Internet-savvy teenager on the road to success

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Justin Helman, 18-year-old entrepreneur who sells juke box CD players and popcorn carts on the Internet. Photo by Nancy Kaye

Just graduating from high school this year, this young Malibu teenager is on the road to success.

By Bev Kleiner/Special to The Malibu Times

When other young lads were scanning the horizon at ocean’s edge for a perfect wave, Malibu resident Justin Helman, who graduated from Malibu High School in June, had other things on his mind.

Helman, 18, started selling some very clever merchandise this summer via his online business. A very enterprising, friendly and unassuming young man, Helman is one of a growing number of teenage entrepreneurs who have plugged into modern technology with apparent ease. He certainly is no newcomer to the notion of the Internet as a powerful sales and marketing tool. At 10 years of age he began using the Internet to trade items with his friends, and at 12 he utilized the Internet to buy and sell car parts. The ability to create a business online has in many cases generated teenage millionaires, and has rendered age a minor detail on their road to financial success.

Helman’s road to success-selling red-and-white striped popcorn carts online.

Helman’s ebay business has boomed in record time. He has already sold more than 180 popcorn carts since starting his business. When asked why he chose to sell the carts, he said, “Profit was the main reason. They were one of the most popular items, therefore, one of the most profitable.”

His sales soared upward in record time, reaching more than $30,000 in a few months, and there appears to be no slowing down. These old-fashioned circus style carts make up only part of the products he sells. Another top seller is a nostalgic, tabletop jukebox that contains a CD player and radio. He spent summers working for his father, Barry Helman, a successful business owner, who distributes consumer goods to well known retail stores. He put his son to work in many phases of the business, from the warehouse to product marketing. Giving him that broad experience obviously paid off, for Justin Helman seems to know what people will buy.

“Justin was like any other kid,” said Barry Helman. “He loved to ride go-karts and he enjoyed computer games. He loves cars a lot.”

And, “He was always interested in making money, even as a young boy.”

The younger Helman said he feels he may eventually join the family business, but is also considering a career in marketing.

Last August, Helman moved from his bustling household in Malibu to San Luis Obispo, to attend Cuesta College. Next year, he will be majoring in business at USC. He devotes 10 to 15 hours per week to his online business despite the demands of schoolwork and regular round-trip commutes between Malibu and San Luis Obispo in his sleek blue Suburu WRX. He said that typically he receives about 150 email messages a day regarding his products. “A lot of my time is taken up sorting through the e-mail orders and doing what it takes to process each one,” he said. “Sometimes the buyer has a question or there is something else to do.”

With a full load of classes and his client numbers steadily growing, I wanted to know how he managed to handle all the detailed financial transactions. He smiled from beneath a thatch of dark hair that had fallen down over his eyes, and said, “Online there is a company that I like called PayPal. They are set up to deal with credit cards or whatever, and they have a secure site to protect bank account or credit card numbers.”

Helman’s life, like his business, is really just beginning. Asked if he feels he loses out on having fun due to the time he needs to keep the business going, without hesitation he said, “No. I really get a lot of fun out of selling and working my business.”

Helman’s mother, Victoria, is also a successful businessperson. She is a warm, bright woman who ran her own retail-related company for many years before stopping to raise a family. She is currently very busy in the real estate field in Malibu. Asked what she thought shaped he son into being an entrepreneur, she thought for a moment, and then said, “Justin, from the time he was a young boy, liked to read the newspaper and was aware. He had respect for business and he knew how he could work the system. With so many people in the house and so many computers around him growing up, he took naturally to the Internet.”

Victoria Helman said she and her husband are very proud of their son and have always encouraged him to pursue his interests.

If you have a hankerin’ for popcorn or merely want to check out Helman’s product line, you can find them on ebay at, Justinmalibu, and also at his Web site, www.funhousestuff.com.