Courtesy of Dalton Leonard
An AACC student who owns a million-dollar company said students who wish to start their own businesses should organize their time, try new things and follow their interests.
Last year’s winner of the college’s Big Idea Business Pitch Competition, fifth-year business student Dalton Leonard, won $10,000 to start up his business, “Fantasea Aquariums,” which designs, installs and maintains aquariums for office buildings, doctor’s offices and residential properties.
The college awarded him $12,000 in scholarships, along with a mentorship and on-campus work space to jump start his company.
Although he insured his business for $1.5 million, Leonard said developing it wasn’t all easy.
Leonard said he struggled to organize his time and learned to rely on Google Calendars, a free time-management and scheduling service that he advises entrepreneurship students to use.
“I knew where I was going to be minute by minute,” he said of the early days of his business.
He said the extra work of organizing a daily online itinerary is worth the payoff.
Leonard has hired staff to help run his company so he can focus on growing it.
“We travel across the country investigating the industry’s latest technologies and going to aquarium conferences,” he said.
“I want to take my experience with entrepreneurship and growing up with my mom and dad as small business owners, as well as my education at AACC, and create one of the biggest companies the D.C. area has to offer.”
Leonard said students who want to start their own businesses can develop his same level of passion by trying out as many ideas as possible and surrounding themselves with people who share their interests.
“If you go out and you do enough in life, and you try enough things, [your passion] will find you,” Leonard said. “You’ve got to put that effort in. … You’re not going to find it sitting on your couch.”
Leonard said he wants future student business owners to know they will only get out of a business what they put into it.
“Don’t do it for the money,” Leonard said. “Do it for the love, because love will outweigh the money every day.”