Every generation has had its share of successful young entrepreneurs, from agriculturalist Eliza Lucas Pinckney (1800s) to Apple founder Steve Jobs (1900s). Now, it’s the turn of Generation Z, born 1997 to 2012—who range in age from 10 to 25—to make their own income in innovative ways. For many of these bright stars, that means starting early to pursue entrepreneurship as a means to leave their mark on the world. Read about the latest generation of entrepreneurs from the U.S., India, and the U.K.
- A young entrepreneur is a child or young adult who finds opportunities to start and operate a business.
- Kamaria Warren created a line of products for Brown and Black girls–stationery, vegan bags, and accessories–after finding no party products that represented girls of color.
- Ryan Hickman realized at age three he didn’t like the sight of discarded bottles lying on the ground, so he started collecting his family’s and his neighbor’s recyclables, which later became his business.
- Mikey Wren teaches financial literacy to kids in his community and has written two books on the subject.
- Vinusha MK found her love of baking at a young age and now is the force behind Four Seasons Pastry, whose aim is to set up a cooking school for the underprivileged.
Meet 10 Successful Young Entrepreneurs
According to The 2022 Investopedia Financial Literacy Survey, Generation Z adults (i.e., those between 18 and 25 years old) are more financially sophisticated than any previous generation was at their age. Some successful young entrepreneurs start really young. Whether inspired by family, events, or a desire to have fun, these young entrepreneurs set out to tackle the world of business.
At age 13, Hart Main came up with the idea of manly scented candles after teasing his sister about the girly scented ones she was selling for a school fundraiser. It wasn’t until Hart set out to purchase a $1,500 bike that he reconsidered what he suggested in jest.
Hart and his parents contributed nominal amounts to begin the business and worked together to develop the candles, cleverly named ManCans. They are now handmade by the Beaver Creek Candle Company in Lisbon, Ohio, by a developmentally disabled workforce.
Adopting a simple and masculine theme, ManCans candles—with available scents including Campfire, Bacon, Sawdust, Fresh Cut Grass, and Grandpa’s Pipe—are made using soup cans. As of 2016, Hart’s candles are sold in every state, with sales exceeding six figures annually. Giving back to the community, Hart donates part of each sale to soup kitchens in Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Michigan.
At age seven, Kamaria Warren and her mom—graphic designer Shaunice Sasser—went shopping for birthday invitations for her upcoming party. What they found was no product that represented Brown and Black girls. That necessity hatched an invention and Brown Girls Stationery was born.
That set the McDonough, Georgia, native on the route to creating party and school supplies, stationery, vegan purses, and accessories for girls. Most products bear a cheery illustration of a Black or Brown girl, and Warren also sells dolls.
“Because of our unique images and offerings, we are able to make money while having an impact,” Warren, now 13, says of the business, which has five employees and five volunteers. She sells her products on Shopify, Faire Marketplace, wholesale, and at local events. On average, Warren sells some 10,000 notebooks, 2,500 notepads, 1,500 backpacks each year. She is now adding 1,000 packs of party supplies, 1,000 new lip glosses, and a new purse with an affirmative message will be released each month.
What motivates her, Warren says, is “seeing other girls wear my stuff and being proud of who they are.” Her motto is: Dear Brown girl, you have the ability to change the world.
Failure and the fear of failure should not be the end of your entrepreneurial journey. Rather, allow failure to motivate you and use it as a catalyst to refine your strategy.
Ryan Hickman realized at age three that he didn’t like seeing discarded bottles and cans lying on the ground, so he did something about it. Hickman started collecting his family’s recyclables and then went with his dad to the local recycling center, where he got $5 for the haul. He was so inspired by that exercise that he started collecting his neighbor’s recyclables by going door-to-door with a bag attached to his bike. By seven years old, the Orange County, Calif., boy was running his own business, called Ryan’s Recycling Company.
Now 13, Hickman has been lauded through the years by news organizations, including CNN Kid Wonder in 2017, and appeared on many national TV shows, including “Ellen” and “Today,” talking about his mission. On his site, he sells T-shirts bearing the message, “Make the Sea Trash Free.” All profits from the sale of his merchandise and recycling go to the rescue organization Pacific Marine Mammal Center. To date, has raised more than $14,000 and helped recycle 1.5 million cans and bottles.
