Meet Warren Cassell Jr., an online business-solutions entrepreneur based in Olveston, Montserrat. Born in the USA, he’s the founder and president of ZapSocial and Chupz.co. He’s also 14 and a full-time ninth grade student at the Montserrat Secondary School.
When Warren got in touch with me a few weeks ago to tell me about his life experiences and business ventures, it took quite a while and lots of head-scratching before it finally sank in that I was actually communicating with a 14-year old. If anything, his well-written, error-free emails, his confident tone and seeming air of professionalism, and his impeccable etiquette confirmed that I was not dealing with any flighty, airy-head teen. I still opted to play it safe and took some time to research his background. Everything he told me not only checked out, I ended up being even more taken aback by the youth’s amazing achievements.
Warren was just eight years old when he registered his first online company, Emerald Greeting Cards. Five years later he founded three others, Carib Creations, ZapSocial and Chupzco. Carib Creations, which is no longer operational, used to develop web mobile and social applications.
Chupz.co currently provides web hosting, domain registration and website-creation services and helps businesses enhance their online presence. ZapSocial is positioned as an online platform to help authors produce, publish and market their work, and for publishing content via social media that “will inspire others to make the most of their day.” Warren also uses it to blog regularly on nature and the lessons we can learn from it.
He does business with firms and clients all over the world. He holds an investment portfolio ranging from finance to media, Internet and technology. He also has shares in Sagicor Financial Corp. and Bank of Montserrat Limited.
To date Warren has built approximately 20 websites, including for the Montserrat Roman Catholic Parish, and for Joan Delsol Meade.com , a company that supplies gifts, novelties and souvenirs and is owned by Dominican artist, writer, theologian and Christian educator, Joan Delsol Meade, who is also based in Montserrat.
“As early as I could remember, I always had a great fascination with the business world,” said Warren. “My childhood was unlike most of my peers. Neither Mario nor Luigi or Spongebob interested me. Instead, I would be reading about successful entrepreneurs, watching CNBC and playing real-estate simulation games. There is something about business and entrepreneurship I cannot resist. It’s a very fun path.”
Warren at work and his element
When he started his businesses Warren was the sole employee, and he said this made some business people dubious. He subsequently put together a board of advisors and strategists and has since managed to attract some important clients and gain the trust of others.
“I have a network of friends who are entrepreneurs and business executives who give me support and advice on business decisions,” he explained. Among his advisors are folks who have worked with world-class corporations like AOL and Nokia, Warren said he and his team have had the pleasure of partnering with companies who are eager to make their mark in the business world,
Not surprisingly, some of his clients were shocked when they discovered that the expert responsible for boosting their online presence was just a teenager. Bear in mind he was just 13 at the time. He turned 14 in May this year.
“A lot of them go straight to search engines to see if I’m really my age and, during conversations about their projects, they would mention it about six or seven times,” said Warren. “Not everyone accepts it. A few of them thought it would not be appropriate to do business with a 13-year-old. The majority of clients are very happy for my accomplishments, though.”
Warren speaking at the Caribbean Telecommunications Union ICT Roadshow 2011 in St. Vincent
Warren’s mom and dad were his first investors. He said they are very proud of him and all he has accomplished.
“My parents are very proud of me. My mother ensures that I make school my first priority but also encourages me to be the best businessman I can be, and my father is also very supportive. Both of them provide advice and help whenever needed. They were the ones who made an investment in my first business and they are the reasons why my businesses are now self-sustained.”
He says, for the most part, he has been able to manage his time wisely and his business interests don’t interfere with his school work.
“I haven’t had any major problems. Yes, sometimes I come home from school extremely tired, but my businesses have never interfered with my schoolwork. With a mom like mine, I can’t afford for that to happen either. When my business work piles up, I try to cut it down because school is my top priority. I plan to head off to college after secondary school.”
Warren has been recognised as one of the Caribbean’s youngest innovators by the Caribbean Telecommunications Union and Your Money ezine.
In 2009, he was awarded the Carlton ‘Funkyman’ Allen Award for being a role model for youths. The Funkyman Award provides donations and awards annually to individuals and organisations of various disciplines in Montserrat who have made outstanding contributions to the island’s social and economic development.
Without a doubt, Warren bears all the hallmarks of a teen prodigy. He is also multi-talented which is not untypical of young wunderkinds. In May this year he received his first dan black belt in Tae Kwon Do
Warren also loves writing. He writes poems and short stories. He recently published The Farm of Wisdom: 25 Unforgettable Tales that Will Ignite a Wiser You!, his first book in which he shares 25 life lessons.
In a review of The Farm of Wisdom, Contradicorian.com aptly describes it as a “collection of contemporary fables,” and notes that the stories are “amusing, often with a hint of dark humour and written in a way that makes you wonder where the writer is getting his inspiration.”
On reading the book, one also gets the sense of a writer with strong spiritual underpinnings, and one who is given to deep philosophical musings and is familiar with the thoughts and teachings of some of the world’s great sages, including Confucius and the Buddha Siddhārtha Gautama Shakyamuni. He is also a lover of nature. “My mission behind the book,” says Warren “is to share with the world the importance of listening to nature for knowledge.”
Not surprisingly, he says he wakes up every day asking himself, ‘what can I do to inspire people?’ He adds: “I am on a mission to help others live a life of their dreams.” He finds inspiration in the immortal words ascribed to Siddhārtha Gautama, ‘If you light a lamp for someone, it will also brighten your path.’
Warren is also an avid tweeter and on his twitter timeline he shares inspirational quotes, comments and links on the world of business and technology.
“Twitter is a very fun social network for me as I can connect with my school friends on it and share what I have to tell the world,” says Warren. He’s also an avid reader and, among other things, enjoys reading biographies and romance.
The Farm of Wisdom is available at all major online bookstores, including here at Amazon. Meantime check out this review of the book at Contracdictorian.com.