Arian Mahmoodi Ccreated Business Selling Used Phones
Featured by Wall Street Journal

The younger Mahmoodi started the web-based company on his own and now runs it with the help of his father.

The younger Mahmoodi started the web-based company on his own and now runs it with the help of his father.
Arian Mahmoodi always respected his dad, Farzad Mahmoodi, and turned to him for odd bits of business advice about running his first start-up. But when Arian launched a new business, he quickly realized he'd need much more hands-on help from his father.
It all began three years ago—when Arian was all of 14 years old. He wanted to get rid of his old Nintendo Game Boy games, so he put them up for sale on Amazon.com. They moved so quickly that he began buying collections of games and selling each one individually.
He managed all the transactions and cash flow of the business from his home in Hannawa Falls, N.Y., and relied on his parents only to drive him to the post office to mail the goods.
"I learned time-management skills," say Arian, now 17, who is president of his senior class, the student council and his school's chapter of the National Honor Society. "I'd wake up and package the orders in the morning before school."
But he had bigger dreams, and decided to use his profits to launch SellYourOldiPhone.com, which went live in August 2009. Through the site, Arian buys used and often broken iPhones, which he then gets refurbished and sells back on the open market. He started tentatively, by buying a few phones and sending them to refurbishing companies that he found online.


After he sent the first mass email blast advertising the company, hundreds of inquires poured in, he says. "It wasn't something I could do on my own," Arian recalls.
Mr. Mahmoodi, 49, a professor who teaches supply-chain management at Clarkson University in Potsdam, N.Y., was happy to help his son get organized. Together, they started tracking the orders, organizing them by iPhone model, and tracking the customers by assigning each a unique number.
"He's always been inquisitive, particularly when it has to do with business and management," says the elder Mahmoodi. "That's a nice match for me."
The business had so much success that Arian replicated the model a year later for SellYourOldMacBook.com. By then, Arian and Farzad had established very distinct roles. Arian, the chief executive and face of the company, manages all the inquiries that come through the website and all other customer-service matters. He's also responsible for advertising and pricing the goods.
Farzad handles all the accounting and legal matters, and has stepped in to co-sign documents, such as a debit-card application, that Arian can't sign alone on account of his age. He also manages the supply-chain activities—such as monitoring the flow of broken inventory as it ships to and from the technicians—and figures out which international markets the company should focus on.
"My job is to come up with strategies," says Farzad, who notes that while his students don't always take his suggestions, Arian always does.
The father-son team buys and sells about 20 to 30 devices each week. Since launching, Arian says he has brought in $230,000 in sales, primarily over the past year. He reinvests the money into the business, by buying more phones and computers. Farzad doesn't take a salary, but he doesn't mind, he says, because the company is like a free lab where he can test-run supply-chain ideas.
Arian and Farzad anticipate that the company will continue next year, while Arian is getting his college degree, but that they will likely have to hire an employee to take over some daily operations.
Both Arian and Farzad say they get along very well, but they have stepped on each other's toes at times. Over the summer, for example, while at Cornell University for a three-week academic program, Arian spotted a great deal on accessories, like chargers and phone cases. He placed a large order without telling Farzad.
"I got a call, my dad asking, 'What is this? We have all these boxes—is there a mistake in the order?' " Arian recalls. "He wasn't too happy because he couldn't park in the garage."
The miscommunication didn't hurt the business, but it does exemplify a larger problem: Arian has a desire to advertise more, buy aggressively and grow rapidly. Farzad is discouraging him from doing that, so that his son can instead focus on fun activities before he heads off to college.
"I constantly hold him back," Farzad says. "He is always trying to do more and learn new things. He challenges me, he drives me."
For now, Arian says he's taking his father's advice. "We're in agreement at this time to keep it as is," he says. "We need to agree on when to expand."

Courtesy of Monica Donovan for The Wall Street Journal