Sam Bazzi, at 24, has been a business owner for over 10 years.
That's right. He was 14 years old when he started his own valet service.
Before he was able to drive, he was booking gigs, hiring valets and catching rides to events from his employees.
Bazzi said he saw others making money parking cars, and despite some discouragement from his skeptical parents, saw no reason he couldn't run a valet operation himself.
"They didn't want me to do it," he said about his parents' initial reaction to his early ambition. "But I had it in my head that I wanted to do something on my own. Now my parents look at me and say 'You know what? He's doing good for himself.' It's been a long haul."
Today, Bazzi is developing a partnership with another young entrepreneur, Mike Chammout, 24, who started his own valet company at 21, in an effort to pool resources in the local event planning business to help get through the economic downturn.
"Everybody's looking over their shoulder thinking what am I going to do right now," said Chammout, 24, about the recession's effect on business. "We started talking about how we can help each other grow."
Chammout and Bazzi now run their respective companies, All-Star Valet and A-Star Valet, as sister entities, combining ideas, sharing clients and using a joint website, www.all-starvalet.com.
"It's the best way to get out of the economic crisis," said Chammout. "If more people did that, they would succeed."
The young businessmen are also adding limousine companies, photography, printing and event planning operations to their alliance.
"What we're trying to do is form one big group," Chammout said.
When Bazzi first started his business as a Dearborn teenager, he had to relentlessly call every event venue in the region looking for jobs before getting his first breaks in Troy and Grosse Pointe.
Since then, he and Chammout have worked parties for Governor Jennifer Granholm, rapper Eminem, homemaking icon Martha Stewart and Ford Motor Co. Chairman Bill Ford.
Bazzi and Chammout said that to stand out and stay active in tough economic times, they participate in every hands-on detail of each job, from designing custom-made uniforms and resolving parking and congestion issues to fixing flat tires and gathering feedback from customers for banquet halls.
"We're not just about parking cars," said Chammout. "Keeping everybody safe, keeping everybody happy is our main priority."
"We feel, especially during this delicate time," said Bazzi, "we have to make it a point to leave no doubt that we're on top of our game."
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