As soon as the sale of his company was announced in 2012, Mike Zhang, who was barely above the legal drinking age at the time, started getting a flood of phone calls.
Wealth managers from some of the largest Wall Street firms — including Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch and Credit Suisse — started pursuing the freshly minted millionaire. Some even sent him gifts in an effort to woo his business.
But Zhang, now 23 years old, was turned off by their approach.
“When I have a rainy day, I don’t want to talk to an opportunist,” he said.
Zhang instead turned to Andrew Palmer, a managing director at Bel Air Investment Advisors. The two had met in the summer of 2011 at an event where Zhang was being honored with an entrepreneurship award for his success as the founder and CEO of Airsoft Megastore, an online store for lifelike toy guns and plastic BBs used in simulation combat competitions known as airsoft games. It’s sort of like paintball.
He started the company in 2004, when he was just 14, after returning from a trip visiting relatives in China. Zhang found that the airsoft guns and gear were selling for much less in China than they were in the U.S. He convinced his parents to let him import products from China and sell them online.