According to Inc Magazine, 72 percent of today’s high schoolers want to start their own business someday. As one of the most entrepreneurial generations to date, Generation Z – defined by Pew Research as those born in the mid-nineties and beyond – has the potential to impact the social, political and corporate constructs built by the generations before them. While the oldest Gen Z‘er is about 22 years old, that doesn’t mean the youth of today are waiting to become business leaders and to change the world. So what can we learn from them? Luckily, what these four young founders lack in age, they make up with wisdom.
At just 14 years old, Mikaila Ulmer is the founder of Me & The Bees Lemonade. Her Texas-based company, which rose to fame after an appearance on Shark Tank, offers fresh-squeezed lemonade made with wildflower honey, flaxseed, and mint. She has sage advice when it comes to spending: “My biggest lesson about money is simple and has not changed since I was four and a half. Give, save, spend — in that order.”
This attitude reflects a generation who not only has a greater desire for social justice but who has also seen the crippling effects of student loan debt carried by their Millennial counterparts. According to RAVEReviews.org, a consumer resource and review side, almost 90 percent of Gen Z’ers say that planning for their financial future makes them feel empowered. By applying Ulmer’s advice – give, save, spend – other business owners can feel empowered about their financial futures, too.
Logan Guleff, a MasterChef Junior winner, cookbook author and one of Time Magazine’s Most Influential Teens, is 17 years old. However, his life experience lends him to seem much more mature. His advice, aimed at young chefs, is transferable in concept to other business owners and startup founders, too. He says, “Start a flavor journal, write things down – cooking isn’t about following recipes it’s about understanding flavor. Think not about being famous with food, but how you can share an authentic experience through a meal.”
By pursuing authenticity and not fame, a company’s mission genuinely connects with its targeted audiences. By pursuing recognition, a company sets itself up for a short-lived stint in the spotlight instead of lasting success.
Benjamin Kapelushnik, also known as Benjamin Kickz or, more simply, the “Sneaker Don,” is known for selling high-priced, rare shoes to celebrities and other clientele, both privately and through his public website. As a 15-year-old, Benjamin got into the sneaker business by re-selling a pair of kicks for $1,000. Soon after, he sold a pair to DJ Khaled and the rest is history. He’s now 20 years old with a million-dollar business. His secret to success? Play hard, work harder. “I have no interest in going out to parties and not networking with anyone,” Kickz says. “Not only does it get boring, you’re not getting ahead.”
As much as networking has changed in the business world, an important lesson to remember is to continually make connections. For Kickz, he relies on introductions and personal referrals to gain clients. Any business working on a client-based revenue stream can take a page out of this young entrepreneur’s book.