Company News

Mother, Son Launch Austintown IT Startup

AUSTINTOWN, Ohio – It isn’t every son who calls his mother by her first name.

For Justin White and Michelle White, it’s a custom that helps separate their familial relationship from their roles as co-owners of Advanced Technology Partners, a new information technology company here.

The mother-and-son entrepreneurs, who previously worked together in the IT department at the Brilex Group of Companies, launched their new venture Oct. 1, and held a ribbon cutting Nov. 9 for their offices, 5211 Mahoning Ave. Suite 125.

“We recognized the need for IT support in this area,” said Michelle White, ATP’s president.

While at Brilex, whose IT department she established, the department had reached out for help on some special projects but had difficulty getting responses from firms or finding ones with the expertise they needed, even in markets such as Cleveland or Pittsburgh.

Eventually, they ended up developing the expertise they needed internally. That led to the decision to branch off from Brilex Group, which remains one of its clients.

“We just felt like we had a lot to offer, the businesses in the community needed it, and we were looking to expand out into the community outside of Brilex so we can service the rest of the area,” she said.

Brilex principals Alex and Brian Benyo each have 25% equity in ATP, though they have no operational role, with the Whites each holding a quarter stake.

“They jumped right on and partnered with us,” said Justin White, Advanced Technology’s CEO.

The Whites pride themselves on ATP’s ability to be a “single resource” for any client’s IT needs, as well as its responsiveness, he said. ATP offers an array of services that includes custom software development, website design, network and server administration and general computer repair, not just for commercial clients but also for the general public.

“We also feel like we separate ourselves in the fact that we’ve tried to be a very affordable resource, too,” Michelle White said. Many companies feel that they don’t need IT and can’t afford it, she said, but “what they don’t know is they really do need it and they can afford it, maybe just a little bit at a time.”

At work, they are Michelle and Justin, not mother and son. “It’s the way we separate home and work,” she said. The two also have similar, “strong-willed” personalities, so they will occasionally butt heads, she admitted.

“He brings the youth and the understanding of today’s technology to it, and I bring the maturity and the expertise of being in management level for several years,” she said. “The blend of our two skill sets has worked really well.”

Both acknowledge their family relationship has its advantages and drawbacks when it comes to working together. They agree they are freer to speak to each other without fear of repercussion.

“You don’t have the challenge of trying to dance around how you can say things to people when it’s someone you’ve known your whole life,” Justin White said.

But sometimes being able to speak without fear is “a bad thing because sometimes you might say something that you wouldn’t say to another coworker,” Michelle White said.

Occasionally, Justin White, when over at his mother’s house for dinner, will call her Michelle, and she’ll respond that she doesn’t want to talk about work.

Problems ATP has encountered include dealing with an advertising client having difficulty string and backing up files. ATP helped the client utilize its existing free storage and helped set up a backup and disaster recovery plan, Justin White said.

Another client had issues with network drops. ATP was able to help resolve by replacing equipment and identifying issues with its internet service provider.

To date, the company has five clients, and as many employees. The intent is to add staff and expertise to fulfill client needs.

“Michelle has put it in terms of ‘The sky is the limit,’” Justin White said.

Pictured: Michelle White and Justin White launched Advanced Technology Partners in Austintown last month.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.