This 17-Year-Old Entrepreneur Has More Game Than You

May 31, 2019

One of Hunter Lawrence's favorite arcade games in the Monster Drop -- and not just because it's likely to sell for a bundle.
Credit Scott Morgan/SC Public Radio

It’s loud in here. That’s unusual, given that ‘here’ is a self-storage facility. Those are usually quiet; somber, even.

This afternoon, though, a riot of pulsing music, random mwa-ha-haaaas, and various sci-fi bleeps and bloops make this place sound like a really fun vacation spot.

And, for the most part, these cacophonous machines will end up someplace people will go to just have fun. Some will end up in basements or dens or man caves, but most will land at a seaside arcade or a retail restaurant like Dave & Busters.

It’ll just be a minute before they get there. Hunter Lawrence needs to fix them first.

It’s his business, after all; called Hunter’s Arcade House and Sales, the acronym for which is the delightfully apt HAHAS. He buys, repairs, and sells games from classics like Galaga to giant claw grabbers – for a couple hundred to several thousand dollars – mainly out of this self-storage facility in Charlotte.

Two things to know about Hunter Lawrence, here: One, he lives in Fort Mill. Two, he lives with his parents in Fort Mill because he’s only 17 years old.

Bonus fact: Hunter actually started this business when he was in middle school.

“My parents gave me a loan when I was 12,” he says. “I paid it back.”

All this started with a love of claw machines, which, to put it out there, Hunter is incredibly good at. Throughout elementary and early middle school, he won toy after toy after toy from the claw. He eventually decided to sell his loot and get a claw machine of his own because he wanted to play one a lot.

He also wanted to find out how they worked; hence, the loan to buy a claw machine and dive in, learn the boards and how to solder, and find out what makes the machines (pretty literally) tick.

And where did he acquire his mechanical knowledge?

“YouTube videos,” he says.

He had his claw machine for about a year until he tired of it.

“I sold it for about triple what I paid for it,” he says. “I was like, ‘OK, I think I’m onto something.’

Five years on, HAHAS has bought, fixed, and sold dozens of games, with customers across the U.S. and Canada and even in Europe and Australia. In mid-May, Hunter – who will be a senior at Nation Ford High School this fall – was named Young Entrepreneur of the Year by SC Economics.

All that might lead one to believe that Hunter is sitting pretty for his future atop an arcade game empire. Well, he might be, but he does plan to go to college. He won’t study computer programming; probably business or management. Or maybe business management.

So long as he finds a school with a scholarship, he’ll be happy, he says. And he’ll still work on the arcade games, even if he ends up building a completely new business empire.