If Jake Harms knew then what he knows now, would he still have ventured down this entrepreneurial path? Yes, he says, but “If I divided out the time I had into it [by] the money that I’ve made, I would probably cry,” he chuckles.
Harms’ stumbled onto his labor of love a few years ago when, at work, he was asked to discard an old Apple iMac computer. “I’m the kind of guy who likes to tinker with things…tear them apart and see how they work,” he says. “So, instead of throwing it in the trash can, I brought it home.” He recalls that the computer sat in his garage for a few weeks, until one day he saw a picture on the internet of a fish tank made out of the same iMac computer. “The Apple iMac had a really neat design…the transparent case…They looked really cool and they were all different colors. I decided, I can make one of those.”
For fun, Harms set out to design a tank and researched which filters and lights would best suit his project. He made a few more, each time tweaking here and there until he perfected his design. “I had a buddy who thought it was pretty cool, so I made one for him. Then I made one for another buddy. I thought, ‘Oh, I could probably sell about 50 of these in a year.’ That’s kind of how it all started.”
Little did he know just how popular his little project would become. Since creating his first aquarium in late 2007, Harms has created a website and has sold close to 400 units. The units, which go for $299, can be ordered via his website and come built-to-order, with computer color and decorative details as options. With requests coming in from all over the world, Harms’ future looks pretty busy. “I get a lot of orders from the UK, Australia…I’ve shipped them to every corner of the world,” he says. “I don’t know how some people find out about them…I guess that’s the magic power of the internet.” Harms has even sold one of his creations to an Apple executive. “I asked him if I should be worried about building and selling these [aquariums from iMac computers]. He pretty much said no because it’s not giving Apple a bad name. But if I was making a million on them, then there might be an issue.”
With profiles in magazines and newspapers, a website, and Facebook page, this “little hobby” has become more of a side business. In fact, there’s a waiting list for his creations. In addition to working full-time in carpentry and construction, Harms and his wife also have a wedding photography and videography business.
When he does sit down, he is usually working on his aquariums, either buffing them free of scratches and signs of wear, or mass-assembling them. “I never really build one at a time,” he says. “I always take apart, like, 10 or 20 at a time and modify them assembly-line style.” He has the creation process pretty much down to a science, so the building goes relatively quickly. It’s tracking down the monitors and getting them that can be the most time-consuming part. “It can be kind of a hassle getting them,” he says.
In addition to creating aquariums, Harms offers aquarium-building kits, for those who may have an iMac of their own and are handy enough to take on their own project.
With orders coming in faster than Harms can make them, he is beginning to consider future projects. “My plan is to start making other things out of computers. I’ll start to do that as soon as I can’t find any more of the iMacs,” he shares. But for the foreseeable future, he’s happy to stay busy doing what he loves. “There’s a lot of time involved, but I enjoy it a lot.”