MANSFIELD -- Before they were business partners, Caleb McKenna and Braden Davis of BitNet Solutions were two kids with a knack and a passion for tech.
At first glance, it may seem like not much has changed. The self-taught entrepreneurs may be young, but they see that as an advantage.
“We’ve grown up with (technology). We’re used to all the change that goes on so rapidly,” said McKenna, BitNet’s business director and a 2018 Ontario High School graduate. “Things are changing constantly and we change with it.”
Davis, who graduated from Ontario High School just last year, agreed that his age gives him an adaptability that’s crucial in the tech world.
“In the programming world there are so many new things being created constantly,” said Davis, BitNet's full stack developer. “Some of our competitors, they may be still working with technology that’s ten years old because it’s what’s worked for them in the past.”
After years of tinkering and cultivating their skills, McKenna and Davis founded BitNet Solutions last year. The company offers a variety of services including web design and hosting, security, cloud-based data backup and storage, disaster recovery, hardware and software solutions, IT support and digital marketing.
The two met nearly a decade ago when they were still in grade school. They’ve been like brothers ever since.
“We’ve grown together, we’ve done a lot together and this is just the next endeavor that we’re on,” Davis said.
As a middle schooler, Davis taught himself to code and program and began building web hosting services. He serves as BitNet’s full stack developer. Meanwhile, McKenna became “obsessed” with creating apps.
“We made some coding apps. They weren’t great, I wouldn’t show them to anybody. But that’s the kind of toying around we did,” McKenna said. “I always knew this is what I wanted to do with my life.”
McKenna got his first LLC for Chameleon Developing at age 14, while he was part of the Richland Area Chamber’s Young Entreprenuer’s Academy. Over the course of the program, middle and high school students learn about entrepreneurship and launch their own small businesses.
Although Chameleon Developing didn’t take off, McKenna’s participation in the program proved to be a crucial asset when BitNet was founded.
“The best way it benefitted me was I got to make connections in the community. I didn’t really realize the connections I made in the YEA have been invaluable, super helpful to us in terms of getting clients, getting people to talk to us, getting recognized,” McKenna said.
The partners agreed the most challenging part of entrepreneurship is the lack of security. Nevertheless, chasing their dreams is worth it.
“High risk, high reward. I would rather do this than settle in any way,” McKenna said.
In the future, they hope to see their business grow with more clients, more employees and a bigger office.
Their advice to other would-be young entrepreneurs is simple -- do it.
“Don’t think about people’s expectations,” Davis said. “Just do you and be yourself.”
“There’s a lot of worry and you might second guess yourself on whether it will be legitimate if you’re doing it,” said McKenna. “There might be someone else out there who knows so much more. You think, ‘That's how you start a business, you be them.’
But if you just start doing it, you’ll learn in the process and eventually you'll say, ‘Hey, that person’s me.’”