You’ve heard about the “30 under 30” lists celebrating young business leaders and innovators. But have you ever seen a list that includes 15-year-old CEOs and 4-year-old founders?
Age does not limit success. You’re never too young or too old to start pursuing your ambitions. No one knows that more than the young entrepreneurs on this list. They don’t need high school diplomas or even driver’s licenses to turn their ideas into thriving businesses.
If you’d like to help your child start a business, make sure that business follows all legal requirements applicable in your city or state. Business News Daily’s guide to helping your kids start a small business walks you through that process, so your kid is set up for success.
At age 7, Alina Morse went on an errand to the bank with her father. The teller offered her a lollipop, but she reluctantly declined — her parents had taught her that candy would damage her teeth. The experience sparked an idea: why not make candy that tastes great and is good for your teeth? Zollipops were born, and before long, Zolli Candy was sold in stores across the country. Since then, Morse has expanded the vegan, sugar-free, tooth-friendly candy line to include taffy and drops. Now a teenager, Morse is the company’s CEO and has been featured in a variety of publications. She launched the Million Smiles Initiative, which encourages schools to discuss dental hygiene by donating Zollipops to them.
After being challenged by her father to create the same products she loved from her favorite health and beauty stores, Hannah Grace got to work. She quickly learned how to make bath bombs and soon started her own bath and beauty brand, BeYOUtiful. You can find her products on her website and in retail stores. Grace, who has type 1 diabetes, donates 10 percent of every online purchase to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Fund.
Slime has taken the kid world by storm and Maddie Rae has been on the forefront of the trend. As the slime craze took off in 2017, Rae, an avid slime fan, began having a hard time finding glue (a necessary slime ingredient) in stores. She took matters into her own hands and worked with her dad to develop their own glue, optimized for slime production. Soon, Rae expanded her online store to feature a range of slime, slime glue and slime accessories. Since 2017, she has broken world slime records and held a slime conference called “Slime Bash” in addition to making content on YouTube and TikTok. Her products can be found online and in stores.
Brothers Brandon Martinez and Sebastian Martinez design and sell their funky, creative socks to elevate people’s style while also helping a wide range of charitable causes. Proceeds from their charity collections go to nonprofits including Big Brothers Big Sisters, Amigos for Kids, many pediatric cancer organizations. In 2014, Are You Kidding also launched their “Kids Helping Kids” initiative and began partnering with schools across the United States to provide socks and other tools for school fundraisers.
If you’ve ever found yourself wishing your comfortable leggings had a pocket for your phone, Sofia Overton has the product for you: Wise Pocket. One day, Overton watched as her cousin, whose leggings left her without a pocket, stuffed her phone into her boot and it inspired her. Overton got to work and created a sock with a pocket capable of securely holding a phone. She even pitched her idea on Shark Tank. In addition to socks, Overton has announced the development of leggings with pockets. She’s also launching a charitable effort called The Wise Movement that donates socks to shelters, as they are one of the most highly needed items among people experiencing homelessness.
At age 4, Mikaila Ulmer needed an idea for a children’s business competition she had entered. Two serendipitous events inspired her: She was stung by a bee and, around the same time, a family member sent Mikaila her great-grandmother Helen’s recipe for flaxseed lemonade. Ulmer decided to create a product that would help the honeybees and that utilized her Granny Helen’s lemonade recipe. She added honey to the mix and founded Me & the Bees Lemonade. For over a decade, the company has produced delicious lemonades and donated 10 percent of profits to bee conservation. The young entrepreneurs’ products can be found at Costco, online and at other retailers. Ulmer also authored a book called Bee Fearless, Dream Like a Kid, which discusses her journey as the young founder of a purpose-driven brand.
Maya Penn founded Maya’s Ideas in 2008 when she was just 8 years old. The company sells sustainably produced fashion accessories and has been ahead of the curve with regard to the “slow fashion” movement. Penn is not only the company’s designer but also its CEO. Today, Penn has become an environmental activist, writer and speaker who has given several TED Talks. Penn is the author of You Got This! Unleash Your Awesomeness, Find Your Path and Change the World and has given speeches across the country. In 2011, she founded Maya’s Ideas 4 The Planet, which has a holistic approach to fighting climate change. She’s also an animator and has created several short films.
Evan Moana was named YouTube’s youngest millionaire in 2016. He started his channel, EvanTubeHD, when he was in the fourth grade. His first videos were reviews of popular kids’ toys. Since then, the channel has grown to earn more than 7 million subscribers. Now, Moana’s whole family has started making content for YouTube and on TikTok. Moana has several channels of his own, his sister has a channel and features prominently on his and they have a channel with their parents featuring family adventures and challenges. All the money Moana raises through sponsorships and advertisements and his earnings are invested in college funds and investments for Evan and Jillian.
