The Internet is indeed a gold mine and we, Netizens, just have to know how to grab those gemstones to become millionaires, even billionaires!
Indeed, sky’s the limit in cyberspace.
Ashley Qualls barefoot at her desk at the office-basement of her new 4-bedroom home.
Take the case of Ashley Qualls, a 17-year-old Internet user who’s now the big boss of a million-dollar business in the US.
Using her wits and imagination – and of course her computer – Ashley began making background designs in 2004 for the online social networking website MySpace and turned her hobby into a multi-million dollar enterprise!
Ashley is now the head of whateverlife.com, a website she started when she was just 14 — with eight dollars borrowed from her mother. Fast-forward to 2007: Her website now grosses more than $1 million a year.
What’s really fascinating is that Ashley didn’t set out to start a business. The Internet practically did it for her. Web design was a hobby, something she’d been learning online since she was 9.
As a high-school sophomore, she figured out how to create layouts for MySpace pages, and her friends at Lincoln Park High School were keen to customize theirs, much like school lockers.
As word spread throughout the MySpace universe, the 15-year-old couldn’t afford the servers to support her exploding online audience. A friend suggested using Google AdSense, which generates ad revenue based on a site’s traffic.
She started making cheery, colorful and whimsical designs with lots of hearts, her favorite. Then she bought a website and called it whateverlife.com, using the $8 she borrowed from her mom. She then put all her creations in the site.
Next, she took quotes from popular songs and built backgrounds around those quotes. “Teenage girls love quotes,” Ashley says.
Ashley has created nearly 3,000 layouts, her monthly audience is around 7 million, and revenue has grown from a couple of thousand bucks a month to as much as $70,000 — more than $1 million in less than two years!
Ashley used to live in a one-bedroom apartment with her mom and sister in a working-class neighborhood in America. But with her earnings, she has built a four-bedroom house with her very own office in the basement.
When her success story began in 2004, Ashley’s parents were divorced. She and her little sister, Shelby, were all crammed into her mother’s one-bedroom apartment.
When the first check arrived, her mother was doubtful, wondering if her daughter could really make money off a website. But Ashley was confident, telling her mother: “No, I really trust this. I think it’s really gonna happen.”
Ashley was right. The checks kept coming and the business kept growing — to the point where she could afford to buy a brand new four-bedroom house for them to live in. Ashley also hired her mother, Linda LaBrecque, to help manage the company.
Ashley has created background designs for songs by popular artists like Britney Spears. This MySpace background design includes lyrics from the new Spears song “Gimme More.”
In addition to her mom, Ashley hired three friends to help with the business, teaching them design and then requiring them to make a minimum of 25 designs a week.
Has the price of Ashley’s business success been the loss of a part of her childhood? She doesn’t think so.
“You know, when I’m with my friends, I’m still 17,” she says.
Ashley has even turned down a deal for her own reality television program. “I’m really stubborn, like my mom,” she says, “So I know what I want from business. And I don’t want that. I like my privacy. I like to hang out with my friends. I don’t want cameras following me around.”
Unlike many adults, Ashley has not succumbed to the temptations that new wealth can bring. She pays herself a modest salary of $3,000 a month. Aside from the house, she hasn’t 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.”
Ashley, whose divorced parents didn’t attend college and knew little about the Web themselves, didn’t have the resources and connections that Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, My Start-Up Life’s Ben Casnocha, and myYearbook’s Catherine Cook have drawn on so effectively. But Ashley did have a bright idea and the technology to share it.
In the Internet world, having a bright idea and the knowledge of how to spread it is often enough to start making money big-time!
I hope Ashley’s story would spur budding Internet geniuses and millionaires to start piling in those greenbucks!