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Wharton freshman Daniel Kline, pictured reading The Wall Street Journal on a bench outside his room in the Quadrangle, got his start in business competing with the cafeteria at his Hebrew school.

He's done business on every inhabited continent. He's been fingerprinted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, as per Securities Exchange Commission policy. He lives in Speakman 224.

Sitting at one of Cosi's indoor tables on a rainy Wednesday, there's no reason to believe that the leather-jacketed undergraduate drinking coffee has played legal chicken with eBay, or made a name for himself in the music industry. But, like man students at this university, Wharton freshman and Philadelphia native Daniel Kline has a story to tell.

In good company at the nation's top business school, Kline has conceptualized and managed a string of successively larger business enterprises since angering his Hebrew school teacher a decade ago by competing with that institution's cafeteria.

"I understood economies of scale and began buying candy bars in bulk... the principal of the Hebrew school quickly found out about my venture, as I was underselling the school's own store on every item I sold," Kline recounts.

Given a choice between expulsion from the market or expulsion from the school, Kline moved his catering operation to the 30-minute school bus ride and his attentions to other avenues of profit.

Continuing to wheel and deal, Kline moved from candy bars to baseball cards to computer supplies, buying and selling the latter in bulk locally and over eBay.

Though the online auction house attempted to shut down his operation, a blow which raised Kline's and his lawyer's hackles, remarketing off-lease computer parts still remains one of the cornerstones of Kline's company, Larkspur Group.

Initially a standard local production company, after a development period spent "doing typical bar mitzvah videos and Web sites for restaurants," Kline's company, then known as Larkspur Multimedia, soon got its break.

Discovered by Pete Seeger during the folk explosion of the 1960s, Hedy West is something of a folk legend. Originally signed to Vanguard Records, her songs have been covered by artists from the world-famous folk trio Peter, Paul and Mary to country great Bobby Bare.

When West decided to rerelease the albums that made her career, she chose Kline and Larkspur to do the job while Kline was still in high school.

"It was a huge undertaking for a 10th grader," Kline says. "I had to deal with all kinds of legal nonsense, market the products, raise capital, handle the e-commerce, production of music, etc." Nevertheless, the work paid off as "the rerelease was a huge and very profitable success... I was in music magazines and other... clients became interested."

Though Kline and West later parted ways due to "creative differences," the fruits of the enterprise proved more enduring than their partnership.

"It was a huge learning experience," Kline says, further noting that the project gave him and his group "the status... of an established multimedia company... that had produced several successful albums and Web sites."

Capitalizing on connections made as an intern and, ultimately, a full-time clerk at a San Francisco trading house now owned by Goldman Sachs, Kline states that he "took on a bunch of new clients ranging from PR firms to silicon valley startups."

While life on the venture-capital circuit has brought occasional setbacks, including an ill-fated investment in an invention known as the "Commuter Cover-up," a small neoprene vest designed to protect commuters from coffee spills, the perks are undeniable.

"I've been at V[enture] C[apital] meetings for startups where I'm the only person under 50," Kline recounts. "They're showing off new devices like a bloodless system for taking blood sugar or new computer chips."

Though unwilling to go on the record with the specifics of his immediate plans for business reasons, Kline is carefully planning his next campaign, one which will most likely involve the University and most certainly include job offers for Penn students. Of course, at Wharton, there is little doubt that when he does go public with his next operation, he will have no shortage of volunteers -- or competition.

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