Hickman has also started a new nonprofit, Project 3R, whose mission is to educate and stress the importance of recycling to kids and adults worldwide, as well as to organize and manage community clean-up efforts.
“If a kid like me can make a difference, anyone can, too,” explains Hickman. “When we all do just a little bit, it adds up to a huge difference. Thanks for helping me clean up our planet.”
The best way to deal with a spill is to avoid it. That’s what inventor Lily Born had in mind when at age eight, she noticed that her grandfather, who had Parkinson’s disease, was frequently spilling his drinks, often leaving her grandmother to clear up the mess.
Born invented the three-legged cup, known as the Kangaroo cup, that won’t tip and started her company called Imagiroo LLC. To perfect her design, Born and her dad traveled across the world to the ceramics capital of China, JingDeZhen. There, they were able to refine the models, find a manufacturer, and prepare for a production run of ceramic cups, which come in plastic, too. They also got financial support from the crowdfunding platforms Kickstarter and Indiegogo.
Today, the 16-year-old Born has sold tens of thousands of Kangaroo cups worldwide and serves as an inspiration to children like her who don’t see the problem, but the solution.
It was a good heart that led Vista, Calif.’s Katelynn “Kiki” Hardee at age five to make sure that neither her schoolmates’ families nor local schools incurred debt for school meals. She had learned that her school in the Vista Unified School District had more than $600 in school lunch debt and that some kids had to skip lunch because their parents couldn’t afford to pay for it. All of that was unacceptable to Hardee.
To raise money, Hardee began selling cookies and hot cocoa, as well as running other fundraisers, in what became known as Kiki’s Kindness Project. Eventually, Hardee, now eight, raised enough money to pay off the entire district’s lunch debt, to the tune of more than $7,000. Hardee’s ongoing efforts have raised more than $22,000 with the goal of collecting $250,000—and encouraging other children to find ways to help those less fortunate.
Michael ‘Mikey’ Wren
Michael “Mikey” Wren definitely has a head for business.
At the tender age of eight, this St. Louis, Mo., boy started Mikey’s Munchies Vending, a collection of vending machines. That was just the beginning.
Wren, now 13, believes in helping the community by volunteering his time to teach financial literacy and hosts an annual drive to donate new toys to local kids. He has also written two children’s books, Mikey Learns About Business, which covers writing a business plan, marketing strategies, and networking, and Biz Is a Whiz for children pre-K to 3. He regularly books speaking engagements to talk about his work.
Wren is also a member of two national kids’ boards. He gave away $10,000 worth of brand-new clothing to youth in his community.
If style is important to you, then sometimes there’s nothing for sale that suits your stringent sartorial standards. Enter Moziah Bridges, a Memphis native who at age nine couldn’t find a suitable bowtie. So he started Mo’s Bows, by first learning to sew and then making the colorful bowties with leftovers from his grandmother’s sewing projects. Eventually, he hired tailors, while he handled the creative and business sides.
Bridges, who has appeared on “Shark Tank,” is now 20 years old and has sold more than $700,000 in handmade men’s ties and accessories. He once gave then-President Barack Obama a custom-made tie in “Obama Blue,” and his company also produced bowties and neckties for all 30 National Basketball Association teams.
Cole Haan, Bloomingdale’s, and Neiman Marcus carry his products. Ten years ago, Moziah started the Go Mo Summer Camp Scholarship Fund, a charity focused on sending Memphis children to summer camp. To date, the organization has sent more than 50 kids to summer camp.
It was her mother’s upcoming birthday that motivated Vinusha MK to bake a cake. The first time out, the cake tasted good but wasn’t the right consistency. She vowed never to bake again. That was short-lived. In subsequent tries, the cakes turned out great. So a baker was born.
“I started Four Seasons Pastry in September 2019,” writes Vinusha MK of Chennai, India. “The name denotes seasonal colors and flavors used in cupcakes.”
Vinusha also envisions setting up a culinary institute in India for low-income people. Until then, the industrious baker, now 12, sells her signature cupcakes and a baking kit to help kids bake cakes without using the Internet or a smartphone. In the meantime, she is an intern under famous chefs at top hotels in India and sells pastries, cakes, chocolates, and sandwiches online through her business.
Lots of little kids want ponies. That’s fine if they live in the country, but for urban and suburban dwellers, fulfilling that dream is nearly impossible.
