Successful Young Entrepreneurs

Since the dawn of man, every generation has had its share of successful young entrepreneurs, from agriculturalist Eliza Lucas Pinckney (1800s) to Apple founder Steve Jobs (1900s). It's no surprise that Millennials, also known as Generation Y, have done the same, making their own income in innovative ways. For many of these bright stars, that means pursuing entrepreneurship as a means to leave their mark on the world.

Key Takeaways

  • A young entrepreneur is a child or young adult who finds opportunities to start and operate a business.
  • Hart Main created manly-scented candles at age 13 after teasing his sister about her girly-smelling candles.
  • Caine Monroy created a makeshift arcade in his father's auto parts store at age 9.
  • Garrett Gee launched Scan as a college student and later sold it to Snapchat for $54 million.
  • At age 15, Catherine Cook created MyYearbook, which landed advertising deals with Disney and ushered in millions of members and visitors monthly.

Meet 10 Successful Young Entrepreneurs

Here we provide you with examples of successful young entrepreneurs. Whether inspired by family, events, or a desire to have fun, these young entrepreneurs set out to tackle the world of business.

Hart Main

Hart Main

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 ManCan. Adopting a simple and masculine theme, ManCan candles—with available scents including Campfire, Bacon, Sawdust, Fresh Cut Grass, and Grandpa's Pipe—were made using soup cans.

Hart's candles are in stores in every state, with sales exceeding six figures annually. Giving back to the community, Hart donates part of each sale to kitchens in Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Michigan.

Charlotte Fortin

Charlotte Fortin

Charlotte was a young high school graduate who followed in her father's and grandfather's entrepreneurial footsteps when she decided to open up her own business, Wound Up. Inspired by some small and eclectic boutiques in California, Wound Up was opened to be a women's clothing store targeting women between the ages of 18 to 40.

The store's merchandise includes blouses, shorts, skirts, and dresses. Fortin says that starting a business pushed her to grow up and become much more responsible and conscious.

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.

Caine Monroy

Caine Monroy

Caine Monroy was only nine years old when he launched his own makeshift cardboard arcade inside his father's East L.A. auto parts store. The arcade's only customer—doting on Caine's genius ability to create something from nothing—decided to generate buzz with the hopes of raising college fund money for Caine. He posted a short film to social media, and soon, Caine's Arcade business became internationally known, reported on news outlets such as ABC World News, Good Morning America, and MSNBC.

The movement generated more customers than what the auto parts store could handle, with patrons waiting for four hours or more. It is unknown how much Caine's Arcade earned, but the scholarship fund collected more than $200,000. Caine's Arcade birthed a movement, which led to the creation of the Imagination Foundation, a non-profit organization designed to encourage creativity and entrepreneurship among children. Most importantly, Caine's Arcade ignited an innovative spirit within kids around the world.

Jack Kim

Jack Kim

Jack Kim was a Seattle teenager when he founded Benelab, a search engine that generates donations. Kim made search engines previously and quickly learned the power of a search engine in generating revenue from little traffic. According to Kim, the search engine's mission is "to make philanthropy easy and more accessible."

Kim recruited classmates to be part of his "nonprofit organization with a startup vibe" team. All of Benelab's ad revenues are donated to charity, making it the first search engine to do so.

Willow Tufano

Willow Tufano

When Florida was hit hard by the recession and houses that once sold for $100,000 were now being sold at auctions for $12,000, a then 14-year old Willow Tufano decided to take advantage of the opportunity to purchase a house.  Consulting her real estate mother, she presented the idea of buying a house, to which her mother replied offering her full support. Not surprisingly, Tufano was no stranger to the world of real estate. She previously made money clearing abandoned houses and selling leftover property on Craigslist.

With help from her mother, Willow bought a house for $12,000, renovated it, and, in less than a year, rented it out for $700 a month. That's an impressive payback period of approximately 17 months.

Garrett Gee

Garrett Gee

Garrett Gee turned a lucky guess into a business opportunity when the iPad 2 was about to come out. Then a university student, Garrett guessed that once the iPad 2 came out, there would soon be a blog post somewhere listing the top 10 apps for the device. After recognizing there should be easier to use and less clunky QR code software and apps, he made it his mission to be the first one to offer such a product fit for the iPad 2.

He quickly got the iPad 2 into the hands of his iOS developer, and after two sleepless nights, he had accomplished his goal. His guess about the blog post was also correct. Thanks to his hard work, he made it onto that list.

He recruited two classmates to launch Scan in Feb. 2011. After being rejected by Shark Tank venture capitalists, Scan secured $7 million of financing from Entree. In 2014, Gee sold Scan to Snapchat for $54 million.

Cameron Johnson

Cameron Johnson

Cameron Johnson got his start at the age of nine, creating invitations for his parents' holiday gathering. Two years later, Johnson had made thousands of dollars selling cards through his company named Cheers and Tears. 

At age 12, he paid $100 for his sister's 30 Beanie Babies and sold them on eBay for 10 times what he paid. He then purchased the dolls directly from the manufacturer and made a $50,000 profit in less than a year. He used that money to start an Internet business that brought in $3,000 per month in advertising revenue. By the time he was 15, he had formed other businesses with total revenues of $300,000 to $400,000 per month.

Catherine Cook

Catherine Cook

Fifteen-year-old Catherine Cook and her brother—eleven years her senior—were looking at a yearbook and thought it would be a good idea to build a social media website built around an online version of a person's yearbook. Looking to her brother, who had successfully launched startups EssayEdge.com and ResumeEdge.com, for inspiration, she founded MyYearbook. Later MyYearbook merged with an ad-supported site that allows users to post and complete online quizzes.

By 2006, the site raised $4.1 million in venture capital funding. The site quickly gained notoriety, attracting millions of visitors, gaining millions of members, and securing advertisers like Disney and ABC.

$100 million

The price Latino social media network Quepasa paid to acquire MyYearbook in 2011.

Ashley Qualls

Ashley Qualls

Eight dollars started Qualls' journey that led her to earn more than $70,000 per month in revenue.  When MySpace was popular, people complimented Qualls on her MySpace page designs. She posted the designs online for people to purchase, and that propelled her to a $70,000 per month revenue with seven million monthly visitors. She made so much money that she dropped out of school to devote her time to her business. She was offered $1.5 million for her business but turned it down.

Fraser Doherty

Fraser Doherty

At the age of 14, Doherty began making jams from his grandmother's recipes. As the word got out, he began receiving more orders than he had time to fill. He dropped out of school and rented a factory a few days each month. In 2007, a high-end U.K. supermarket approached Doherty about selling his jams, leading to his products gaining shelf space in 184 stores. By 2007, his company had $750,000 in sales. Since then, his company has continued to grow throughout Europe.

Successful Young Entrepreneurs FAQs

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 to 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. 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 achieved nonetheless. Other notable successful young entrepreneurs include those we highlighted: Fraser Doherty, Ashley Qualls, and others.

Can a 12-Year-Old Own a Business?

There is no age limit on being an entrepreneur; so, a 12-year 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?

At age 15, Hillary Yip is the youngest CEO in the world. She founded and runs MinorMynas, an online education platform for children. She began her journey into entrepreneurship at age 10, dabbling in the tech sector, and now sits at the table with some of the world's most renowned tech geniuses.

The Bottom Line

It's evident from these young people's 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. And that is the spirit of entrepreneurship.