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Computer prodigy
Jonathan Porta owns OSP Enterprises and is a senior at Senior High. His employees are Owen Haacke, left, and Jessica Pocha. The company specializes in Web site development, graphic design, computer repair and more.

Jonathan Porta's journey into entrepreneurship has been more thrilling than a carnival ride, more satisfying than the typical things teenagers do to make money.

"I'm excited for the future," said the owner of OSP Enterprises. The company specializes in Web site development, graphic design, e-commerce, Web hosting and computer repair.

The 18-year-old high school student faces challenges that are typical in most small businesses. He's looking for the most effective way to advertise and has hired two employees to handle a mounting work load. He's even familiar with the less glamorous aspects of running his own business, like turning a nonpaying customer over to a collection agency.

And, if the business doesn't keep him busy enough, Porta is wrapping up his senior year at Senior High and taking two classes at Rocky Mountain College.

And he's having the time of his life.

"I really love the entrepreneurial spirit, but I still don't really know," Porta said when asked about his career aspirations. "I'll go to Rocky and double-major in computer science and business management. But otherwise, I'm going to keep running my company and serving my clients."

Bill Porta said his son became hooked on computers not long after he started school.

"When he was 7, I let him play with my computer, but after a few months he was far ahead of me," the elder Porta said. "I hired a guy to be his computer tutor, and for a year and a half they built a computer together and did some coding, things like that."

Jonathan Porta remembers he was 8 years old when he received his own computer. "I don't know why I got it, but I know I was 8," he said. "It was from my aunt. She owned a computer store in California and she sent me one."

That computer became the catalyst to Porta's business career.

"Basically, I broke it a bunch of times trying to figure out how it works, so I had to learn how to fix it," he said.

Vince Long, a technology education teacher at Senior High, said Porta proved to be a fast learner when he took a computer programming course as a freshman.

"I noticed he was really going through the assignments and looking at the next semester's courses," Long said.

Over Christmas break, while most kids were kicking back during their time off, Porta kept busy with programming.

"He started showing me all of this cool stuff that he had done, so I put him on his own program," Long said. "He's just always wowed me with the cool things that he's done. Everything he's interested in had a direct application to the business world. Making money wasn't his initial goal, but the technology was great and he figured out he could make money."

One of Porta's earliest jobs was to develop a Web site for Metro Electric, a Billings electrical contractor.

"I came to him with a project to make my business run a little smoother," said Mike Cuellar, owner of Metro Electric. "It allows my employees to get on the Internet and find information about what jobs they'll do and a place to report their hours," Cuellar said.

Cuellar said he had no qualms about hiring somebody so young. "Jonathan and my son were in school together. He lived in the neighborhood and we knew him," Cuellar said.

In order to develop the interactive sections of Metro Electric's Web site, Porta had to learn PHP, a programming language.

"I talked to Mike and told him that I didn't know the language yet. So I pretty much did nothing but learn PHP for about 10 days," Porta said. "It was pretty weird because I was writing code in class. I didn't let my grades drop. I propped them up somehow. But that's all I did for 10 days."

Other customers say Porta is developing his business skills.

"He did a Web site for us, but now he's been bugging me to sit down and redo it because he's learned a few more tricks," said Gary Angel, owner of Triple J Services, a Billings cleaning company.

Porta said he did Web sites and computer repairs on his own throughout high school. But as business has picked up, he became more serious about it. He got a business license, rented office space and brought in some help.

"I used to do all of this myself, but I realized I wasn't going to keep up with all of it if I didn't have some people working for me," he said.

He brought in his friend Owen Haacke, also a Senior High student, who specializes in graphics.

"I'm good at that, but it's a real big asset to have Owen," Porta said.

Jessica Pocha keeps the business's books and provides a lot of content for Web sites, Porta said.

Porta says running the business provides a sense of accomplishment and boosts his self-esteem.

"I did cross-country in high school and have played some soccer, but this business stuff has been really positive for me," he said.

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