Fortune 500 companies and now runs several Web-based businesses, in addition to sharing his expertise through speaking engagements. Ed Mayberry, Houston Public Radio News.

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