Victoria teen balances attending school, owning and operating VR arcade
VICTORIA -- Tyler Smith is a 17-year-old Grade 12 student in Victoria. He’s dealing with a lot of the same challenges all teens are dealing with, trying to maintain decent grades, balance a social life, and run a brick and mortar business.
Well, maybe not all the same challenges that most teens are dealing with.
To find out how he got so busy, we need to go back to 2017.
Tyler’s first experience at Victoria Virtual Reality (VICVR), located on Nanaimo Street in Victoria, was when he visited there for a friend’s birthday party. He asked the then-owner if it was possible to record himself playing.
“He said, 'No, I don’t have that set-up,'” Smith told CTV News. “I was like, 'I can set that up for you, I’ve done that before,' and I did.'”
After that, he spent most of his free time hanging out around the arcade and helping out the business in return for free game time.
Eventually, he was offered a job.
“I said, 'Can you pay me?' And he was like, 'Yes,'” said Smith.
Tyler was in his happy place, going to school during the week and working on the weekends for pay.
Fast forward to this December, when the owner of the arcade gave Tyler some bad news.
“He said, 'I want to move up island and go do construction with my family again,'” said Smith. “I can’t run the store so we’re going to have to close.”
Al Smith, Tyler’s father, said the news was a blow to his son.
“He was really sad at first,” said Al. “He loved the job and he loved the money.”
That’s when an opportunity presented itself. Tyler was offered the arcade to run for himself.
“You mean, the place I hang out at whenever I have free time?” said Smith. “Of course I want to take over the VR arcade.”
They then worked out a deal.
“I bought the gear from him, bought the name of the business and I’ve been working and running it myself since December,” said Smith.
Now, the high school student goes to school during the day, then runs his own business at night.
“Now that I run it myself, I have all the hours set so I can get here,” said Smith.
It hasn’t been easy. Tiny profit margins, monthly bills and commercial rent have been challenges for Smith.
“It’s like, we’re barely paying rent. It’s alive but wow,” he said.
Then, throw a pandemic into the mix. He had to shut down for a few months but now with proper pandemic procedures in place, he has been able to reopen.
“I’m definitely not getting rich,” said the high school student.
As for what’s next for him and his business after graduation?
“I’m going to try to keep it going for as long as I can,” said Smith.
When CTV asked Al if he was proud of his son, the teen’s father replied, “Absolutely.”
“I’m super proud watching him pull this together,” he said.