With today’s jobs market in a dismal state, no buzz word has given more hope to the youthful unemployed than the word “entrepreneurship.”
More and more, young men and women are striking gold — armed with a strong innovative spirit, a razor-sharp focus and an ability to hold their own in the marketplace. From coaches, automobiles and limos to T-shirts, street fashion — and, yes, the inevitable social networking tools so embraced by the 21st century, industries across the globe are seeing their very own teen tycoons-in-the-making.
Read ahead to see 10 budding young entrepreneurs who have already made it big — even in the face of today’s daunting market!
Jon KoonJon Koon
Started business when he was 16
Business: Auto parts, fashion
From a very young age, Chinese-American Jon Koon was already a mogul-in-the-making. He saw huge discrepancies between American and Japanese automobiles in terms of innovation and design, and used the $5,000 he’d saved up from red “lai see” packets to make aggressive moves into the auto market.
He started purchasing car parts from international supply chains, teamed up with a local mechanic and worked his magic to give tons of cars spiffy, high-end finishes and fancy engines with top-notch speakers — all of which gave rise to the blinged-out car craze that was MTV’s “Pimp My Ride” show.
Not long after, Jon opened a manufacturing business that distributed auto parts to a variety of niche markets. In 2008, he switched gears when American rapper Young Jeezy took Jon on as the exclusive partner in his line of clothing, 8732. Soon enough, Jon stuck with fashion as his true calling and his company, Tykoon Brand Holdings, now owns and operates several brands across the globe.
As of 2011, Tykoon Brand Holdings was worth $80 million — and Jon looks forward to several new projects Tykoon has lined up for the near future.
Connor ZwickConnor Zwick
Started business when he was 16
During his junior year of high school, Connor Zwick quickly grew disenchanted with the education system. He saw a deep disconnect between that system and the process by which students learned new things, and wanted to explore that dynamic further.
After looking to different governmental policy changes for a solution, he soon realized that the only true way to improve the system was by innovating through technology. “Flashcards+ was my initial attempt at disrupting the education system, by targeting the way individual students learn, and optimizing it,” he said.
Now, the website is one of the most popular grassroots educational tools of all time, and it continues to grow like wildfire. To date, 1.6 million users have downloaded and used the site.
Ritik MalhotraRitik Malhotra
Started business when he was 12
Business: Gaming, webhosting, education, etc.
Always on the hunt for new ideas, Ritik Malhotra began programming when he was just 8. Four years later, he started a website that let viewers read comics online, and after reading up on useful SEO tactics, he managed to attract 250,000 visitors in one year. He eventually mastered the art of making websites — starting a gaming site and then a popular web forum that attracted 6.5 million viewers in a single year.
Following that, he ran a webhosting and software consultancy business called HostingAxis by the time he was 13. It garnered a return of more than 600 times his initial investment. While the site had revenues in the high single-digit thousands, Ritik shut it just before he entered high school so he could focus on his studies.
Now, Ritik is co-founder of Silicon Valley Prep — a learning academy that teaches various levels of competitive math, computer science and public speaking to elementary, middle- and high-school students. A 2012 Thiel Fellow, the 19-year-old also co-founded Greply, a venture-backed startup in Silicon Valley, and has just built a tool that allows users to search the web for the cheapest deals on any given product.
Revenues from Silicon Valley Prep have totaled up to $45,000 in one summer alone. As for Greply, he and co-founder Samvit Ramadurgam are “going for high growth, so we’ll see how the numbers turn out,” Malhotra said.
Sean BelnickSean Belnick
Started business when he was 14
Before office retailers like Staples started bringing their businesses online, Sean Belnick saw a huge, untapped market for furniture back in 2001. At age 14, he aimed to simplify the process consumers faced of buying furniture by founding BizChair.com. He started small, initially selling only office chairs. By selling goods directly to buyers, Sean managed to rake in revenues of $42 million by 2008.
“Customers won, we won and everyone was happy but the middle man,” he told Entrepreneur.com .
He has since expanded the business to include more furniture for offices, homes and restaurants. Now, at 25, he continues to lead the firm’s evolving market strategy and to focus on the development of new IT initiatives. In 2010, Belnick, the parent company of BizChair.com, saw sales rise to $58 million.
Ray LandRay Land
Started when he was 17
Business: Coach, car and limousine service
When Ray Land was in eighth grade, he was already a natural-born coordinator. He planned his first trip — a trip for his classmates and him to venture to Universal Studios in Orlando, Fla. — and unearthed a passion for planning, traveling and meeting new people. It wasn’t long before he became known as the resident travel planner in his school, and other classmates would ask him to plan tours for them in cities like New York and Washington, D.C.
By age 17, he bought his first motor coach — an old 1989 49-passenger — to provide premiere transportation to passengers needing to travel. With a newfound company, Fabulous Coach, Ray soon realized the need to expand. At its peak in 2011, the firm operated 65 vehicles across North America on revenue of $6.5 million.
“This year, we downsized to help [streamline] the fleet, and we are back in growth mode now,” he said.
Right now, Fabulous Coach coordinates roughly 150 trips per week for several thousand guests, and Ray is currently working to create a travel destination in Florida and to create an interstate stop that showcases all that Florida has to offer.