Marketers are all abuzz for a generation of young people with purchasing power—scrambling to tap into the trends of a Gen Z audience, understand their habits, and meet them where they are. But for the latest breed of young entrepreneurs, it’s a piece of cake.
Kids, teens, and college students are starting businesses in droves, gaining valuable life skills and selling to a peer audience. These young entrepreneurs are building the businesses of the future.
While there are some challenges to starting up—getting parental approval and working around a class schedule—young people are in the best position to meet the needs of coming-of-age consumers.
Ahead, discover business ideas for young people and meet nine inspiring founders who discovered entrepreneurship (and success) while they were still in school.
Business ideas for young entrepreneurs
Young people can start a number of businesses while they’re still in school or soon after graduation. Focus on business models that accommodate busy school and social schedules and choose an idea based on an interest or hobby, or related to a dream career.
Take advantage of the built-in network of customers (peers at school) and come up with an idea to serve that audience. Otherwise, cater to the needs of a local neighborhood. Some ideas include:
- Designing and selling t-shirts using print on demand
- Starting an events planning business and selling party supplies
- Selling handmade treats or crafts at local events
- Running a pop-up to feature other kid entrepreneurs
- Offering a neighborhood services business like personal shopping or home décor consulting
- Starting a YouTube channel to create content for a niche audience
Whether you’re looking for business ideas for teens or for younger children, there are opportunities for young people of all ages. It’s never too early to gain résumé-worthy experiences and skills like money management and community building.
9 successful young entrepreneurs to inspire
Many businesses get started in the most unlikely of places, sometimes even in a middle school classroom or a college dorm. These successful young entrepreneurs learned the ropes early and launched their brands before finishing college. Some are now long graduated, growing into adulthood alongside their businesses.
1. Simone Hufana
While she was still a college student, Simone created her brand out of a desire to see more representation of women of color in the world. Her coloring books introduce young girls to the amazing women that inspired her to love herself. “I had two younger sisters, so I felt kind of responsible,” says Simone. “If our education system isn’t doing it, if the media isn’t doing it, then why not me?
Simone won Shopify’s youth-focused BEASTMODE-A-Business competition in 2017 when she launched ColorHerstory. One day, she hopes to take the brand global (mostly for the travel perks).
2. Yelitsa Jean Charles
When Yelitsa Jean-Charles was a child, media and toy companies conveyed the message that the beauty ideal was white, blond, and blue eyed. “I started distancing myself from anything that could associate me with Blackness,” she says. Years would pass before Yelitsa would again confront her relationship with her own identity.
While she was studying art at the Rhode Island School of Design, a class project explored that very topic—before taking on a life of its own. She launched her brand Healthy Roots Dolls in 2014, leveraging resources and networks at college. The company has since raised $1.5 million in funding, secured a partnership with Procter & Gamble, and recently landed a deal with Target.
3. Ryan Trahan
In September 2017, Ryan Trahan was a student athlete at Texas A&M University. On the side, Ryan had started a water bottle brand and was making YouTube videos about running, integrating his product into the content on his channel, growing it to tens of thousands of followers. But Ryan’s success landed him in hot water with the National Collegiate Athletic Association, which governed how student athletes can earn money. He was given an ultimatum: stay at Texas A&M or be a YouTuber.
Ryan took a chance and dropped out of college. It’s a decision that quickly paid off. His channel bloomed to over 11 million subscribers and his entrepreneurial journey landed him among a growing movement of young people in the creator economy.
4. Matteo Galvez
Today, Mateo Galvez is a college graduate and working professional. But he entered adult life already armed with skills beyond his years. At 16, Mateo signed on to Shopify’s BEASTMODE-A-Business competition and founded LOTTA WORLDWIDE, a motivational apparel brand that celebrates his roots.
“I wake up every day and try to figure out, ‘What’s my mission? What’s my goal?’” says Mateo. “Seeing my parents work hard, I got to really understand the struggles they face, so I don’t want to go down the same path. I really see this as a way that I’m helping myself and the future of my family.”
