– Grand Opening slated for November 6-13 – Anne-Marie Fitch may not look the part of a business owner at the age of 20, but she seems to have no problem managing her business, Kingwood Tech Store, with the finesse of a seasoned business owner twice her age. Fitch says she does not consider herself newsworthy, but she was encouraged to put herself “out there” by a business marketing consultant. “I recently was voted to do a small business spotlight from Administaff, where they bring in a marketing consultant to look at the business and highlight all the things you’re doing wrong and right, and how to make the business grow,” said Fitch. “The lady who did the consulting said that one of my largest and easiest-to-advertise assets to my company was ‘myself’.” Fitch opened Tech Store in Town Center two years ago and recently, for aesthetic and storage purposes, moved the store two doors down from its original location on Main Street. The new address is 12 N. Main Street in Kingwood. Set to turn 21 in February, Fitch graduated from Kingwood High School in 2008. “I started this business four years ago, when I was working at Radio Shack and still going to school,” said Fitch. “While I was at Radio Shack, I noticed that a lot of people making purchases needed help with the electronics. Radio Shack did not have any type of service or technical department. I took it upon myself to learn how to set up and use all the products I was selling, and started offering to go to customers’ homes and set up and train them on their recent purchases.” According to Fitch, her services eventually became so popular she was able to leave Radio Shack and set up her own business. She worked out of her apartment for a while – repairing computers and still going out on house calls. “I learned everything as I went, through trial and error,” said Fitch. “I was so busy all the time with my house calls that I barely had time for school.” Fitch said she missed more than 30 days of school her senior year. She admitted working on customers’ websites while in class sometimes. “Somehow, I managed to graduate (on the minimum degree plan) with more college credits than high school credits and a diploma that I never bothered to pick up from the school,” she said. “I received a $2,000 scholarship for college in the mail for having 36 college credit hours by the time I graduated high school, but it’s still sitting on my desk at home. I never really cared for school, but I loved my business.” After attending a Kingwood Chamber of Commerce breakfast, Fitch was approached by Tony Austin, owner of Gameforce in Town Center, and he asked if she would be interested in renting space from him. “I thought that this would be an awesome opportunity, and soon I had my desk and workbench set up in his store. Not too long after that, I started getting so much business that I had to rearrange Gameforce and take the whole front room of Mr. Austin’s building,” she said. Eventually, she bought Gameforce, closed it, and moved Tech Store to their current new location. The new location is still in Town Center, with seven employees (all under age 27) working in sales and marketing, and as service technicians and receptionists. “We build custom computers, fix computers, set up networks, troubleshoot, train and tutor, and consult on a number of different technology subjects,” said Fitch. “We fixed just short of 1,000 computers last year. I do need a CPA – the bookkeeping has gotten out of hand for me to do on my own anymore. But other than that, we are super organized and very helpful.” According to Fitch, most of their business comes from word-of-mouth referrals by customers, friends and neighbors. She is constantly adding new services, including home theater installations. With four years in the business behind her and two years with a brick and mortar storefront, Fitch emits confidence about the future. Tech Store recently purchased an online backup service with Tech Store branding and a local help desk, which Fitch said will keep them on top in providing customer service. “We try to always stay active in the community at Town Center – Tasting the Town and anything we can find,” said Fitch. “People always ask me what made me decide to do this at such a young age as opposed to going to school or being a normal teenager, but I don’t think I’m that abnormal. I’m just motivated, and my parents gave me a great education.” Fitch grew up in Florida where she was home schooled through eighth-grade. Her mother operated her own business for 30 years and Fitch said she learned her work ethic from her. “I would like Tech Store to be a ‘resource’ for our customers and not a ‘last resort,’” Fitch said. Photo: Kingwood Tech Store owner Anne-Marie Fitch plans Grand Opening November 6 – 13. Photo by Trilla Cook