POMEROY - Talk about unemployment doesn't bother this Meigs County teen.
John M. Stuart, 16, son of Doug and Brenda Stuart of Pomeroy, started his home-based business at age 14, offering website services to the public. He has since branched out to include graphic design and computer tech support services to his growing clientele.
"I noticed so many small businesses around here that didn't have any website at all, and I read that 56 percent of consumers don't trust a business without a website." Stuart said. "It's sort of like not having a phone for your business-every business should have one. I like working on websites, so I just started asking around."
John Stuart at work at the business he started. The teenager said he earns more than minimum wage and encourages other youth to work hard.
His first client in 2011, T-Shirts Etc., a custom T-shirt and screen printing firm in downtown Pomeroy that has since grown larger and moved to another location.
Stuart, in person, approached the owner to offer his help and they quickly struck a deal.
He purchased a domain name for the site, photographed the products and designed the layout with special software.
Once it was green-lighted, he launched the site to a global audience.
"That was exciting," Stuart said. "It felt good to know that I helped someone in the local community get a bigger presence out there in the world."
While volunteering design work on a new touring poster for a national Christian rock band, Stuart next designed multiple sites commissioned by Todd Waites, a professional musician and motivational speaker from Columbus who tours nationally. Information aboujt Waites is as at www.toddwaites.com.
Waites liked Stuart's work so well he decided to keep him on a retainer, paying him a regular fee to host and maintain his sites.
Stuart later designed websites and custom Facebook pages for his local Boy Scout Troop 299, the Bethel Worship Center "Revolution" church youth group under the direction of youth pastor Kris Butcher and for Triune Research & Marketing, an Ohio full-service marketing and media research firm, among others.
Stuart even designed a custom site for his granddad, a retired consulting geologist, but that was a Christmas gift.
Doing business as proprietorship, JMS Designs, aka Stuart Digital, Stuart offers website design at reasonable prices, which includes a mobile version for display on smartphones, a feature he claims is a necessity with so many people accessing the internet through their cell phones.
He cited a statistic from weebly.com that 60 percent of consumers are frustrated by sites that don't work well on phones and tablets.
His business also was recently hired under contract to provide part-time support and design services for a local computer and networking services firm and he has a new startup in the works, StuartDigital.net, where he has combined his services and is developing new ones.
In addition to his business, Stuart regularly participates in church youth group activities, and volunteers his time doing media and sound work for churches and bands, and providing labor for the Boy Scouts of America through his membership in Order of the Arrow, a national Boy Scouts of America honor fraternity.
As a paid employee of Huntington-based BSA Tri-State Council, Stuart has taught fellow scouts computers and other merit badge courses at summer camps the past two years. He's also a Life Scout working toward the final Eagle rank, which he plans to complete in 2014.
Attending Ohio Connections Academy, an online public high school with several thousand students enrolled across the state, allows Stuart to stay at home for school with live lessons over the internet. While largely self-taught on computers, at school he's taken a number of computer-related courses like digital art and photography, web design and Microsoft Office, and hopes to attend college after graduation.
He works from home, too, but sometimes from other places, often toting his laptop, tablet computer or iPod along with him wherever he goes.
"It can get a little intense, staying on top of all my school work, scouts, church, and the website stuff, but I really enjoy it," Stuart said.
Stuart is unsure how much he's earning because of the different ways he gets paid for his services, but is certain its well above minimum wage.
He encourages other young people to work hard and not settle for flipping burgers or giving up if they can't find a job.
"Find something you like to do and figure out a way to make it valuable so you can get paid for it," he said./