He Started a Luxury Side Hustle at Age 13 — Now the Business Earns More Than $10 Million a Year: 'People Want to Help You When You're Young'

Michael Morgan, now the 25-year-old owner of Iconic Watch Company, sold his first Rolex Submariner when he was just 13 years old — a sale that came about primarily out of boredom. “When you’re 12, 13, you usually get bored of things very, very quickly,” Morgan tells Entrepreneur. “So within six months [of buying it], I knew that I wanted to sell [the vintage Submariner].”

How did a 13-year-old end up with a side hustle selling expensive watches? From a young age, just about eight or nine, Morgan says he had an appreciation for “old things.” It began with Porsches — “I could pick out everything about them.” But kids can’t go out and buy a car, so Morgan started to collect coins, stamps and fountain pens before turning his attention to watches.

1714584530 MichaelMorgan1Image Credit: Courtesy of Iconic Watch Company. Michael Morgan.

“I’d always liked watches,” Morgan recalls. “My dad had a couple of nice watches. When I was about 10 years old, I started to read about watches constantly. Pocket watches first. And much like coins, stamps and pens, I realized pocket watches are not really useful. And from there on, I spent most of my time reading about watches. [The book] Vintage Rolex became the focus.”

Related: He Started a Salty Backyard Side Hustle That Out-Earned His Full-Time Job and Now Makes Over $1 Million a Year: ‘Take the Leap’

Morgan pored over the pages of that book every day and ultimately bought his first vintage Rolex Submariner at age 12, trading a couple of watches he owned and using some savings to make the purchase that would kick off his side hustle. I remember it cost me $3,500, which at the time seemed like a tremendous sum of money,” Morgan says.

Morgan listed the watch for an “optimistic” $5,500 on an online forum — and was somewhat surprised when the piece sold within two days for $5,200. That was when “the light bulb went off;” Morgan realized that his hobby could double as a serious money-maker. Although taking the business full-time wasn’t possible for the young entrepreneur then, he saw the venture as something fun that could help him buy more watches.

“[When I said] ‘I’m actually 14 years old,’ he was blown away. And he actually ended up becoming a [regular customer].”

A few years later, Morgan knew his watch-selling side hustle was the real deal. It already took up most of his time, and “school was definitely secondary.” Morgan sold watches during his lunch hour and regularly facilitated transactions in the $50,000-and-above range, he says. Despite the early successes, when he was starting out, Morgan didn’t like taking phone calls — because they would give away his age.

“I had this one client who was interested in buying two watches, so I knew that I had to do a phone call,” Morgan recalls. “I’m on the phone with him. I came off okay, and at the end, he asked me how old I was. I was like, Oh god. I told him [I was 14]. First, he thought it was a joke. [But when I said] ‘I’m actually 14 years old,’ he was blown away. And he actually ended up becoming a [regular customer].”

Although being a young entrepreneur wasn’t without its challenges, it did come with one major advantage — “a lot of people want to help you when you’re young,” Morgan says.

Related: When This Entrepreneur Couldn’t Decide What to Name His Business, He Started a $2,000-a-Month Side Hustle to Help — Now It Earns Over $10 Million a Year

By the time he was 18, Morgan had no interest in college, but his parents encouraged him to go. He ended up interviewing at the University of Southern California. The first conversation didn’t go well, Morgan admits; the interviewer asked vague questions that didn’t allow his entrepreneurial acumen to shine. But his father arranged a second interview so Morgan could discuss his business, and by the end of that meeting, Morgan says the interviewer was pitching USC to him. Morgan was excited to attend and enrolled, but by the time his junior year rolled around, balancing his workload as a student and business owner wasn’t sustainable — and he wanted to go all in on watches.

“There’s probably 30 active people constantly searching [for vintage watches]. So competition has gotten extremely fierce.”

These days, age isn’t Morgan’s biggest business challenge: That would be sourcing the vintage watches he sells. “The problem is we’re dealing with old watches, and there aren’t that many great pieces out there, and as time has gone on, there are more and more people searching,” Morgan explains. “When I first started, there were probably five to 10 major people in the U.S. actively buying vintage. [Now], there’s probably 30 active people constantly searching. So competition has gotten extremely fierce.”

1714584634 MichaelMorgan2Image Credit: Courtesy of Iconic Watch Company

Morgan says he’s gained a reputation for sourcing some of the rarest vintage watches — primarily Rolexes — and has flown across the world to acquire some of them. “A highlight would be finding the lowest serial number and possibly first known Rolex GMT-Master from 1955 found via an Instagram DM with history tracing to Walt Disney,” he notes. Morgan loves the chase and admits that “finding the next great watch is what gets [him] going every single day.”

Morgan’s dedication to the business has helped it flourish: He’s sold thousands of watches to clients across the globe, and since 2017, annual revenue has exceeded $10 million, with a primary focus on private sales. And one notable recent transaction? He sold a 1970 Rolex Cosmograph Daytona ref.6263 “Paul Newman” for $750,000 to a prominent collector in Asia.

Related: 3 Secrets to Starting a Small Business Side Hustle That Gives Your Day Job a Run for Its Money, According to People Who Did Just That — and Made Millions

Passion made it possible for Morgan to take his watch business from side hustle to a company that’s grossed more than $110 million, so the entrepreneur encourages all young, aspiring entrepreneurs to find theirs — and follow it into ventures of their own. “Take advantage of your passion if it can lead to a business,” Morgan says. “It’s a very fortunate opportunity to have. It makes all the hard work involved with running your own business that much more enjoyable.”

This article is part of our ongoing series highlighting the stories, challenges and triumphs of being a Young Entrepreneur®.

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