Saturday, March 22, 2008


One of the cool things about having a blog is that you get to talk about whatever you want. And if by chance the thing you're talking about is something you're promoting as well, the odds are at least some of your readers might be interested.

In my case, I'm not actually promoting something I've done, but a new business my son has started. And in the off chance that you can benefit from his newfound venture too, then everybody wins!

If you remember, my son Brandon has forever been involved in all things high-tech. In fact, you can read about how he hacked into my computer here and how he builds computers from the ground up here. Or - you can simply scroll back two stories and read about how he launched Homer Simpson into song during a meeting with one of my clients.

Fortunately, all of this "experience" has led him down a path of entrepreneurship. And as a result of these efforts, Brandon has taken his skills to the next level and started his own business called (a pebibyte refers to the next byte level above terabyte).

With this intuitive on-line configurator, you can easily build your own custom PC by choosing all the components that best suit your needs. Then when you're done, Brandon will order the parts and operating system, assemble and test it thoroughly, and ship it directly to your house or place of business - all at a fraction of the cost of what the same computer would sell for in a retail store or from a large company such as Dell or Gateway.

As an example, his last customer bought the PC shown in the picture at the top with this configuration:

Processor: AMD 64 X2 2.0GHz (Dual-core)
Video Card: 6600LE 256MB
Memory: 2GB DDR2
Hard Drive: 200GB SATA
Optical Drive: DVD+/-RW DL
USB Ports: 6 (4 Back + 2 Front)
PS/2 Ports: 1 Mouse, 1 Keyboard
Parallel/LPT port: 1
Serial/COM port: 1
10/100Mb Ethernet: 1
Audio Jacks: 3 (1 Audio out + 1 Line in + 1 Microphone)
Power Supply: 550 watt
Total cost (not including shipping because it was for local delivery)... only $562.
Cost if you ordered a similar PC from Dell? $999.

As you can see, this is a very substantial savings.

Brandon has several satisfied customers already - many who have begun referring even more business his way every week. In fact just this afternoon while he was demoing his website to a local business owner (who bought a computer from him on the spot) - the person sitting next to them in the restaurant overhead the meeting and asked for a business card for himself.

Bottom line... if you're in need of a new PC, stop by first and check it out. You can "test configure" it right there online and see the savings yourself.
Support is free for the life of your computer, all parts are guaranteed for one year and you won't find an easier way to order.

(Brought to you by desperate dad who hopes his son can help finance his way through college)


Kathy said...

Jeff, I've no doubt your son's business will flourish. This is fantastic! I know you're so proud (despite the Homer stunt, etc). Way to go Brandon!

Sandy said...

smart boy. said...

Jeff that is an awesome price and very robust PC...he should do well.

I'll let some folks know.

Gen said...

Hey, that's really cool! I'll bet you're proud of him. I'll definitely check it out next time we're shopping for a computer.

Anonymous said...


For every great idea, there is someone who poops on it. Hi. Someone always comes along and ruins it or says something negative.

And here I am.

I have no doubt that this kind of thing will flourish for a while, and then die if the state of the business is left as it has been described by your father. Here's why, and here's how to fix it right now.

Cheap PCs are a race to the bottom, especially when you advertise free support for the life of the computer (if that part of your Dad's blog post is not accurate, you should have him change it now.)

The single largest source of problems for a business like this are the following:

FREE SUPPORT. It sounds nice to give support away free, even by e-mail, but eventually it catches up with you. The SUPPORT for anything you sell is the one thing that you do not want to give away free, especially on a low margin product like a PC. Instead, focus on ways that customers can help themselves.

Econ 101
Think about it this way, even if you make $75 on one of your systems (which might be a stretch after checking prices online with what you are charging to install them) you have to pay yourself for making building the computer, testing it (you have to test each computer before shipping it) and shipping it. Then you have to pay yourself to support it. If you paid yourself $25 an hour and it took you an hour to build, test, and ship a system (which would be a feat) that means that you would have actually made $50 on the system. That is the last amount of money that the customer will pay you. Then you have to support the customer out of that money. This includes helping them apply patches, use the installed software, and troubleshoot any problems that come along.

In any business venture, the wise man maks sure that he pays himself first. Otherwise, he becomes a slave to the very people he tried to help.

A quick story. I built a computer for the lady downstairs in my apartment building. She wanted help, then more help, then more help. It never ended because she knew she could always count on me. Finally I sent her an invoice for some support work I had done for her. She never paid, and I never heard from her again.

Personally, I would push Ubuntu Linux, because from a support perspective it would be cheaper. Automatic updates, free software, and stability make it a good choice for new users. And Ubuntu has lots of online forums and HOW-TOs that you could easily link to from your website.

Another good idea would be to setup some data collection software that you ship with each PC that would collect details that you would need to troubleshoot the computer.

This is a very simplistic post, and I hope that you know I want you to be successful. Your priorities should be profit first, and then the customer. That way, your business will survive long enough for you to actually support the people you sell computers to.

Good luck!

Jeff and Charli Lee said...

anon - Thanks for your input... your advice on support is noted. As you've probably noticed, Brandon has not yet committed to an actual support policy on his web site, he is still working on the parameters of what that means and how to spell it out. My post here regarding free support was meant to refer to basic questions and answers, not full-blown system reconfigurations or any damages done by the user etc. Brandon already works as a support tech for a local computer shop so he is well aware of how to work with customers in that area. But I do appreciate your input. It will definitely help in how he describes his support on his site.

