When I was a kid, I worked many odd jobs to make money — lemonade stands, mowing lawns, babysitting, working in a bookstore, and driving an ice cream truck in the Florida summer. But never did I dream of starting my own business as a child. Times have changed though and Gen Z kids are much more creative, ambitious, independent, and entrepreneurial than we ever dreamed.
Move over Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg!
According to a recent article on thenextweb.com, “Generation Z is the most entrepreneurial generation in history. Over 60% of high school students say they would rather be entrepreneurs instead of employees, as do 43% of college students.” A recent study by Millennial Branding found that “While Gen Y struggles to pay back one trillion dollars in student loans, and is living with their parents when they graduate, Gen Z is already focused on creating their own companies and living life on their terms.”
Even Entrepreneur Magazine claims that Gen Z, high school students and younger born between 1994 and 2010, is a group “poised to become the most entrepreneurial generation we’ve ever seen. Also considered ‘the internet generation,’ this is by far the most tech savvy, connected and self-educated group. While Gen Y is known for ‘side gigs’ and having multiple careers, Gen Z is more focused on working for themselves.”
Maybe the rise in “kidpreneurs” is due in part to the national focus on college, career and life-readiness in our public schools and the STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) labs in education from pre-K to 6th grades. Today there are many kid-oriented entrepreneurial books, resources, and organizations. Access to technology at the youngest age is also fueling the kid entrepreneurial spirit with a plethora of free or low cost courses given by websites like Coursera, EDX, and the Khan Academy. Udemy and Skillshare have also provided education and learning for Gen Z’s who can access the information from the comfort of their homes. As a teacher, I can tell you there’s nothing more exciting than seeing a four year-old coding robots in a classroom setting.
Who are the bright stars and what is their inspiration?
In December 2010, Robert Nay, a 14-year-old with no business or coding experience, launched “Bubble Ball,” a new mobile physics puzzle game that took Apple iTunes by storm. It was downloaded over two million times in its first two weeks and has since surpassed 16 million downloads. Through research at the public library, Robert wrote the 4,000 lines of code he needed to build Bubble Ball — in just one month. Now he is building a mobile game empire.
Leanna Archer, CEO of Leanna’s Essentials, was an 8-year-old with a vision when she discovered the secret to success was in her great-grandmother’s all-natural hair product recipe. After receiving compliments on her own hair, Leanna knew she was on to something special. “I began giving it out for free in baby food jars, to now, selling world wide! Leanna’s Essentials is the result of 11 years of hard work, featuring all natural, sulfate and paraben free products that will leave you with strong, healthy hair and beautiful skin.” Today, this 20 year-old, wisely says, “In order to be successful you have to: Believe in Yourself, Your Ability & Your Business.”
Eight year-old Lily Born invented a cup to help her grandfather stricken with Parkinson’s Disease who was frequently spilling drinks. She made a plastic cup that didn’t tip and was comfortable to hold. A year later, she made her dad a ceramic version to prevent coffee spill disasters on his computer. Realizing the great invention it was, Lily and her dad embarked on an adventure to bring it into production, traveling to the ceramics capital of China, JingDeZhen where they refined the models, found a manufacturer and prepared for production of the ceramic cups. The Kangaroo Cup remains the mainstay of Lily’s company, Imagiroo.
Mikaila Ulmer is the founder of Bee Sweet Lemonade. After being stung by bees twice at the age of 4, Mikaila turned her fear into curiosity and fascination with honeybees. Learning about their waning population, she wanted to make a difference by creating a business to save the honeybee population. Mikaila used her Great Granny Helen’s flaxseed lemonade recipe, added local honey, and donated the profits of her lemonade stand to saving the bees. By age 12, Mikaila had received $60,000 on “Shark Tank” to grow Me & the Bees Lemonade. Mikaila is now a millionaire after Whole Foods picked up her lemonade brand for $11 million.
Maya Penn, CEO, of Maya’s Ideas is a 17-year-old philanthropist, designer, activist and inspirational speaker who can code, write, draw, and design. Born from a passion for technology and the environment, Maya started her business in 2008 at just 8 years old and now her eco-friendly, environmentally-sustainable accessories and clothing ship globally. She believes in giving back, so 10-20% of her profits go to support local and global charities.
Jack McKenna, founder of Jack’s Rockin’ Toffee at the age of 10, was inspired by little brother, Colin’s struggles with Williams Syndrome and its many medical and developmental issues. Jack’s mission was to make a sweet treat that his brother could eat because his special diet eliminated food products with dyes and preservatives. Jack set out to make a natural candy that the whole world could enjoy without the artificial ingredients. Jack donates a portion of the proceeds of Jack’s Rockin’ Toffee to the Williams Syndrome Association in honor of his little brother.
Another “Shark Tank” favorite, Moziah Bridges is heralded as “one of the most lovable kid entrepreneurs out there.” At the age of 9, Mo couldn’t find any bow ties that suited him, so he started his own bow-tie line, Mo’s Bows, with the sewing skills of his mother and grandmother. Today, Mo, who serves as President and Creative Director, sells his handmade ties in retailers across the country. “I never imagined the baby business I started at my grandmother’s kitchen table in South Memphis would one day be an internationally recognized brand,” Mo said. “My dream is to become a fashion mogul. When I graduate high school in 2020 I plan to go to college and study fashion design. I’m living proof that you can be anything you want — at any age.”
All books and/or merchandise is available at amazon.com. Click on title to learn more.
Kidpreneurs: Young Entrepreneurs With Big Ideas! Perfect Paperback
by Adam Toren and Matthew Toren
Better Than a Lemonade Stand!: Small Business Ideas for Kids
by Daryl Bernstein
New Totally Awesome Business Book for Kids: Revised Edition (New Totally Awesome Series)
by Arthur Bochner and Rose Bochner
Why Gen-Z is Choosing to Skip School in Favor of Entrepreneurship – thenextweb.com
High School Careers Study – millennialbranding.com
Why ‘Gen Z’ May Be More Entrepreneurial Than ‘Gen Y’ – entreprenur.com
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