To the untrained eye hydroponic cucumbers and PCs have very little in common, and in most parts of the world rarely would both be mentioned in the one sentence. However, both are regular topics of conversation at the Youngberry household in the Queensland town of Toowoomba.
Greg Youngberry has managed to turn the business savvy he picked up on the family farm (which is the largest producer of hydroponic cucumbers in Queensland) into a string of "Top Line" computer stores which service Toowoomba and the surrounding district.
Top Line began life as Stud Computers, a small computer brokering business that Youngberry ran out of a shed on his family's property.
"I was in Grade 10 at school and I became aware that there were a lot of people chasing computers," Youngberry says.
While most of his classmates were wondering how they would use algebra in the real world, Youngberry was taking orders on a mobile phone, which some of his teachers allowed him to sneak into class.
"I used to be a bit embarrassed," Youngberry admits. "I had my own laptop and I used to carry my phone around with me."
Running a business and finishing high school is enough to earn a ribbing in any self-respecting educational facility, and Youngberry's enterprising pastimes soon earned him the good-natured title "yuppie".
"I remember one teacher who was very cool, he let me leave my phone on in class," Greg said. "I made some big deals in those classes, sold a lot of computers."
"At first it was a bit of a favour to friends, but there were a lot of people asking for my help, so we decided to register as a company," Youngberry said.
Realising the potential for computer sales, Youngberry and his father decided to formalise the business. Having set his heart on Megaram, a name that reflected both the rural setting of his workshop as well as the technology associated with his trade, Youngberry was forced to go with his fourth choice, Stud Computers.
However the name did not inhibit the company's growth in any way. Stud Computers soon outgrew the shed on the family property and moved into a shop front in Toowoomba. Youngberry began to get involved in second-hand PCs and was continually amazed by the rate at which systems walked out the door.
"When I think about it now, I wish I could have seen the full potential of the business," Youngberry says with a touch of nostalgia in his voice.
"It was difficult making the switch into town," Youngberry conceded. After configuring PCs as a favour to his mates for a fairly nominal rate, suddenly he found himself in a position where he had to charge market rates for his services.
"Some of my oldest customers were the hardest to convince," Youngberry said. "It was hard to turn around and say that we couldn't do it for free anymore. Suddenly there was a shop to run and staff to pay."
After finishing school, Youngberry put on his first technician and threw himself into the business full time. While his friends went off to university, he consolidated the company's services base.
"I was so busy I never really stopped to think what I wanted to do," Youngberry said.
Simply contemplating Youngberry's trajectories is enough to exhaust most mere mortals. In his final years of high school he completed a business course, ran his own business, completed the requirements for his HSC, gained advanced standing for university entry and played the role of school captain.
"When I finished school they offered me a scholarship for university," he said. "But I was already doing things, there didn't seem to be any point in stopping it all to go to uni. If I needed a uni degree, I could always hire someone who already had one."
After building a solid base, Stud Computers renamed itself Top Line. It now boasts a series of stores across Toowoomba and a staff of 10. At the tender age of 22, Youngberry has cut his teeth on the practicalities of business management, and knows more than many about the delicate balance of finding and keeping good staff.
"I don't have a formula when it comes to finding good staff," Youngberry said. "You need to find people who can share your vision for the company. When you find someone good, you need to be able to capture the heart of the business and present it to an employee so they can make the goals for the business their own."
However, he doesn't stop at the emotive side of management, pointing out that it comes down to giving staff responsibility and personal incentives to grow with a company.
"You have to let them see what they are working towards. They need to see that the business will take them where they want to be going in the next 20 years, otherwise you will lose them," he said.
As for the future Youngberry envisages increasingly sophisticated sales models, including a Top Line computer sales franchise which runs across the country.
"Over the next decade I see my role moving away from retail into a more supportive and distributive role, supporting the franchises that carry the Top Line name," he said. It appears it will not be long before Youngberry outgrows the town of Toowoomba in the same way he outgrew that shed where it all started.