LEESBURG, Fla. -- Kevin Kent, director of international relations for a California software company, was cruising the Internet when he found it.

He was searching electronic bulletin boards for bargains on Macintosh computers. He discovered what he wanted in a posting by Matt King's Mac Outlet in Leesburg.

What Mr. Kent didn't find out until much later is that he had placed his $10,000 order with a business run by a 13-year-old kid.

"Whoa, I knew he was relatively young, but I thought maybe a college student," Mr. Kent said. "I had no idea he was in middle school."

Neither did hundreds of businesses and home-computer enthusiasts all across the country who bought sophisticated computer equipment at bargain prices from Matt during the past year.

"I advertise on the Internet. Almost all my business is from outside the state," said Matt, a middle school whiz-kid who started his computer business in August.

"I get orders phoned in or faxed or by e-mail, and they just never find out how young I am."

Pam Miracle, a spokeswoman for Apple, which produces Macintosh computers, said the company is amazed that a 13-year-old could operate a successful business. Although Matt is the youngest Apple dealer they are aware of, they don't usually ask the age of retailers.

Matt got involved in computers a few years ago when he broke his hand in the sixth grade and couldn't take physical-education class. Instead, he was sidelined in the library and began experimenting with the computer there.

An "A" and "B" student with a fondness for math and science, Matt discovered that he was a natural around computers.

He used $5,000 he had saved to set up his computer store, and his family helped with the paperwork. Because he is underage, family members signed the necessary occupational licenses and other documents allowing him to get started.

He advertises by posting notices on message boards on services such as America Online. He doesn't pay himself a salary, and his staff includes several classmates who work part time on commission.

But it's not easy running your own business, especially when you are only 13.

His part-time office manager -- she's 21 -- drives Matt from school to their office.

School officials said there is no doubt that Matt is a gifted student, but the business has caused him to miss many classes this year.

The cellular-phone-toting teen-ager said he expects to do about $1.2 million in sales in his first full year of operation and expects to make about $30,000 profit.

"Considering that I started out only hoping to break even, that's pretty good," he said.

Good enough to have him thinking about opening a second store.

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