Surely you’ve heard of Mark Zuckerberg, the über-successful entrepreneur who co-founded Facebook in early 2004 at the tender age of 19. Since then, increasing numbers of teenagers have started their own enterprises, perhaps as a result of the sluggish economy, says Jake Cain, founder of EmployedTeenagers.com, a website that offers job resources.
Cain was an adult when he launched EmployedTeenagers.com, but his inspiration came from his own experience working different part-time jobs and finding alternative ways to make spending cash as a teen, such as selling items on Amazon.com and eBay. “I started this site because I thought there was a need for a site focused on young people that answered a lot of the common questions and provided some inspiration on how the experiences they have now can have an impact on their long-term careers,” explains Cain.
“The idea of working for a company for 40 years and retiring with a pension has gone by the wayside,” says Cain regarding the current trend of teens launching their own ventures. “In fact, teens of today have watched as their moms and dads have seen their own secure jobs be eliminated.”
Meanwhile, technology is enabling young people to realize their ideas and goals faster than ever before. “Teens innately understand technology, and in many ways it is a great equalizer. The ability to create a web-based business for a fraction of the cost of a bricks-and-mortar store makes the barrier to entry relatively low,” Cain adds. “For these reasons, teen entrepreneurship should continue to grow for the foreseeable future.”
Here are four more successful entrepreneurs who launched companies in their formative years.
Chris Sinclair, president of the Anthem Group (pictured)
Chris Sinclair started the Anthem Group in 1999 as a 19-year-old college undergrad with his entire savings of $500. Today, the Anthem Group is a global events and marketing conglomerate serving 70 markets across five continents. Its holdings include a catering company and the International Music Festival. Sinclair serves on numerous boards, such as the Easter Seals board, The University of Massachusetts Center for Collaborative Leadership board, the Federal Bureau of Investigation Citizens Academy Board, and the board of advisers for Project DEEP, a Boston-based, inner-city youth educational enrichment program. Sinclair has earned a reputation as a brilliant and inspirational leader.
Max Fata, inventor of the Erase Case
Teenagers love tech gadgets, but most don’t develop their own smartphone cases. But 15-year-old Max Fata did just that in 2012 with the Erase Case for iPhone. The case lets users draw their own design with a proprietary marker, wipe it clean using special solution, and start over anytime they grow bored with the current look.
Fata designed the case, marker ink, and solution in his family’s garage, experimenting with different cleaning solutions until finding the right mix that successfully removes the ink. He was inspired by the notion that consumers spend a lot money buying different smartphone cases in various colors. Currently, Fata brings in about $3,000 each week from the Erase Case. It’s only available through TheEraseCase.com, but that may soon change. “We are working with a retailer that could bring our gross sales to the millions,” explains Fata.
Sacha Nasan, founder of Talenty
By the time he was 14 years old, Sacha Nasan knew he wanted to be an entrepreneur. His first inkling came while reading an article about the Angry Birds app — and the fact that it was pulling in millions of dollars in revenue. Inspired, Nasan began to hone his iOS-development skills.
At 16, Nasan came up with the idea to build a social-networking site that allows users to post videos of their talents, connect with managers and talent scouts, and basically get noticed. He didn’t yet have the skills he needed for the full development, so he turned to a crowdfunding platform designed specifically for apps, SellanApp. Nasan raised enough money to hire a development team and turn his dream, Talenty, into a reality earlier this year at the age of 17.
Talenty’s in its pre-launch phase and hasn’t yet initiated any marketing efforts, but it’s already racked up more than 800 newsletter subscribers waiting for launch updates, including influential tech bloggers and executives from major mobile app enterprises. The ultimate goal, Nasan says, isn’t revenue but to eventually be acquired by a major player in the tech space, such as Facebook or Microsoft.
Alex Parker, CEO of Brand Strategix
After working as a publicist and assistant for a reality TV star at the age of 14, Alex Parker became the head of internet marketing for a multimillion-dollar private jet management firm at 16. Working alongside older and higher-paid executives, Parker realized he could fare better steering his own ship. At 16 years old, Parker launched Brand Strategix in 2012.
The Rockford, Mich.-based Brand Strategix is now a national internet marketing firm that has made headlines worldwide. The company is privately-held, so it doesn’t disclose revenue figures. Brand Strategix is, however, in the midst of a national expansion, opening offices in New York and Chicago. “We are tinkering with the idea of changing our legal structure to that of a corporation to trade publicly on the stock market. If we do incorporate, it would most likely happen within 2014,” Parker says.