From his dorm room at Indiana Wesleyan University in the fall of 2011, Weston's Santiago Jaramillo launched BueBridge Digital, a company that creates mobile apps for tourism destinations, colleges and churches.
Now, at the ripe old age of 23, he's running a business that will have more than a million dollars in revenue this year.
And people are noticing.
"I would say the rest is history. BlueBridge Digital, it's been going splendidly,'' he said. "We've gone from one to 15 employees in a year. We made about $100,000 in revenue in 2012 and we'll be in seven figures this year."
BlueBridge builds the apps and then charges a monthly subscription fee to update them when the iOS or Android operating systems change. The updates make it easier for the tourist groups, colleges and churches to operate smoothly in the rapidly expanding mobile world, Jaramillo said.
Customers include the University of Arkansas, the University of Tennessee and the University of Maine, as well as visitors bureaus for Gainesville and Indian River County in Florida.
Jaramillo is starting to attract national attention. In May, he was invited to the White House for its "Champions of Change: Immigrant Entrepreneurs and Innovators" ceremony.
That same month, Inc. magazine named him to its "30 Under 30: World's Coolest Young Entrepreneurs" list and dished out nice praise. "Santiago Jaramillo is bringing the benefits of mobile apps to not-so-tech savvy market segments with his start-up BlueBridge Digital," the magazine said.
Not bad for someone who came to the United States with his family at age 10 from Colombia. Jaramillo said his family fled after guerrillas kidnapped 100 people from the family church in 1999. He didn't know much English when the family settled in Weston, but he was determined to speak and write flawless English.
He did just that by the time he graduated from American Heritage School in Plantation. He later became a business administration and marketing major at Indiana Wesleyan, although he once considered a double major in philosophy and music. He still quotes Ralph Waldo Emerson in tweets. ("There are only ten minutes in the life of a pear when it is perfect to eat," Jaramillo quoted the 19th Century leader of the Transcendentalist movement in a tweet this week.)
While he was concentrating on his academics, Jaramillo was also developing entrepreneurial skills. His parents, Roberto and Olga Jaramillo, said they knew he could follow in their footsteps and open his own business. His parents operate an import-export business.
"Since he's been young, he's been curious and always coming up with new business ideas," his parents said via email while traveling in Colombia. "He's earned straight A's in school since fifth grade when we arrived to the United States, so we knew he had the discipline and responsibility to one day run his own business.
"We knew he would eventually start his own business. We just didn't know it would be this soon."
Even as a teenager in Weston, Jaramillo was making money by teaching other kids how to play the guitar and other instruments. That led him to operate a summer music camp for children. He brought on a single mother to oversee the program and hired high school students — including his brother — to teach the kids.
"I was one of the managers," said Anthony Prats, 21, of Weston who is heading to Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh this fall to work on a master's degree after his graduation from the University of Florida.
Jaramillo "is really generous. He is really intelligent,'' Prats said. "He is one of the guys who would really be a great mentor later in life."
Jaramillo also impressed Prats for his work ethic. Prats called him a "passionate worker."
It's inspiring "to see someone so successful at a young age and know [business success] is a possibility," Prats added.
Success starts with allocating enough time for studies and then work, Jaramillo believes. "How hard you work determines the level of excellence," he said.
He's even used his "down times" to think up with new ideas for products.
He came up with an idea to start his latest venture — the mobile apps business — while waiting for a New Zealand ferry between the North and South Islands during a break from his internship at an American tech company in Australia.
He later named his company after the Bluebridge ferry.
"Mobile was taking over the world," Jaramillo told Inc. magazine after he won a place on its "30 Under 30" list. "But small businesses were really confused about how to use it."
When Jaramillo returned to start his senior year at Indiana Wesleyan in the fall of 2011, he built the website. The company is based in Indianapolis, but Jaramillo still lives part-time in Weston — or at least three months a year — and keeps his 954 cell number.
"Winters are too cold" in the Midwest, he said.
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