“I founded MuggleNet 10 years ago. I was 12. I was bored. And homeschooled. I figured I could always go back to school if I don’t like it, but it turned out to be the best decision I ever made. I had way too much free time on my hands, so I started [the website] a few months after I began home schooling. I never expected it to get so big. Now I’m 22. I graduated from Notre Dame. I have two brothers, Dylan (20) and Drew (10). They are awesome. I play lots of sports. I am a HUGE nerd. I read between 100-200 non-fiction books a year. I’m a pathological optimist.” ~Emerson Spartz
Emerson Spartz, born in LaPorte, Indiana on February 17, 1987, is the founder of MuggleNet.com, a Harry Potter fansite. Spartz started the MuggleNet website in 1999 as a homeschooled 12-year-old. By 2005, the MuggleNet network was generating a six-figure income through advertising revenue. In 2007, Spartz incorporated Spartz Inc. to serve as the legal entity representing his MuggleNet e-business. As CEO, Spartz writes less of what’s on the site, and instead delegates much of the day-to-day operation of MuggleNet to his staff of 120 people, including six paid employees, who contribute from around the world.
MuggleNet.com contains news, editorials and synopses of the Harry Potter books and films, an encyclopedia of the books, a chat room and discussion forum. There is also a fan fiction section, a weekly caption contest, and other occasional contests and polls. Spartz benefits from friendly relations with J. K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter books. She praised MuggleNet on her website and awarded it her “Fan Site Award.” Warner Bros., producers of the Harry Potter films, have regularly sent movie stills and theatrical trailers to Spartz in advance of the movies’ release. In the summer of 2005, MuggleNet launched a line of clothing, toys, and other merchandise.
MuggleNet has grown to be the largest Harry Potter-related fan website with 20 million page views every month. Spartz says of his site, “I wanted it to be the best and I worked hard at it. When I do something, I like to do it well.” He says when the site first started thriving, “I think it worked because I began to act more like an administrator,” and “It just exploded after that.” His younger brothers and even his parents started helping with the site while he was in college. The straight-A student enrolled as a freshman business major at the University of Notre Dame in the fall of 2005. In May 2009, Spartz graduated with a degree in management concentration from the University of Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business.
In the summer of 2009, Spartz went on a cross-country book tour to promote “MuggleNet.com’s Harry Potter Should Have Died: Controversial Views From The #1 Fan Site,” which he co-authored with Ben Schoen. As of February 2010, Mugglenet FanFiction authors were writing an anthology of short original fictions to be published to benefit the Room to Read charity. Mugglenet Fanfiction – a subsite of Mugglenet – also released a self-help guide to creative writing entitled “Sharpen Your Quill.” The book offers advice on writing plot, characterization, poetry, specific genres and other useful information including grammar and fluent style.
Spartz and his fiancée Gaby Montero launched the website GivesMeHope.com on May 31, 2009, because “we’re completely exhausted by the negativity of the mainstream media. We’re tired of hearing about what’s wrong in this world.” GivesMeHope.com is like a Twitter-style version of Chicken Soup for the Soul. It’s where people share with the world their most hopeful, uplifting moments and allow others to draw strength from their experiences. The website receives approximately one million unique visitors per month. Emerson and Gaby also launched a spin-off site, LoveGivesMeHope.com, for those “who can’t get enough of the love stories” on GivesMeHope.com. The website’s slogan is “Stories That Make You Go ‘Aww!’”
On June 23, 2009, the two launched another site, Givoogle.com, a website that raised money for the American Cancer Society with every search. The website had more than one million monthly visitors and raised a total of $6,569.89 before it was shut down on February 11, 2010. Apparently Google’s lawyers forced the site closure because it violated Google’s terms of service. Givoogle.com was replaced with SavesWatts.com, a search engine powered by Google, but which supposedly uses less energy than Google due to its black background. SavesWatts is based on the fact that different colors consume different amounts of energy on computer monitors. The color black requires the least amount of energy, and although the energy savings per search are small, Spartz estimates that “if just 0.01% of people currently using Google switch to SavesWatts, we can save enough energy to power entire neighborhoods!”
Whether or not you like the Harry Potter series, you have to admire this homeschool teen’s entrepreneurial success!
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