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Young And Rich: Successful Entrepreneurs In A Success-Driven Society

I presented at the American Bar Association Section of Litigation conference last week. The law field is one of those 'at risk' professions, as fewer young adults are pursuing law school today to become entrepreneurs or pursue careers in technology.Many of America's businesses aren't taking the generation gap in the workforce very seriously, expecting that young adults will eventually come to grips with reality and settle into jobs at reputable companies that offer stability and great benefits packages.

I presented at the American Bar Association Section of Litigation conference last week. The law field is one of those 'at risk' professions, as fewer young adults are pursuing law school today to become entrepreneurs or pursue careers in technology.Many of America's businesses aren't taking the generation gap in the workforce very seriously, expecting that young adults will eventually come to grips with reality and settle into jobs at reputable companies that offer stability and great benefits packages.The fact is, 465,000 new businesses are started in the U.S. every month – and the vast majority of those businesses are started by young professionals under the age of 40.At the ABA conference, I received the same question that I get at every other conference when I speak: Are these business start-ups successful? Not every young entrepreneur can succeed — there's certain to be a high number of failures, right?In truth, I have yet to be able to find the number of failed start-ups, but evidence of successful start-ups is everywhere, indicating that today's entrepreneurs are more business savvy, more likely to take on risk, and more confident than prior generations.In the past, going into business for yourself was considered risky, at best. In the past, stable careers at reputable companies were preferred.But we are rapidly becoming a nation of entrepreneurs. Our success-driven society is now focused on the pursuit of happiness and values innovation, independence, and work-life balance. As a result, we’re seeing more entrepreneurs succeed and at a younger age.BusinessWeek recently published its list of America’s Best Entrepreneurs 2008, an impressive list of moguls ages 25 and under. The current credit crunch and ailing economy hasn’t deterred these businesses – in fact, BusinessWeek received a record number of nominations this year.The list includes:

  • Daniel Negari, 22, who started Beverly Hills Mint, a high-end real estate finance business brokering commercial and residential loans worth $5 million or more. The company took in $650,000 in 2007.
  • Johnny Earle, 26, who turned his skill creating iconic T-shirts into a rapidly expanding company, Johnny Cupcakes, with locations in Los Angeles and Boston and overseas distribution. Last year's sales hit $2.29 million, and Earle expects revenue to jump to $3.75 million this year.
  • Jasmine Lawrence, 17, a high school senior who landed deals with Wal-Mart and Whole Foods to carry her line of natural cosmetics. Lawrence started Eden Body Works in to offer alternatives to chemical products after a bad experience with a hair relaxer.
  • Richard Ludlow, 22, who started New York's Academic Earth, an online hub for videos of university lectures and other educational content which makes academic material widely available online so as to lower the cost of education around the world.

In many cases, today’s young entrepreneurs aren't starting a company right away—they're starting a Web site and seeing if it works. The Internet has become the great equalizer, and a tremendous tool for start-up businesses.

Television shows like The Donny Deutsch ShowThe Apprentice, and Hell's Kitchen are focused on business success at a young age.James Sun made it within one spot of winning Donald Trump's "The Apprentice," having been chosen from thousands of applicants nationwide to compete on the hit reality show. Sun was already a millionaire when he appeared on the show. He built a portfolio worth $2.3 million by the time he graduated from college.

Now 30 and living in Seattle, he is the founder and CEO of Zoodango.com, a Web 2.0 site that offers a social search engine to help people connect both online and offline.

This isn’t get an American phenomenon, either. The Austailian Business Review Weekly (BRW) publishes its Young Rich List featuring the 100 richest people under the age of 40. The minimum net wealth required for inclusion on the list is $20 million and its members must be 40 or under without having inherited money.Editor John Stensholt expects many more Gen Ys (under-26) to join the list, thanks in part to their confidence in their own abilities. He refers to Y as “fearless young entrepreneurs" who are “very, very confident in their own abilities.”The BRW list for 2008 included: Greg Coffey, 37, founder of anti-spyware software manufacturer PC Tools; and Nigel and Tania Austin, who started the retail chain Cotton On.

And if you want your children to start learning the lessons of running a business, check out the book, Young Bucks: How to Raise a Future Millionaire.

It seems the trend towards entrepreneurialism is here to stay.

Sarah Sladek

Concerned about declining engagement in our nation’s membership associations, non-profits, and workplaces, Sarah Sladek founded XYZ University, the nation’s first and only generations-focused training and engagement strategy company, in 2002.

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