Bryan Lampropoulous, a 17-year-old rare fish dealer who turned a hobby into a profitable business while attending high school, has been named Utah's Young Entrepreneur of the Year.
The award, announced Thursday by Gov. Norm Bangerter, includes a $10,000 prize that Lampropoulous said he plans to invest and use toward a college education.He was chosen from among 10 teenage finalists whose businesses range from the sale of computer designed loan documentation for banks to raising 4,000 turkeys to be sold under the Norbest label.
"This is the most prestigious honor I've ever received," Lampro-poulous, an Olympus High School senior, said.
A high school football star who will attend Ricks College on an athletic scholarship in the fall, Lampropoulous said he originally kept rare African Cichlids in aquariums in his basement as a hobby.
"I was spending hundreds on tropical fish," he said. "The more I read, the more I realized there was a big potential in the marketplace to sell them."
Between studies and athletics, Lampropoulous imports, sells and leases fish and aquariums to businesses, persuading them of the calming effects of his product. He then sells service contracts to his clients and guarantees to replace any fish that die.
He visits each aquarium at least once a week. He said the business, known as Aqua-Design, grossed $10,000 in the past 10 months.
"I think it's an attraction to any business," he said of the fish. "Large corporations lean toward them more than any others."
Lampropoulous said his business requires a lot of energy. "I can be called out at any time of the night to take care of problems. Taking care of customers is my No. 1 priority."
Bangerter - who reminded the finalists he once was an entrepreneur, building houses before he was elected - said he was disappointed to see only one female among the 10 finalists. Emily Backman, a junior at Dixie High in St. George, runs a bed and breakfast inn.
"We need to see more equal distribution," Bangerter said, repeating a theme he has often used in recent weeks that more Utah women ought to be trained for professions and trades.
Bangerter said education and en-trepreneurism is important for females, even if they plan to be homemakers.
"Who knows, you could become first lady of the state or the first woman governor of the state," he said.
The second-place winner was Curtis Doman, a Bingham High student who operates SoftArt Computer Design, automating loan documentation for financial institutions.
Samuel Francis, a 14-year-old owner of two candy stores employing eight workers, was awarded third place.