I'm a little confused however by your comment regarding "cheap" PCs being a race to the bottom. I'm assuming you're not referring to "cheap" as in quality, because these PCs use top of the line components and are as robust as anything else you can buy on the market. If you're referring to low-cost, then yes, I agree there isn't much profit in this area. But for a young student with virtually no overhead, each sale goes a very long way.

Unknown said...


Thank you for your input. It's good to know the opinion of someone who obviously knows something about business, as yourself.

I have taken consideration into how much support to offer exactly. The support mentioned on this blog post is similar to the support offered by big corporations. Free email and web support pertaining to the computer itself (see the support page on the site.) Other support, such as setting up email, will need to be handled through the company offering support for that product.

I do, however, offer a 1-year limited parts and labor warranty on a computer purchased through the website. Almost every part in a computer is given a 1-year warranty by the manufacturer of the part. Therefore, no real money lost, just a few minutes requesting an RMA and putting the new part in.

Pushing Ubuntu is a good idea, but the problem with it is that few people know about it. When they ask about it, the questions are usually, "will this program work with it?" or, "can I get my device to synchronize with it?" The answer? Maybe, but it's not guaranteed. You can get most things to work with W.I.N.E. but not everything will. Nobody wants to buy something that "might" work.

I appreciate your feedback, and will work to make sure certain mistakes are not made.

-Brandon Lee

Kurt Schroeder said...

I meant cheap as in inexpensive. But if he is putting in high quality components in the machines and still charging those low prices, then that means even lower profit margin. In rereading your past posts about Brandon, it is obvious that he is a very smart, intelligent boy. Making his own skate park, hacking electronics, and just generally being the kind of son that every father wants to have. I wanted to point out some areas to consider. I wish him all the best.

Unknown said...

Building a computer is much cheaper (price-wise) than buying a pre-built computer, even with quality parts. I make sure that the parts will last, as to reduce the amounts of warranties I have to honor.

Oh and my brother is the one who is working with the city on the skatepark.

Heather said...

How did you get all these smart kids Jeff? Charli must be a genius!

April said...

That's so great! You sound incredibly proud. I'll definitely consider it next time I'm pc-shopping. Which, given the speed of this thing, could be very, very soon!

Douglas said...

Congrats to your dear son!

Hating to disrupt anything, I believe the prefix for 10^15 is peta.

Unknown said...

Actually a pebibyte is 1000000000000000 bytes. A petabyte is is actually 1125899906842624 bytes (1024 terabytes). Pebibyte is short for peta binary byte. Pebibyte's abbreviation is PiB (petabyte's is just PB). It is commonly used as a synonym for petabyte.

Kind of confusing, but it is actually correct.

-Brandon Lee

Sister Sassy said...

Checked it out and it really was half price for the PC I was looking at. Can't say I have the funds now to buy, but I know where to go now. You should put a icon on your sidebar (that way I don't have to bookmark it ;)
Thanks for stopping by!

yoo hoo said...

You have awesome kids, they really truly give me hope for the future of this country. I'm not being a smart ass either, not this time. :)

Kurt Schroeder said...

I looked again and I saw this time what the base fee was $150. I had missed that before. So that's good that there is at least that much built in profit. Onwards and upwards Brandon. Good luck.

Anonymous said...

I keep saying---our one claim to fame, is, being your kid's grandparents!!!

Salute said...

He should do well and I know you're proudof him. Tell him to keep up the good work. Just might need an upgrade.

Ed said...

Sounds like he's on his way. My step dad does the same thing and my mom leaves flyers at all the neighborhood homes when she goes for walks in the evening. He's gotten quite a business going through just word of mouth referrals and some basic networking. I wish him the same luck!

Avitable said...

That's an excellent idea. If I didn't build my own, I'd use it. One word of caution, though: Shipping a completed computer is very, very tricky. You need to have sytrofoam that will prevent the computer from shifting at all, or you will have problems.

damon said...

I was kinda hoping he was selling spiderpig ring-tones.

This is good too though!

Anonymous said...

Good going Brandon. Things have changed a lot since the 1950's when I worked with IBM. We worked with holes in status cards that were read with copper brushes. I like to think that we led the way in machine records. Tell me I am right.---Grandpa

Jeff and Charli Lee said...

avitable - The nice thing about this process is that the cases he orders come in an over-engineered cardboard container complete with extra thick styrofoam corners. Brandon can simply ship the assembled computer using the same container. So far there have been no problems at all.

Tara R. said...

How cool is that... good luck to your son and his new venture.

blog hoppin' - etcetera

Unknown said...

That's fantastic. You must be really proud. All my kids do is pee on stuff.

Now get him to build me a MAC for low bucks and we're in biz.

wayabetty said...

THAT is awesome Jeff!! I'm sure this is all Charlie's influence! ;-)

Anyway, all the best to Brandon but I'm afraid I won't be able to use his service any time soon b/c my uncle does exactly what he does, he has a store locally here and it's great business. So, I can tell you that Brandon will do just fine, so take his share of the college funds and put it in your retirement account!!! Better yet, he might not need college, check this out. My hubbie sent this to me and it's very inspirational.

Kurt Schroeder said...

I sound like a complete fricking jackhole in my comments here. I must have been off my rocker that night. MY BAD!!!