Vallejo, CA — The combination of tech and business is dominated by the young. Just look at Mark Zuckerberg who started Facebook in his college dorm or the founders of the online payment company Stripe, who are two college dropouts. Young entrepreneurs are proving that with the right idea and business model, they can have success.
But no one thinks a security system company would be run by a kid.
Nick Petrie is a senior in high school in Vallejo, Calif. At just 19 years old, he is the founder of Petrie’s Electronics, a home and commercial security business. Petrie’s interest in alarm systems started at a really young age. His family traveled a bunch, staying in lots of hotels. Seeing the types of cameras and technology used in hotels got Petrie interested in safety and protection.
He says everything he knows about his business he taught himself. He is a one-man show. Petrie runs the daily operations, goes to sites and does all the installations. He also does all the computer coding for his systems.
YR Media's Chris Weldon caught up with Petrie to talk about the benefits of owning a business, his successes and his passion for safety.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
Chris Weldon: How and when did Petrie’s Electronics launch?
Nick Petrie: My business has been legally owned and operating since I was 16, but I’ve been doing security system work since I was 12. After a hotel security tour, I purchased my first small surveillance system. I then began learning about the industry and started experimenting with it. Once I felt confident with my work, I started working for family members who then started spreading the word and everything just picked up from there.
CW: What kinds of security do you offer to customers?
NP: I mainly install security system cameras, either commercial or residential. My jobs can range from Ring video doorbells to full blown security systems with an alarm to disarm and cameras protecting the entire perimeter of a building or home. My rates vary from job to job but a general price for a new camera install is $180 per camera for labor plus materials costs. Profit varies each job — it all depends on how many cameras they want and how complex the security system is. I'm trying to get into the smart home stuff where I can do the digital thermostats and everything driven off of Amazon and other tech companies.
CW: Why do you think people hire you over the larger companies?
NP: It can be difficult having companies like ADT or Bay Alarm as competitors. But I think people hire me because they like that I am local and have a true passion for the work I do for my company. They usually hire me by word of mouth from other satisfied customers.
CW: What kinds of support did you have when you first started?
NP: Not much, really. Everything is in my name. I didn't know you can get a business license at 17, but they gave it to me without a question. The only issue I had was before I was 18, I didn't have a credit card. So I was purchasing everything with my debit card. I was able to make big purchases very early on, thanks to a client I’ve had. He fronted the money and made an investment in my company to help me grow it. I wouldn't have been able to get my business to where it is today without him.
CW: What kinds of challenges have you experienced?
NP: I've definitely taken some jobs where in the beginning I had no idea what I was doing. I’d be watching YouTube videos trying to figure out what to do and calling different people that have the experience, but I never turned down or quit a job. I’ve always been able to figure it out and finish the job. My clients appreciate that, and they like the ambition and work ethic I have.
CW: How do you market your business?
NP: So I don't even advertise. It's all word of mouth. I got very fortunate with a big client in Vallejo — Buck Kamphausen. I ended up going up to his house and got a whole contract. He owns many cemeteries including Skyview Memorial Cemetery in Vallejo. He was one of the bigger clients I started with, and still currently work for. I mainly install security cameras at the cemeteries and the car museum he owns.
CW: How has owning a business impacted your life thus far?
NP: I was taught as a kid growing up to be self-motivated — don’t let everything kind of be handed to you. So I just wanted to have my own job, make my own money, and this is what made it happen. You get to make your own hours. You don't have someone telling you what to do. And since I’ve launched, I’ve gotten a lot more involved with my local community.
CW: What do you see for yourself and your business in the future?
NP: So I plan on becoming a law enforcement officer for my main career, but I still want to have this business on the side to make extra money. I definitely plan on having this business for a long time.
CW: What advice would you give to others interested in starting their own entrepreneurial journey?
NP: Keep pushing. Don't let something set you back a minute. If you try to do something and you don’t know how, just keep going.