When he was a little guy, there were signs Brent Comstock would be someone to reckon with.
His mother, Mary, tells how, by age 10, Brent had organized and catalogued a system for the family's magazines and books and DVDs and had them stored in a home check-out library.
Now, at 17, the senior at Auburn High School is an up and coming businessman by any definition, rearing to go on to college and a career as an entrepreneur.
Owner and chief executive of bCom Tech Solutions, Brent collaborates with designers and programmers to design and build websites, to manage clients' technology and marketing strategies. He also consults on the use of social media and among other services, has helped people with their mystifying computers. He has worked for the Auburn Chamber of Commerce and local businesses, has clients on both coasts and has built a stellar reputation among his clientele and educators as a talented business pro and a genuinely good guy.
He also directs the choir in the First Methodist Church of Auburn, participated in the U.S. Senate Youth program, teaches piano, loves ragtime and is a national and state officer in Future Business Leaders of America.
"It's hard to keep up with him," said his mother, Mary Comstock, who with her husband, Mike, owns Comstock Plumbing and Heating in Auburn. "He's always had that drive in him. He was 11, sixth grade, when he got his first computer. Oh my goodness he did things ...
"He tried basketball in junior high, he loves cross country but unfortunately, he was born with flat feet, like his mother. He's had two surgeries on his ankle. So basically you have to do things you can do. There's no limit for Brent in the business world. He can go places I can't imagine.
"He started off fixing computers about 12. ... He's going around fixing 80-year-old ladies' computers. It just took off from there. Some people can be put off, but once they meet this kid ... once they've had him come in and do something for them, they have no doubt this kid knows what he's talking about."
That's not just maternal pride talking.
Last summer, on his first trip away from home on his own, he delivered a presentation to the Rose State College Kids College summer learning camp in Oklahoma City.
“There’s no physical or mental reason you can’t start a business at your age,” he told the K-12 campers. “You don’t have to have a multimillion-dollar idea right away. You don’t have to be Thomas Edison. Being an entrepreneur is creating with belief and passion.”
Stan Greil, Rose State College's vice president of workforce development in charge of running the summer camp, wrote in an email: “Mr. Comstock is an extraordinary example of youth leadership in action. Although just a few years older than his class, this 17-year-old role model provided real-life examples on how to become a successful entrepreneur. He is not a snotty-nose kid with a lemonade stand; he’s a successful, innovative, profitable business owner. He’s tomorrow’s Steve Jobs.”
But by all accounts, he's better adjusted than the notoriously volatile Jobs, though. Easy to talk to, as other adults and his mother said, because she taught her son and daughter, Kerri, a sophomore at BryanLGH in Lincoln, to talk to, relate to and respect adults and elders.
"When I was younger, before I had my business, I'd go to Clarinda, (Iowa) and do a music tour of nursing homes," Brent said. "Booking three or four a day. I'd put out the tip jar. My music career kind of took a back road."
It's that skill -- comfortable communication -- that really sets him apart, according to Teresa Hahn, his adviser in the Auburn FBLA chapter. "Brent is the type of person who can be very personable," she said. "He can have a conversation with anyone of any age. That's a very special quality. A lot of kids, most teenagers, are self-indulged. They're only worried about themselves. ... His knowledge base is so wide he can talk about any topic and relate to anyone about anything. He's very interesting to listen to."
What he told the kids at Rose State College was this: “I decided there were already people in town who could mow lawns. I couldn’t be competitive. I was limited to where my lawnmower could take me. I got really interested in the whole idea of why can’t teenagers do something that adults can do?”
Computers and the Web is where he saw demand. “Once I figured out how to do it, I mastered the skill, and then figured out how to market it," he told the campers.
He expects to teach a full class at the camp next year, he said.
"My largest client base is people in Auburn, websites for the flower shop, the movie theater," he said. Running for FBLA office and looking for business sponsors, he approached the local chamber of commerce and asked to be an intern, worked on its website and the city's, helped with social media.
"I wanted to turn it into something as attractive as the community is," he said. Now there are hyperlinks to the chamber members' businesses.
When he was starting to think about the future, and depending on the day of the week, Brent had an intense interest in music, but in the back of his mind, always wanted to work for government, as a secret agent or something.
Considering the options, it looked is if being a musician was a dicey proposition, you could work a lot and still not make it, but with business or politics, you could work really hard, put a lot into it and typically get a lot out of it, he figured.
Now his business target is digital marketing, and within the past six months, has expanded into hard-copy print, brochures and business cards. Comstock uses the word "we" in his conversations about the enterprise because his project-based business has collaborators and clients all over the place, as a digital business can. "I always count my mother as an official admin assistant," he said. He declines to disclose his revenue.
Comstock plans to go to college and study international business. "Computer science is an ever-changing field, and the values of business are going to be more solid in my mind. I never had, beyond a traditional high school course, any professional training. If there's a technology piece I can figure it out."
His mom vouches for that. "We had a scare a couple of Thanksgivings ago," she said. "A teacher told him he could hack into the school system. He went and unlocked some things he shouldn't have unlocked." Nonetheless, Mary says Brent's father, Mike, says buying that computer for Brent was the best thing he ever did.
Brent explained his commitment to the business side of technology. "I started working on computers, then started working on computers for the elderly, who called their children, and then I worked on websites," Comstock said. "It was all word of mouth spreading. I enjoyed the public relations of business management much more than I thought I would."
He's looking at Georgetown, Duke, the University of North Carolina, Roosevelt University, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Nebraska Wesleyan, maybe St. John's.
One of his clients is the Kimmel Education and Research Center, part of UNL at Nebraska City, so the director took him on a tour of UNL after an East Coast college tour in the summer. He didn't get an opportunity to tour the prestigious Raikes School at UNL. "My ACT is not high enough, yet," he said.
Adults acknowledge Brent is unique in their experience.
"He's gonna go places. Nothing this man does would surprise me," said Bob Engles, an Auburn businessman and former mayor.
Beverly Newton, Nebraska FBLA state adviser, said Comstock has distinguished himself among the 5,300 young Nebraskans ever since he met her at a national conference in Orlando last year.
When one runs for national office, as Brent did, the adviser asks herself whether the student can handle the tasks, because of the enormous time commitments. Brent proved himself.
"As I worked with him I started realizing what a unique individual he was and how special he was," she said. "Brent pulls out a 2½-page agenda with all the things he wanted to do. He had already planned the campaign."
A gifted organizer, she said, he is also "a grand storyteller, entertaining, engaging."
He had taken all the technology classes he could, so he wrote his own curriculum, Newton said. Then there is his musical side. "His musical gift is unbelievable," she said. "He doesn't want to do just standard structured playing, his ad libs were just hilarious. There's this creative side to him that's huge and an organized side that don't always go hand in hand. It's phenomenal to watch him go about his daily living.
"His ability to network is nothing you can teach, he's charismatic," she said.
When Comstock went to the Senate Youth Program in Washington, he got to meet the president and the secretary of defense "briefly," he said.
That's not the whole story, according to Vernon Golladay, principal of Auburn's middle and high schools.
"They picked five ... to meet with President Obama," Golladay said. "He was one of the five. That did not surprise me.
"I asked him, 'What did you say?' and he said, 'I handed him my business card. I told him this is something you might want to have.'
"He's not overpowering, not in an arrogant way. When he came back, he was very humble about being that person. But he knows where that moment of opportunity is and he's going to take advantage of that. I went, 'Wow.'"