Moziah Bridges started Mo’s Bows in his grandmother’s kitchen when he was 9 years old. Bridges says his desire to find a sharp-looking fashion accessory was the inspiration for his business, which produces stylish, colorful bow ties in a variety of styles and prints. The internationally recognized brand has motivated Bridges to study fashion design in college. In addition to bow ties, Bridges’ Memphis, Tennessee-based company sells neckties, pocket squares and apparel. He’s also published a book for children called Mo’s Bows: A Young Person’s Guide to Startup Success to encourage other young people to follow their business dreams.
When Cory Nieves was 6 years old, he was tired of taking the bus to school. To afford a car, Nieves began a series of businesses to start saving up. The enterprising Nieves initially sold hot cocoa and lemonade, but before long he began a quest to create the perfect chocolate chip cookie using all-natural ingredients. After some trial and error, Nieves and his mother, Lisa, perfected their recipe and Mr. Cory’s Cookies was born. The pair expanded their cookie repertoire and developed several new flavors. Nieves has worked with Whole Foods, Williams Sonoma, J. Crew and Pottery Barn. He has also partnered with several nonprofits in the New York City area.
Benjamin Stern became frustrated with inadequate solutions to plastic consumption when he was in the ninth grade. He began developing a creative solution in his biology class and before long developed the groundbreaking sustainability startup Nohbo. Stern began by developing eco-friendly personal care products like shampoo and soap without any plastic packaging. Nohbo Drops are single-use, water-soluble packets containing shampoo, conditioner, body wash or shaving cream. They contain no harsh chemicals, parabens or sulfates and, best of all, generate no plastic waste. Stern pitched the product on Shark Tank and Mark Cuban invested. Now, they’re a major, award-winning startup that has partnered with Capital One, 4 Ocean and One People One Reef. Stern is still CEO and is working on new innovations to fight plastic pollution.
Sustainability is on the forefront of everyone’s mind. In the last few years, searches for alternatives to plastic, particularly plastic packaging, have skyrocketed. Companies addressing this need, such as Nohbo, can find success and help fight plastic pollution.
When Gabby Goodwin was 7 years old, she and her mom, Rozalynn, noticed a problem. Goodwin’s favorite barrettes slipped out of her hair during the day, so she kept losing them for good. The mother-daughter pair worked together to design a new type of hair clip, the Double-Faced Double Snap Barrette. This one stayed put no matter how hard Goodwin played during the day. They patented the design and founded GaBBy Bows. Now, Goodwin is the company’s CEO. In addition to her unique barrettes, Goodwin has founded Confidence by GaBBy, a plant-based hair care system designed to make it easier for moms to do their daughters’ hair. Goodwin and her mom also offer mentoring services on both business and haircare.
Nic Bianchi started Bianchi Candle Co. when he was 12 years old. He combined his love of math, science and candles to create wonderful-smelling, all-natural, handmade candles. Each batch of Bianchi’s candles are hand-poured in small batches and made of all-natural soy wax that burns longer and cleaner. Bianchi has expanded into products like diffusers and a variety of designer candle lines within his brand. All candles are still handmade but can be purchased in small shops across the country. Bianchi also donates proceeds to a number of causes, including the American Cancer Society, Partnerships 4 Kids and the Angels Among Us Society.
Caleb Nelson, who lives in Cedar City, Utah, opened Romeo’s Rickshaws with his dad in 2017 when he was only 14 years old. The pedicab business launched during the Utah Shakespeare Festival, one of the biggest tourist events in Utah, and flourished among the city’s visitors. Soon, it expanded, offering pedicab rides across the downtown and transportation for special events like weddings. Nelson brought on additional drivers and began offering local tours of Cedar City. Romeo’s Rickshaws cost nothing, setting them apart from all other transportation services. Instead, they operate on a tip-only system.
Miracle Olatunji started OpportuniMe when she was in high school as a way to help her fellow high school students connect with opportunities to develop their careers, build their networks and identify their passions before going to college. Now in college herself, Olatunji continues to work with OpportuniMe and has nourished other aspects of her career. She provides coaching, consulting and creative brand partnerships and is a keynote speaker with several organizations. She is the author of Purpose: How to Live and Lead with Impact and her work has been highlighted in Boston Business Journal’s 25 under 25 list and in Forbes.
Business people of all ages can learn from these intrepid young founders. They think outside of the box, motivated by passion and imagination. People who want to start a business but don’t know where to start need look no further than their interests. Young entrepreneurs like Rae, Bianchi and Moana built their enterprises around the things they loved, which gave them unique insight into their customers’ needs. Others like Olatunji, Ulmer and the Martinez brothers identified causes that matter to them and incorporated those passions into their business plans, with admirable results.
Young business owners likewise have the courage to approach ordinary problems with creative solutions. Goodwin, Stern and Morse all created their products after grappling with a problem, without concern for status quo solutions. This confident creativity is crucial for new business ideas to thrive. Finally, young entrepreneurs display tenacity and dedication to their goals. This attitude is central to the longevity and success of any new business venture.