Endless free time, no responsibilities—ahh, to be young again. I’m a Gen Xer who came of age in a time when there wasn’t much expected of me, and I squandered my youth. In 2019, though, all eyes are on Gen Z. They’ve been raised by the internet, wise to worldly issues beyond their years. They are the David Hoggs, they are the Greta Thunbergs, and they are taking the future into their own hands.
In our series, Homework, we explore the lives of ordinary kids with not-so-ordinary hobbies. Between soccer practice and schoolwork and driving lessons, these young entrepreneurs also run successful businesses. And many of them devote their time and profits to helping others and speaking up about causes close to their hearts.
Here, they share some of their favorite things—from sloths and STEM to bubble baths and beagles—and what it’s like being the boss. Let’s dig into the stories of five remarkable young entrepreneurs.
1. Simone Hufana, age 19
The idea for Color HerStory came to Simone after she discovered role models that looked like her—the influential women of color whose stories helped her overcome insecurity. She wanted to provide the same experience for her sisters and other young women. Color HerStory is a coloring book brand that shines a light on Simone’s WOC heroes. This plucky teen is now taking a semester off school to devote her time solely to her business and says she plans to eventually return to college for ethnic studies. One day, she hopes that her business will let her travel and work one-on-one with kids around the world.
Simone on what other young entrepreneurs should know: “You have to hold yourself accountable. I’m only 19 years old, so I don’t have the best time management. I’m not a superstar organizer or anything. It’s easy to just slip up and be like, ‘Oh, shoot, I totally forgot I had that goal. Ah, whatever. I’ll see about it next week.’”
Read how mentorship helped Simone grow her business
When I grow up, I want to continue my business. But if not, then I might become a chemist. Or a vet.Riley Kinnane-Petersen
2. Riley Kinnane-Petersen, age 10
When Riley developed an interest in jewelry and dress-up, her two dads scrambled to gather cast-off necklaces from friends and family. Riley then dismantled these hand-me-downs to make her own designs. Four years later, those re-worked necklaces are the basis for Gunner & Lux, a business that counts Barneys and J.Crew among its high-profile customers. The dad-and-daughter-run store promotes girl power, too, through kids’ t-shirts with slogans like “All of my heroes are women” and “My dad is a feminist.”
Riley on future goals: “When I grow up, I want to continue my business. But if not, then I might become a chemist. Or a vet.”
Read about the animals that inspire Riley’s work
3. Oliver “Ollie” Fequiere, age 6
The youngest of our bunch, Ollie, relies a lot on Mom and Dad to help him run his bath and storytime business, Fizzies & Fables. But don’t be fooled by his age—Ollie is involved in everything from ideation to product testing. When he’s not playing guitar or Minecraft, Ollie likes to help with making and wrapping bath fizzies. He’s not sure what he wants to be when he grows up, but he’s building an impressive resume just in case.
Ollie on relatable heroes: “I watched Black Spider-Man in Into the Spider-Verse—I have seen it many times. He is brown, and he lives in New York. And I have the Spider-Man costume too. We have a lot of things in common.”
Read about why Ollie is a baths-over-showers kinda guy
I wasn’t really scared. I actually had a lot of support, and I was all pumped to do it.Jahkil Jackson
4. Jahkil Jackson, age 12
Jahkil is an active kid who loves basketball and tap dancing, but his empathy muscle is the one that gets the most flexing. At just 12 years old, this Chicago native already has several years under his belt as the founder of Project I Am, an organization that provides the necessities of life to the local homeless community. If that wasn’t impressive enough, Jahkil also runs an online apparel store and loves speaking at events across the country (even though he misses his beagle, JJ, while he’s on the road).
Jahkil on getting started: “I wasn’t really scared. I actually had a lot of support, and I was all pumped to do it. I was like this super happy, energetic kid. Mom will probably disagree.”
Read about that one time Jahkil met President Obama
5. Sophia Fairweather, age 11
Sophia is a tireless advocate for youth entrepreneurship. The sixth grader is invited to speak at events internationally and is, with her dad’s help, lobbying economic development groups to create more grants and opportunities for young people. Sophia got her start at just five years old when she approached her dad with an idea: a hook-and-loop product that holds your phone in place. FunCro was just the first of many inventions for this STEM-loving kid. When she’s not working on her business, Sophia loves swimming, drawing, and devouring episodes of Stargate.
Sophia on the benefits of being a young entrepreneur: “The best part is meeting new people. I like presenting, I like traveling. Sometimes I find it stressful and tiring, but it’s kind of cool to travel. Oh, also bragging to my brother. I love that.”
Read about how Sophia inspires other girls to love STEM, too
What young entrepreneurs should know
What do young entrepreneurs need to be successful? As part of our Homework series, we spoke to many other kids and teens who run businesses. This is their grown-up advice:
- “I definitely think you have to be good at having good time management, be very disciplined, and not go to parties.” — Mateo, 19
- “Come up with something that no one else has thought of before.” — Charlie, 12
- “When running a business, you have to delegate and network.” — Carson, 14
- “Even though people have different personalities, you still have to figure out a way to work with them.” — Kamaria, 10
- “Just go for it!” — Piper, 8