Lee wins national entrepreneur award
Published 3:00 am Thursday, April 21, 2016
Max Lee never imagined volunteering to help his sister with her after-school job would lead to owning his own business at 18 and a national entrepreneurial scholarship.
Lee, who graduates from Charles Henderson High School in May, is one of 100 recipients of the Young Entrepreneur Foundation Scholarship award from the National Federation of Independent Business. He joins two other Alabama high school students in the elite nationwide group.
“I was surprised,” said Lee, a soft-spoken 18-year-old whose concierge pet-sitting business drew praise from the scholarship committee.
Lee started the business in June 2014. “At first it was my sister’s job,” he said. “But she didn’t want to do it anymore, so I said I would.”
And “Who Let the Dogs Out? Max!” was born.
In the two years, he has grown the business to include a steady customer base of more than 50 families, and even more pets. He feeds dogs, cats and even fish; he cleans litter boxes; he plays fetch and rubs bellies on dozens of different dogs he has come to know and love.
“I even cooked hot dogs for one dog and feed rice to a dog named Beans once,” he said laughing.
Lee said he never imagined the work would grow like it has. His weekends are almost always booked, and he even provides weekday services for traveling families, going to feed and exercise their dogs before school or after class. He’s learned the value of providing exceptional customer service – delivering homemade dog biscuits to his clients each Christmas and providing daily photos and text updates to pet owners while they are away.
“You know, I’ve learned that once a family leaves, the dogs are usually sad,” he said. “I can tell when they miss their owners.”
He’s also learned key life skills. “I’ve had to learn time management,” Lee said. “And I’ve learned about being dedicated to the job. If you’ve planned something for the weekend, you know you’ve got to work to be efficient and get the work done.
“And I learned how to take pride in what you do.”
Lee, the son of Danny and Dianna Lee of Troy, plans to attend Trenholm State in Montgomery, studying welding and automobile manufacturing. His goal is to work in the Corvette factory one day. “I’ve always loved cars.”
And, he plans to continue his dog-sitting business while in college. “I want to keep doing it,” he said.
NFIB’s Young Entrepreneur Awards are designed to reward and encourage entrepreneurial talents among high school students.
“We are impressed year after year with the quality of these hard-working, innovative high school students who are making their entrepreneurial dreams happen,” said Molly Young, Director of the Young Entrepreneur Foundation.
To qualify for an NFIB Young Entrepreneur Award, students must be seniors in high school who own and/or operate their own small business. They are required to write an essay describing their entrepreneurial endeavors and future goals. NFIB members around the country interview the applicants for the Young Entrepreneur Awards.
A full list of this year’s winners, as well as past winners, is available at www.nfib.com/YEA2016.