Young entrepreneurs are everywhere.
Popular names like Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Mashable’s Peter Cashmore, and Simple Sugar’s Lani Lazzari (the name may sound familiar from Shark Tank) have really set the bar high, giving some of the newest young entrepreneurs a run for their money.
Despite the challenges that come with being a new entrepreneur (financing, being a visionary, and dealing with the unknown, for example, according to Entrepreneur), the following bright minds have already proved they are the real deal and are on our watch list.
At the age of 17 in the year 2000, Steve Voudouris had an idea to provide consumers with an enjoyable customer experience while shopping for computer accessories. He along with his friend and brother Andrew brought that idea to life out of his parents' garage. The company, Xoxide, grew quickly and two years later afforded Voudouris the opportunity to start a second business, AmericanMuscle, a premier online aftermarket parts reseller.
In a Business 2 Community article, Voudouris explained his strategy: “My strategy from the start was always to be the early adopter who puts new, working ideas or technologies into motion. If parts could be delivered faster by opening a fully automated distribution center, AmericanMuscle is going to be getting into the automation business to pursue that idea and gain that competitive advantage.”
Voudouris wasn’t stopping there. In 2003, he moved onto founding and running Turn5 Inc., an award-winning E-commerce retailer. “It was natural for me to venture into the aftermarket performance niche; I’m a huge fan of cars, particularly Mustangs,” he said.
It was at a time when he was working on his 2001 Mustang that he noticed the underwhelming state of shopping experiences enthusiasts were being offered. He combined his passion for cars with his passion for entrepreneurship and turned Turn5 into a leading E-commerce provider in aftermarket performance, today employing more than 300 people.
Connecticut native Jolina Li has been featured as the Top Young Entrepreneur in Hartford Magazine, Connecticut Magazine, New Haven Magazine, and NBC Connecticut. She combines hard work with perseverance to succeed as a young entrepreneur while admitting to the struggles of entrepreneurship, having to lose $150K in a previous business.
“My friends called me crazy, I mean most people will get discouraged after a failed venture, or get a job after,” she said. “I was so exhausted after the previous venture failed (a dessert café) and lost $150K after it.” Following her failed café venture, she took a month off then packed her bags and moved out to California to start BuzzyBooth using 5 credit cards (zero percent APR, giving herself a year to pay them off).
Photo provided by Jolina Li
“I slept on friends' couches, I hustled hard, took an idea to prototype in three months, and worked on getting feedback. [I also] got some sales before we had the production, and made 100K within five months of selling,” she proudly said of the successful BuzzyBooth, crediting her success with BuzzyBooth partially due to what she learned from her previous business.
Li always knew she wanted to be an entrepreneur and never work for anyone else. In high school, she sold jewelry on eBay when her parents wouldn’t give her an allowance, then started a photo booth rental service for events while in college to pay off her tuition. Throughout the years her mentality has been, “fail fast, learn from it, and move on to build something greater.”
Matt Buder Shapiro
Since having a lemonade stand as a kid, young entrepreneur Matt Buder Shapiro envisioned starting his own business, but first began his career working for a premier political marketing firm. “I definitely saw the value of working at the best places I could in the beginning of my career in order to learn the necessary skills to be able to launch a company,” he said. “However, there’s really no way to learn how to start a business until you actually take the leap and go for it.”
In 2014, he and a few friends had an idea for a company, today known as MedPilot Inc., in which he serves as co-founder and chief marketing officer. “The idea for my company was an iterative process. It began as a patient advocacy platform to help people navigate their medical expenses,” he said. “We were able to help some people, but not at the scale we were interested in getting to.”
He credits healthcare expert, Jake Myers for being able to pivot his and his partner’s concept to service to B2B, enabling them to not just assist a multitude of patients with their medical expenses, but also help healthcare providers recover millions in profits.
Aside from his work with MedPilot Inc., Buder Shapiro sits on the tech advisory board for the nation's largest chapter-based military family organization and serves as the political director for an Interscope artist and actor. Buder Shapiro has been featured in Inc., AlleyWatch, MedCity News, and the American College of Cardiology.
Tapping Into Your Entrepreneurial Spirit: Advice From Our Experts
Have you been hit with the itch to start your own business and become part of the young entrepreneur crew? Our young entrepreneurs offered their need to know advice.
“There are going to be a lot of people who tell you no and doubt you because of your age. Ignore them. Focus on the end result. What do you hope to achieve? As long as you have a strong desire to succeed and get off your couch every day to do everything you can to make your business idea come to fruition, your half way there. Don’t be afraid to try different angles until you find a way that works for you and your business,” said Voudouris. He went on to note, “Mentors are also going to be key. Ask a lot of questions.
“I've always told my friends this when they come to me for advice. Best time to start is now, figure out what your passion is and plan it out. If you don't do it now, it's a lot harder for you to do it in the future, like when you have a family and have kids. Then you'll regret not starting it 10 years ago,” said Jolina Li. “Don't give the excuse of not having the time or the money because I started BuzzyBooth with no money. Lastly, you will make mistakes but you will learn, and it will be like a roller coaster ride, there will be ups and downs but it'll be worth it in the end."
“You have to have an unshaken positivity and optimism that can withstand the rollercoaster of starting a company. Even founders of unicorn startups have had their share of tough days," offered Matt Buder Shapiro. “Make sure that you surround yourself with a good group of people to embark on your journey with. You should be able to lean on and look up to every one of your co-founders and early team members. No one does it by themselves. It takes a village.”