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Twenty-year-old starts second business with purchase of Watertown commercial building

Joanna Richards

Many 16-year-olds might dream about starting their own business. But it takes a special kind of teenager to turn an operation launched in his parents' basement into a six-figure profit earner in just four years. After succeeding wildly with his web development and design company, North Shore Solutions, Clarkson University junior Matthew Turcotte, now age 20, is embarking on his second venture: commercial real estate.

Matthew Turcotte is a college student, but he's not at the library. He's working out of a small business incubator Clarkson runs in downtown Potsdam, where he's juggling the demands of school and running his small businesses.

“I met with a professor this morning, working on a project that's coming up that's due. I've been answering phone calls, trying to get to the bottom of all the emails that I've got in my inbox. You know, there's a few different hats that I wear on any given day,” he said.

In addition to homework, this week Turcotte has several demos set up with potential new clients for North Shore Solutions. The web business has become such a success that Turcotte was recently able to invest some of his profits in a new venture: a commercial building in the city of Watertown.

Turcotte's Grindstone Holdings will manage the building's 65 storage units and several tenants.

“It's neat being a business student and being able to take the stuff that I'm learning in my classes and being able to apply it to what I'm doing as a business owner,” Turcotte said.

And yes, Turcotte says those classes in finance have been helpful.

“Accounting, Financial Management 1, things like that, have really given me a good sense of, you know, how money flows through a business, you know, what's necessary to acquire financing, and it was especially helpful with this real estate transaction, and getting all those financial pieces in order,” he said.

Turcotte was the first student to enter Clarkson's Young Entrepreneurs Program, where he's studying innovation and entrepreneurship, and has his tuition covered in full. In exchange, the university gets a 10 percent stake in his business.

“I think I'm an entrepreneur, more than I am, you know, an IT person,” he said. “And that really is what drives me, is that entrepreneurial passion.”

Just a few weeks after Turcotte closed on his new building, he introduced Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who’d come to Clarkson to deliver his state of the state address.

Turcotte says being such a young business owner has had its challenges, and also its funny side. When he started his web company, he didn't have a driver's license, so his mom would give him rides, and wait outside during client meetings.

“Every once in awhile, a client would be like, 'Well, who's that?' And I'd be, 'Oh, that's my mom.' And they'd be like, 'Oh, you don't have a car?' And I'd say, 'No, I don't have a driver's license,'” Turcotte said, laughing. “And you know, I think people thought I was a lot older than I actually was.”

Now that he can drive, managing his businesses has gotten a little easier. But Turcotte says his experiences still set him apart from his peers.

“We have the career fair up at Clarkson. You know, everybody else is in suits and I have friends who get all stressed out about it, but I guess deep inside, I just don't want to do that. It's a path that I just don't really want to go down,” he said.

Instead, Turcotte foresees getting into more entrepreneurial opportunities in the north country.

“I think there's probably some other real estate venture, that, you know, when I'm a senior or maybe after I graduate, getting into as well. I really like being an entrepreneur and I like the challenges that it poses,” he said. “But it's a lot of fun, too.”