That’s what Mia Monzidelis’ parents said to her, when at five she asked for a pony to keep at her suburban home on Bellmore, Long Island, N.Y., but she was undeterred. She thought creatively about her dream and came up with the idea for Power Pony, a mechanical pony or unicorn made with a furry surface and mechanisms within, that are interactive and have an iOS app.
The four-legged toys can travel around the room with the child riding in the saddle. The toy’s dimensions are 20 inches from the ground to the saddle and 16 inches from the footpads to the saddle. It is 24 inches long from the handle to the tail.
Monzidelis said it was her dad who believed in her idea of creating the ponies and unicorns and helped her bring it to fruition. They sampled many pony toys before they struck on the right one. “At times, it was frustrating, but we kept going until we got it perfect,” says Mia, now 11.
Now the company has 15 employees and 12 volunteers. For the 2021 holiday season, her company sold 5,000 units. In 2021, her company donated $5,000 to Garden City, L.I’s Family & Children’s Association. “I have always helped kids and families that are in need in whatever way I could, and now with Power Pony, I can help so many kids that are sick or need help,” she says.
At the age of 14, Doherty began making jams from his grandmother’s recipes. The teen started out selling the sweet treats door-to-door in his neighborhood in Edinburgh, Scotland. Then he set up a stand at an Edinburgh farmer’s market and biked to customers to deliver orders. However, as the word got out, he received more orders than he had time to fill. He dropped out of school and rented a factory a few days each month to meet demand.
In 2007, the high-end U.K. supermarket Waitrose approached Doherty about selling his Superjam products made from 100% fruit, leading to his jams gaining shelf space in many stores in the U.K. and Europe. Five years later, Doherty launched his products in Korea and Japan and sold 1 million British pounds worth of merchandise in an hour on a Korean shopping network.
Even Queen Elizabeth II got into the act when she awarded Doherty an MBE medal, which is for service to business in the U.K. By 2019, Doherty had sold his 5 millionth jar of jam. He also runs hundreds of free tea parties for older people and has set up community beekeeping projects.
What Is a Young Entrepreneur?
A young entrepreneur is a child or young adult who assumes risks to start and operate a business or who finds new ways to do business better. They are the type of person who identifies and pursues opportunities without allowing risks to become barriers.
How Do You Become a Young Entrepreneur?
If you are a child or young adult, think about what opportunities exist that have not been exploited and consider the value it could bring if you pursued it. You could also think of how you can repurpose what already exists. Develop a plan, stating the opportunity, your answer to the opportunity, and your plans to execute. Assemble resources, such as money, labor, and supplies, or seek help from an adult who can gather these resources for you. Don’t be afraid to ask for help or learn from others who have been successful at entrepreneurship. Most of all, don’t be afraid of failure. Use it as a learning lesson and continue toward your mission.
Who Are Some of Today’s Most Successful Young Entrepreneurs?
Possibly one of the most famous and accomplished young entrepreneurs is Mark Zuckerberg, who at 19 co-founded Facebook (now Meta). Also topping the charts is Dustin Moskovitz, co-founder of Facebook; and Evan Spiegel and Bobby Murphy, co-founders of Snapchat. Not all young entrepreneurs will reach Facebook or Snapchat status, but success is definitely possible, as our 10 examples show.
Can a 12-Year-Old Own a Business?
There is no age limit on being an entrepreneur; a 12-year-old can become one. However, there is an age requirement for forming a legal business entity in the United States. Due to contract law, a person must be at least 18 years of age to form a legal business. Fortunately, parents and guardians can file on behalf of minor children.
Who Is the Youngest Major Company Owner?
Hong Kong’s Hillary Yip, born in 2005, is probably still the youngest CEO in the world. She founded and runs MinorMynas, an online education platform for children. Now 17, she began her journey into entrepreneurship at age 10, dabbling in the tech sector, and today sits at the table with some of the world’s most renowned tech geniuses.
The Bottom Line
It’s evident from these young peoples’ stories that entrepreneurship is not a one-size-fits-all endeavor. It involves believing in the potential of ideas and pursuing them past ideation and concept development. These young entrepreneurs, inspired by family, academics, social trends, and events, have one thing in common: They found an opportunity and seized it. That is the essence of entrepreneurship.