How many headlines have you read that criticize Millennials and bash their work ethic? However, despite popular conceptions, Generation Y and Generation Z are hitting the ground running and taking care of business — their own businesses, that is. Technology, agriculture, beauty, nonprofit and more, many innovators have forged their own paths by creating their own companies early on. Here are 15 young entrepreneurs making major moves:
1. Brittany Finkle, Happily Ever Borrowed
Cornell University grad Brittany Finkle launched Happily Ever Borrowed — an online boutique that rents high-fashion bridal gowns and accessories — in 2012. Helping her older sister shop for a wedding gown and accessories and seeing how poorly constructed (not to mention expensive) everything was served as Finkle’s initial inspiration for her business. Finkle is currently working on launching her own accessory line.
2. Ariel Trent, Crave Moisture
Eczema left Ariel Trent itchy and irritated, and common solutions like steroids only temporarily relieved her symptoms. Rather than giving up, she took matters into her own hands and began blending teas out of anti-inflammatory herbs. After discovering that her Caribbean Remedy tea provided long-term results, Trent began selling her anti-inflammatory teas online to share her remedy with the world. She now ships her organic, immune system-boosting, handcrafted parcels of teas all across the United States.
3. Sarah Neill, Hot Hot Cold
If you’ve ever gone to a major festival with a gaggle of your best buds, you know that linking back up after separating can be a major ordeal. To help make this task less herculean, Sarah Neill invented the iOS app Hot Hot Cold through her company Relatively Unique Inc which launched in 2013. In addition to serving as CEO for her own company, Neill is also Chief of Staff and Corporate Development at Ultra Mobile.
4. Lia Winograd, Pepper
Lia Winograd co-founded Pepper — an online bra shop that sells bras designed specifically for those with smaller busts while supporting body positivity —just two years ago and reached her Kickstarted goal of $10,000 in a mere 10 hours! Winograd was once a consultant at global management consulting firm McKinsey & Company and is currently pursuing a Master of Business Administration at New York University’s Stern School of Business.
5. Mikaila Ulmer, Me & the Bees Lemonade
Mikaila Ulmer, 14, established Me & the Bees Lemonade in 2009 at the age of four for the Action Children’s Business Fair using her grandmother’s honey-sweetened flaxseed lemonade. Ulmer appeared on Shark Tank in 2015 and received an investment of $60,000 from FUBU CEO Daymond John. Whole Foods Market sells hundreds of thousands of bottles a year, and Ulmer plans to start new companies in the future.
6. Haile Thomas, HAPPY
At just 12 years old, Haile Thomas founded Healthy Active Positive Purposeful Youth (HAPPY) — a non-profit organization that provides nutritional and culinary education programs to underserved communities. She also served as the Jr. Chef Advisor for Hyatt Hotels kids menu and hosted the podcast ‘Girl Empowered.’ Now, at age 18, Thomas continues to serve as CEO while also giving international speaking engagements and is the youngest Certified Integrative Nutrition Health Coach in the United States.
7. Malia Faleafine, WellStats
After running a custom sunglasses company, art blog, and publishing the art and photography ebook Bite City, Renaissance woman Malia Faleafine combined her love of creation with her desire to help individuals. Faleafine has served in executive leadership capacities at multiple social service companies which inspired her to launch WellStats — a fresh approach to social services that streamlines technological processes. WellStats partners with organizations to best provide solutions to help them provide exceptional care to those they serve.
8. Emily Weiss, Glossier
Emily Weiss, 33, is the founder and CEO of cult beauty brand Glossier which is currently valued at over $1 billion. Weiss created the beauty blog The Gloss nine years ago while working as an assistant at Vogue and founded the beauty company in 2014. Now a popular brand, Glossier differs from other beauty companies by selling products directly to consumers and cutting out the middleman.
9. Leigh-Kathryn Bonner, Bee Downtown
Fourth generation beekeeper Leigh-Kathryn Bonner, 26, is on a mission to reverse the alarming trend of bee extinction that has been occurring in the past few decades. Bonner founded Bee Downtown in 2014, an initiative that has large companies house beehives at their headquarters. After a company purchases a hive, Bee Downtown beekeepers install it and any honey produced is kept by the company. Bee Downtown currently maintains over 200 hives.
10. Gabi Cox, Chroma Stationery
Gabi Cox created Chroma, a personalized stationery company, as a college senior in 2014. Now, as a 26-year-old, Cox does business in 28 countries and has even secured a deal with American Airlines. In addition to running Chroma, Cox is dedicated to promoting Crohn's Disease awareness which has impacted her since age 16.
11. Adepeju Jaiyeoba, Mother's Delivery Kit
Adepeju Jaiyeoba, 35, runs a social enterprise that has provided over 1 million sterile delivery kits to mothers across Nigeria and other African countries. Jaiyeoba’s vision to eradicate infant and maternal mortality and promote women’s sexual and reproductive health began after losing a close friend to death during childbirth. Since founding Mother’s Delivery Kit in 2013, Jaiyeoba has gone on to be named a Mandela Washington Fellow, USADF and Citi Foundation Venture showcase winner and White House Emerging Global Entrepreneur.
12. Caitlin Doughty, Undertaking LA
34-year-old Caitlin Doughty is a mortician and death acceptance advocate who has been in the funeral business for a decade. In addition to owning funeral home Undertaking LA, Doughty runs the death acceptance collective the Order of the Good Death, produces the “Ask a Mortician” web series, and has authored the New York Times bestselling books Smoke Gets in Your Eyes & Other Lessons from the Crematory and From Here to Eternity; Traveling the World to Find the Good Death.
13. Rachel Zietz, Gladiator Lacrosse
19-year-old Princeton student Rachel Zietz founded the online retailer Gladiator Lacrosse when she participated in the Young Entrepreneurs Academy Program at age 13. Zietz’s passion for lacrosse and disappointment at the lack of affordable, quality equipment prompted her to begin the company. In her second year of business alone, Zietz earned a revenue of over $1 million.
14. Siqi Mou, HelloAva
Siqi Mou was a beauty enthusiast for years before founding HelloAva — her innovative AI-powered skincare consultant that provides consumers with products expertly curated specifically for their skin type. Since launching in 2016, the company has earned over $1.5 million. In addition to leading HelloAva, Mou volunteers as a music ambassador for Carnegie Hall.
How can you pursue entrepreneurship?
Build a following on social media - Posting consistently can help connect you to potential customers and investors. Building up your brand online is key to attracting new audiences and staying relevant to current fans.
Stay active on LinkedIn - Keep yourself open to opportunities. You never know when a potential investor or partner will reach out to you. Keep your profile updated and connect online to those who you meet in person.
Do your homework - Research is your friend! Read books written by those who are succeeding in your field of interest. Take advantage of courses offered that can help you develop essential skills.
Reach out to those you admire - No one reaches the top completely alone. If you’ve read a book, heard an interview or seen a presentation that inspires you, let the person know! You never know who your next mentor could be!
Kayla Heisler is an essayist and Pushcart Prize-nominated poet. She is an MFA candidate at Columbia University, and her work appears in New York's Best Emerging Poets 2017 anthology.