5. Katie Carson
Katie Carson launched her business while she was still in high school. After taking a soap-making course and launching her brand on social media, Katie created video content to connect with a community. Her first videos reviewed soaps from other makers, but as she started to post behind-the-scenes and DIY content, she started to attract new viewers.
Katie’s content was an unexpected success. “The growth was rapid after that, far bigger than I could have ever anticipated. It was very, very fun and very surprising,” she says. More than a decade later, Katie is still running Royalty Soaps—and creating the same viral YouTube content—but now for almost a million subscribers.
6. Angelina Ly
Angelina Ly was 14 years old when she noticed the slime trend taking off. Inspired, she began making her own slimes and sharing her new passion on social media. As her following grew on Instagram and TikTok, she started receiving requests to sell her creations. Angelina launched Fireflyslime and in the past five years, her business has exploded.
Today Angelina runs her company full-time—developing new slimes, growing her social media following, and packaging every order—all while studying business as a full-time college student.
7. Sydney and Toni Loew
In 2013, Sydney and Toni Loew launched their business, Poketti, while still in middle school. Inspired by an entrepreneurship class, the sisters invented a plushie with a convenient pocket to hold a cellphone. They crowdfunded on Kickstarter and have since grown the business beyond their dreams.
Since launch, Sydney and Toni have won multiple awards, have been featured frequently in the media, and landed Walmart as a wholesale client.
7. Robert Felder
Robert Felder came up with the idea for his business when he was still in high school. A trip to Bangladesh showed him the realities of clothing production, and he was inspired to do better. Two years later, he launched Bearbottom, a sustainable clothing company selling ethically made menswear.
Even though Robert attended college after high school, he didn’t bother applying for any jobs. His business was already in full swing and he decided to make a career out of it. To this day, the brand is committed to doing good, and has donated over 700,000 meals and 100,000 pairs of shorts to Bearbottom partner communities.
8. Moziah Bridges
Moziah Bridges started his bespoke bowtie company, Mo’s Bows, when he was just nine years old. More than a decade later, the business is going strong with Moziah at its helm. In that time, he has become a published author, earned multiple awards, and made media appearances everywhere from GQ to Shark Tank.
9. Megan Cox
Megan Cox was an MIT science student when she launched her skin care line from her dorm room—investing every penny she had. After a press syndicate picked up a local news story about her new brand, the college student woke up to $10,000 in sales made overnight.
Over the next few years, Megan grew her brand into a six-figure business, selling out her lash serums and face oils over and over. She eventually sold the business, diverting her attention to a new one: Genie Supply, a private label skin care lab that helps other beauty entrepreneurs launch in the space.
Start your own business before you graduate college—and try Shopify today
The future belongs to the youth
Young business owners are in the best position to meet the needs of young customers. Consumer trends show that Gen Z and Gen Alpha customers—two demographics with serious buying power—have different needs than previous generations. The young entrepreneurs of today will access audiences in new ways and dictate future commerce trends.
Feature image by Rodnae Productions
Young entrepreneurs FAQ
What is a young entrepreneur?
While “young” is a subjective term, a young entrepreneur may be someone who starts a business either as a child, teenager, or college student. Young entrepreneurs, however, can also include those up to 30 years old.
Who is an example of a young entrepreneur?
One example of a young entrepreneur is Kamaria Warren. Kamaria started her business, Brown Girls’ Stationery, when she was just seven years old. The now 14-year-old is still at the helm of the business, focusing on the brand’s next moves. Brown Girls’ Stationery sprang from Kamaria’s desire to see young girls who looked like her represented on school and paper supplies.
How do you start your own business as a young person?
Young people can get experience in the business world as early as elementary school. Some platforms and financial products require a parent or guardian to sign up on behalf of children under 18. But with advice and supervision from parents, kids can get involved with many aspects of running their own businesses. To help a young person get started, focus on finding a business idea related to a passion and support them as they develop their skills.