Laima Tazmin LAVT

because she's a lot like other kids--and then again...

Laima Tazmin, president of LAVT LLC, a Web consulting company based in a ramshackle prewar upper Manhattan building, is laying out her vision for the company's expansion into customizing computers and developing community-based online businesses. Tazmin's office is efficiently sparse, all her papers are properly filed, and her workspace is ordered and symmetrical, down to the dueling computer terminals that allow her to work side-by-side with an assistant, who scours Internet boards for new markets. It's a lean, effective operation, considerably more advanced and potentially more lucrative than the typical entrepreneurs of Laima's lot.

That lot would be babysitters, lawn mowers, paper routers, and burger flippers. Laima Tazmin is a 15-year-old freshman. The assistant is her mom, Lora.

"Laima is the top kid I have personally ever worked with, and that's out of 9,000," says Steve Mariotti, founder and president of the National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE). "I've never met a kid like that." It was an NFTE instructor who introduced Laima, who was then in sixth grade (she was thoroughly self-taught in HTML by that point), to the world of small business. "He taught us we could turn our interests and hobbies into ideas for companies," says Tazmin. She parlayed her love of computers into a business plan that initially won a regional competition and then, after a bit of tweaking, bested plans from high school and college-age kids to win her the "Young Entrepreneur" contest sponsored by Fleet Bank. That netted her both $2,500 and a taste of media exposure.

Money doesn't seem to be the force behind Tazmin's march toward the wunderkind hall of fame. Rather she has a sincere desire to build a viable company that can more or less sustain itself when she hits some lucky college campus in 2007. Essentially, she sees herself setting up a "network of associates" (other college kids) to do her grunt work. To that end, she has burned through every program NFTE offers and is now the guinea pig in an "Executive Incubator" that offers Deutsche Bank director Joe Carvin as a mentor. "Laima has the technical skills, creative ability, and seriousness of purpose," says Carvin, "and she's in an industry where young people can have a competitive advantage."

To think she took her baby steps toward becoming a mogul on Communist soil. Laima was born in Cuba, the daughter of a Russian mother and a Cuban father who left the family portrait years ago. Lora brought Laima and her older brother Arlin, who is now 26, to the United States via the Soviet Union in 1995.

It's the American dream played out with a tinge of adolescent angst, or it would be if Laima weren't so preternaturally calm. On top of her quiet confidence, Laima has incorporated Buddhist meditation into her daily routine, which explains her Taoish nuggets like "Failure is a step to success." She is the polar opposite of the high-strung, ready-to-snap-and-go-ballistic type A's who water the lawns of prep schools with their tears over a B-plus. She is a sunny, charming, well-adjusted young girl who just happens to have a copy of the Idiot's Guide to Making Millions on the Internet on the same bookshelf as the latest Harry Potter, a Shrek DVD, and Hello Kitty memorabilia.

"I find Laima to be extraordinarily poised beyond her years," says Tom Phillips, one of her (10, at the moment) clients, who owns a communications consulting firm and hired her to give him a Web presence. "Her work is great." The accolades pour in from all corners, including her fellow students, who recently voted her class president, just another application-builder in her heavily scheduled young life, which is filled with: studying; shaking it as a member of the school's hip-hop dance team; hardwiring desktops; playing tennis and basketball; volunteering for a cyber-project that lets war veterans tell their stories digitally; speaking on behalf of NFTE; writing a novel; and oh, yes, running a successful business.

If she seems too good to be true, remember that teenagers have a way of defying expectations. So maybe she won't become Bill Gates, but she'll definitely be Laima Tazmin. "I want to direct my own life," she says with a knowing grin. "Entrepreneurship is about planning for the future, and I want to develop my creativity to have freedom. I want to grow myself."--Patrick J. Sauer

Patrick J. Sauer is a staff writer.


  1. Jeff Bezos, Amazon.com
    because "optimism is essential"
  2. Betsey Johnson, Betsey Johnson
    for her stylish life
  3. Russell Simmons, Rush Communications
    for his powerful example
  4. Scott Cook, Intuit
    because he learns, and teaches
  5. Sergey Brin & Larry Page, Google
    for their integrity. And, well, for Google
  6. David Neeleman, JetBlue
    for creating an airline fit for humans
  7. Tom Stemberg, Staples
    for doing it exactly right
  8. Jack Stack, SRC Holdings
    for going naked
  9. Judy Wicks, White Dog Enterprises
    because she's put in place more progressive business practices per square foot than any other entrepreneur
  10. Davin Wedel, Global Protection
    because he's a lifesaver
  11. Pat McGovern, International Data Group
    for knowing the power of respect
  12. Steve Jobs, Apple Computer, Pixar
    because we like to be seduced
  13. Lance Morgan, Ho-Chunk
    because a man must make his own arrows--Winnebago proverb
  14. James Goodnight, SAS
    for saying no to Wall Street (repeatedly) and yes to the people who really matter
  15. Stella Ogiale, Chesterfield Health Services
    for doing good while doing well
  16. Rhonda Kallman, New Century Brewing
    for seizing opportunity-- again and again
  17. Laima Tazmin, LAVT
    because she's a lot like other kids--and then again...
  18. Laura & Pete Wakeman, Great Harvest Bread
    for living a little --no, a lot
  19. Andra Rush, Rush Trucking
    for rolling up her sleeves
  20. Kathleen Wehner, Cirrus Aviation
    for refusing to quit
  21. Frank Venegas, Ideal Group
    because he parlayed a little bit of luck into a lot of good fortune for others
  22. Dan Wieden, Wieden + Kennedy
    because he's a true independent
  23. John Sperling, Apollo Group
    because he stirs the pot, and apparently always will
  24. John Stollenwerk, Allen-Edmonds
    for his commitment to U.S. workers. We also love the shoes
  25. Mel Zuckerman, Canyon Ranch
    for showing the way