Like most children's stories, it all began with a little bit of candy.
Justin Schulmeister's entrepreneurial dreams began with a gum ball machine bought at a swap meet and led him to starting his own garage door business, Royal Door, as a 19-year-old recent graduate of the Lee's Summit R-7 School District.
"I was 12 years old and my dad and I went to one of those Shriner's swap meets," Schulmeister said. "I took that gum ball machine we bought, filled it up with M&M's and put it on his desk. When I went back to his office a week later, it was filled with quarters. That's when I got hooked."
That one machine led to another and another and another after that. Schulmeister found himself returning to the swap meets and perusing sites like Craig's List in an effort to find more vending machines he would then scatter around local offices and light industrial buildings.
Before he knew it, he had built himself a small empire, earning money while the then 12-year-old spent his days at school. By year two, he'd bought himself a used soda machine for $75 and worked a deal to set the machine in the back of a manufacturing plant.
"That was a rush for me," he said. "That was so cool to be a kid going to the bank with stacks of $1 bills and bags of quarters. The whole idea that I could have my own business and that there was a way I could make money while I was doing other things, like going to school, just got me hooked. I just knew that some day I would start my own business."
Driven by his own ambition and family support, Schulmeister and his father, Mike, would also start a lawn mowing business. This venture, he said, led to one of the most important lessons in his young professional life.
"I really wanted to buy a zero turn mower," he said. "So I got a loan to pay for it. And during the summer when I was mowing lawns every day, things were good and I was making the money I needed to make payments. But once it got colder, I realized it was a lot harder because I didn't have the money flowing in. That was a lesson for me — don't buy something you can't really afford."
Further lessons and mentorship from his father, teachers and others he would meet on the way, would help Schulmeister hone his skills and lead him to the founding of Royal Door. He opened Royal Door in January 2016 and has seen business grow quickly enough that he's looking to hire his first employee.
During these initial 13 months, Schulmeister's father has provide some part-time help, but the son feels its time to ease his father's load and take on a full time employee.
Royal Door's book of business serves both residential and commercial clientele throughout the Kansas City area. While he said he enjoys the commercial door projects, the bulk of his business in the past year has been in the residential sector. As his clientele grows, Schulmeister sees the time quickly approaching when the workload will require hiring his first employee.
"This is really exciting for me," he said. "I've always wanted to do this. I've wanted my own business and to make money doing something I really enjoy. I didn't see myself going to college and I didn't see myself in job where I sat at desk. I wanted to be my own boss and I wanted to do something where I work with my hands. And now I'm doing it, and the business is growing."