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Young businessman earns $40,000 scholarship

When the reply came from the McKelvey Foundation about his scholarship, Brian Wagner didn’t open it for four days, fearful of rejection.

When he finally did, the recent Nevada Union High School graduate discovered he had won $40,000 to study business at the University of Nevada-Reno for four years, based mainly on the online firm and store he has created.

The foundation awards scholarships every year to young people who have started firms or nonprofits to further their expertise and businesses. Wagner received the maximum amount.



The entrepreneurial scholarship was awarded after the foundation determined Wagner’s S&B Electronics was a viable company selling electronic products and cellular telephone accessories.

Wagner started the firm in 2006 and grossed $500,000 in sales during the last year – while maintaining a 3.3 grade average at NU.




“I didn’t want to put all my time toward school. My business always comes first,” said Wagner, 18.

The young entrepreneur has a new BMW in the garage to show for his efforts and pays himself a small salary, part of which goes to charities. It all started at Wagner’s first real job.

“It was minimum-wage, and I thought, if I have to do this all through high school and college, what can I do to make more money?,” Wagner said. “I’ve always been good with computers.”

So that was where he turned. After coming up with a business concept, he started researching what he had to do. He realized it was not going to be easy, but Wagner persevered.

“I had to build my own Web site, I had to get a credit card processing company, I had to build an online store and deal with a lot of wholesalers and drop-shippers.

“The one class I really used from NU was my PhotoShop class, which allowed me to learn how to build a Web site,” Wagner said.

The business ideas were his own. He started the business with $4,000 he had saved from jobs and a $5,000 loan from his father, George Wagner, who owns a real estate company.

The firm and its assets are in the name of Wagner’s mother, Mary Jo Wagner, because he couldn’t credit when he started at age 16 two years ago.

“I’ll feel better when it’s all transferred over to his name,” said Mary Jo Wagner with a grin. “He’s good in business, but not in home economics,” referring to the way the teen keeps his room.

“The scholarship has been a highlight of my life, I think we were more excited than Brian was,” the proud mom said.

Advertises on Google

These days Wagner takes computer orders from customers that go direct to his suppliers, who ship the products to the customers. It means he has no inventory costs and if a product he is listing stops moving, he simply deletes it from his site.

“Sometime I buy a bulk of something that I know is not going to be obsolete,” like flash drives, and he sells and ships those himself.

The bulk of his business is still done in cyberspace, with $300 per day in advertising on Google and Yahoo to drive sales. Wagner is a firm believer in advertising because of what it’s done for his bottom line.

“Sometimes ,if I have a really good product, I do more advertising,” Wagner said. “It makes it go.”

The young entrepreneur figures he works an average of 10 to 15 hours per week on his business, with some busy weeks at 30 hours. He checks to see if orders and shipments are jiving every day, takeûs consumer feedback and “makes sure the drop-shippers are doing their jobs” for customers, he said.

With a successful business already, people might wonder why Wagner is bothering with college.

“You always want something to fall back on,” he said, and a business degree could get him a job. “I can run my business at school. I’ve done it for two years.”

With orders from all over the globe, one gets the impression S&B Electronics will have many more years of success.

To contact Senior Staff Writer Dave Moller, e-mail dmoller@theunion.com or call 477-4237.


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