Millions of us get a much-needed energy boost by starting the workday with a cup of coffee. As far as I’m concerned, though, few things are more energizing than watching the rise of teen entrepreneurs.
One reason entrepreneurs succeed is that we tend to bring a singularity of focus to achieving our goals—and that’s a good thing. If we’re not careful, though, that same intensity can become an Achilles’ heel. We can start to miss important opportunities that do not, at first glance, seem to jibe with our vision.
Teens, on the other hand, grew up in a different world than we did. Rapid advances in technology shifted the landscape for them in ways we may be slow to grasp. They can’t help but bring new perspectives on the hyper-connected world we inhabit, along with boatloads of energy to pursue their passions.
Covid-19 Added Fuel to the Teen Entrepreneur Fire
The onset of a global pandemic significantly altered the high school experience for teens everywhere. Students were forced to get creative with how they spent their time at home, but many had already been doing just that.
Prior to the pandemic, the number of teens setting up their own businesses increased eightfold during the past decade. With many schools now struggling to remain open, teens are re-evaluating their life choices. Many have decided to focus their efforts on starting businesses.
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A simple scroll through the #teenentrepreneur hashtag on Instagram will introduce you to hundreds of teens selling everything from jewelry to art to snowplowing services. What unites them all is passion, an understanding of digital marketing and a comfort with risk taking that may not have existed in the previous generation.
Teen Business Leaders Offer a Remedy for Pandemic Fatigue
Honestly, this last year has been a tough one for me personally. My companies are doing fine, and of course I’m grateful for that. Still, many of my good friends have completely gone out of business after successfully pursuing their dreams for years. It was hard to watch others suffer tremendous losses, so staying motivated has been a challenge.
Diving into the world of teen entrepreneurship proved to be just the inspiration I needed. The next generation of entrepreneurs not only thinks differently than I do, but they appear to be fearless—maybe even a bit reckless (in a good way).
The teen entrepreneurs who have caught my attention are pursuing their ideas with a level of excitement that many of us would do well to rekindle. I’m inspired by their work and look forward to tracking their rise. Here are five teen entrepreneurs who have made it on to my radar:
1. Charlotte Kerpen, Founder and Host, Business Better
From founding an organic line of lemonade beverages at age 8 to helping build a local chapter franchise model for national organization Doorstep Donations, Charlotte’s focus has always been on bettering the world.
Campaigning to become the first female chair of the High School Democrats of America, Charlotte gained an in-depth understanding of digital marketing that taught her how an online business ought to be run. That experience opened up the opportunity to serve as a teen coach and advisor for dozens of online companies. All of these companies generate profits, 100% of which are given back to the communities they serve.
Charlotte also launched a podcast, Business Better, where she interviews entrepreneurs devoted to social good. Charlotte can inspire others to keep giving back when it might have been tempting to tighten things up in response to the harsher business realities of the pandemic.
2. Moziah Bridges, Founder and CEO, Mo’s Bows
Mo’s Bows is a Memphis-based company that sells handcrafted bow ties. It was originally founded by Moziah (“Mo”) and launched via Etsy. Mo and his mother appeared on Shark Tank in 2015, after which Daymond John decided to hop on board as an investor. I remember watching this episode and just being wowed by Mo. I wanted to hire him even though I knew I wouldn’t have a shot with the natural talent this kid had.
At age 9, Mo started his business out of frustration when he could not find a bow tie to match his personal sense of style. Now 19, Mo continues to grow Mo’s Bows while expanding into a matching line of facial coverings. He’s also published a book, Mo’s Bows: A Young Person’s Guide to Start-Up Success. Mo’s story serves as a great reminder for entrepreneurs: whenever we encounter frustration, we need to pay attention. There may be a business opportunity hiding in plain sight.
3. Aliyah Solorio, Founder, Aliyah Cosmetics
As a senior in high school, Aliyah Solorio used Shopify to launch her cruelty-free cosmetics line, Aliyah Cosmetics. Aliyah’s products, many of which are self-made, are shipped all over the world.
Selling everything from lashes to lip gloss, Aliyah taps into current trends and uses a variety of Instagram promotional tools to promote her business, including carousel photos, reels, and effective use of hashtags. It was refreshing to see how Aliyah combined her convictions regarding cruelty to animals with a marketing savvy that landed so solidly on its target audience.
4. Langston Whitlock, Co-Founder and CIO, SAFETRIP
Langston Whitlock co-founded SAFETRIP, an Atlanta-based ride-sharing app that focuses on non-emergency medical transport. Patients, caretakers and healthcare providers can use the app to schedule rides or travel on demand.
The SAFETRIP team has raised over $2M in funding, and the company has over 800 drivers in approximately 80 cities. What impressed me about Langston is how he looked at a problem that many of us would consider “solved” — just get a ride from a friend, call a taxi, get an Uber, etc. — and, with the help of Jean, brought a useful service to an underserved market segment.
5. Gift Igbin, Founder and CEO, G.I Social Society
A 17-year-old actress and model based in Los Angeles, Gift is also the creator of GI Social Society, an online community for teens. Marketed primarily through Instagram, GISS focuses on helping teenagers gain confidence and counsel when building their own small businesses. GISS offers an ambassador program and also has a podcast called SocieTea.
Many teens would be content to focus on their own success, but not Gift. She reminds me that my success can be immeasurably enhanced when I take the time to lift others up along the way.
From Pandemic Boost to Permanent Habit
In difficult times like these, it’s easy to get down about the economy and the future of our business prospects. I’ve found that we just need to look to our youth to see that the future is, in fact, brighter than ever.
Covid-19 more or less forced me to go looking for ways to stay inspired, but keeping an eye on teen entrepreneurs is one habit I plan to hang on to. I encourage other entrepreneurs to tap into the amazing energy of our young business founders and support them whenever possible.