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Updated Apr 16, 2024

10 Inspiring Entrepreneurs Under 40

Learn about business leaders under 40 who have built successful companies and are trailblazers for generations to come.

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Sean Peek, Senior Analyst & Expert on Business Ownership
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We often look to our elders while navigating the trials of life but, in the entrepreneurial world, it is often beneficial to look to the younger generation for inspiration. Young entrepreneurs are known for shaking things up while showcasing the leading edge of innovation and ingenuity. The proof is in the many successful businesses founded by entrepreneurs under the age of 40.

Inspiring entrepreneurs under 40

Entrepreneurs bear most of an enterprise’s risk while reaping the majority of the rewards. Here, we highlight 10 inspiring entrepreneurs under 40 who have lived up to that ideal while building empires in their youth.

TipBottom line
Find a mentor if you’re just getting started in your entrepreneurial journey. Many successful entrepreneurs attribute their successes to the people who took them under their wing as guides in their respective fields.

Allison DeVane, 33, Founder of Teaspressa

Allison DeVane’s entrepreneurial story started with a laundry cart, the streets of Phoenix and a play on words. Focused on making tea cool “even when it’s hot,” Teaspressa — the words tea and espresso combined — was born. In 2015, she took her passion for teas to the public, carting around patent-protected teas that were brewed like espresso and handing out free samples to anyone who would take them. Eventually, after pitching her idea on Shark Tank, DeVane built and grew a company from her passion.

Although achieving the dream wasn’t easy, DeVane is still the 100 percent owner of Teaspressa with four stores and an online shop that sells tea-related products. Now, who wants a cup?

Josh Feinsilber, 22, founder of Gimkit

At 22, Josh Feinsilber is the youngest entrepreneur on this list. He started Gimkit in 2017 when he stumbled across Kahoot, an application that allows teachers to test their students’ knowledge with quiz games. Feinsilber took that simple idea and decided to improve upon it. Gimkit, which provides interactive games for teachers and students, started as a school project but quickly morphed into a site with more than 3 million active monthly users. Feinsilber and his team add new features to the platform regularly, including the launch of a create-your-own-game mode (Gimkit Creative) in the 2022-2023 school year. Feinsilber is an entrepreneur who should be on your radar for decades to come.

Derrick Hayes, 36, founder and CEO of Big Dave’s Cheesesteaks

Philadelphia native Derrick Hayes knows a thing or two about cheesesteaks. According to Hayes, authenticity is key to a good cheesesteak and he is the only one giving customers authentic cheesesteaks far from home. Named after his father, Big Dave’s Cheesesteaks made a mark in Atlanta with four restaurants and a food truck. But success wasn’t always something familiar to Hayes: He was an inner-city kid with no college degree who overcame poverty and generational racism, struggled with depression, got caught up in crime and faced complicated health issues.

Now, the founder and CEO has big franchise dreams down the pipeline; the company is currently expanding to Charlotte, North Carolina, and has a 10-unit deal in Florida with PepsiCo’s former president.

David Karp, 37, founder of Tumblr

At 37 years old, high school dropout David Karp is worth hundreds of millions of dollars. After learning HTML at age 11 and beginning his first internship at just 14, Karp founded Tumblr, a microblogging platform, in 2007 when he was only 21. Host to more than 190 million blogs, Tumblr was sold to Yahoo in 2013 for a staggering $1.1 billion. Instead of focusing on making money, Karp was driven by passion and dedicated to keeping Tumblr a space for creativity and self-expression. He was dead set on not “selling out” and managed to stay in control of his company even when he eventually signed over the deed to Yahoo. In 2017, he left Tumblr to pursue other personal investments.

Recently, Karp has tested the waters in the film and TV industry as a co-producer of a documentary that won a Best Feature Audience Award at the Milwaukee Film Festival. To date, this film is the only known credit Karp has in the industry.

Brian Keller, 34, co-founder and co-CEO of Love Your Melon

This heartwarming story began in a University of St. Thomas entrepreneurship class. Brian Keller and his friend came up with a business idea that would have a positive impact on society. Their company, Love Your Melon, began in 2012 with the stated mission of providing a hat for every child battling cancer in America, which equated to 45,000 hats. They crushed that goal and did not stop. The company has provided more than 230,000 hats to children who have cancer and contributed $9.4 million toward fighting pediatric cancer through research. Currently, the company gives 50 percent of its net profit to nonprofit organizations leading the fight against pediatric cancer. 

In 2024, Keller announced a new business venture, Rorra, aimed at providing effective water filtration systems for cleaner drinking water in homes. We’re excited to see the fruition of Keller’s new company.

FYIDid you know
The pursuit of profit alone won’t cut it for businesses starting out in this more socially conscious era. The triple bottom line emphasizes the three P’s (people, profit and planet) as the key drivers of a brand’s success. Learn how to create a sustainable business model to appeal to today’s consumers.

Kathryn Minshew, 38, co-founder of The Muse

When Kathryn Minshew was looking for a new job, she realized the resources available online were not only frustrating but also didn’t embody what the modern, professional woman cared about. After a failed attempt at creating a job-related site in 2011, Minshew successfully founded The Daily Muse, a website dedicated to helping women discover their passions and search for jobs that reflect them and their interests. Now rebranded as The Muse, Minshew’s site has more than 75 million users — men and women alike.

In 2023, Minshew stepped down as CEO but remains a key company stakeholder at The Muse and an advisor at XFactor Ventures and Trilantic North America. 

Melanie Perkins, 36, CEO and co-founder of Canva

Canva, one of the most popular online graphic design and editing tools to date, is woman-led with co-founder and CEO Melanie Perkins at the helm. The Australian native’s startup venture, co-founded with now-husband Cliff Obrecht, has been dubbed a “unicorn” in the startup community because of its profitability (over $2 billion in revenue in 2023). The company, which officially launched in 2013, has over 170 million monthly users, including 85 percent of Fortune 500 companies.

The newest and ongoing adventure for Perkins is the adaptation of artificial intelligence (AI) in Canva. In March 2023, the company introduced AI tools that translate text into design templates. As AI continues to evolve, we expect Canva will, too.

Alex Schulze, 32, co-founder of 4ocean

During a trip to Bali, Indonesia, with pal Andrew Cooper, Alex Schulze was dismayed at the amount of trash washing onto the beach from the ocean. After speaking with local fishermen, the two young entrepreneurs began to explore ways to clean up the ocean while making a profit. This became the foundation for their company 4ocean and its One Pound Pledge: For every item it sells, the company removes at least 1 pound of waste from the ocean. 

The 4ocean team has had a lot of success with new technology, namely the PixieDrone, which is a Roomba-like robot that can remove floating plastic and trash from the water. A single device can hold 132 pounds of plastic, which is great for a company like 4ocean that hit 30 million pounds of ocean trash removed in June 2023. [Related article: Can You Make a Profit and Be Socially Responsible?]

Everette Taylor, 34, CEO of Kickstarter

The man behind the popular crowdfunding platform Kickstarter, Everette Taylor has been CEO since 2022 due to — in his words — luck. The experienced entrepreneur was contacted by a board member at Kickstarter, who read an article featuring Taylor in his then-role as chief marketing officer at Artsy. Although Taylor has an impressive resume, luck hasn’t always been on his side. As a young man, Taylor experienced homelessness and dropped out of college. It wasn’t until he founded event marketing startup ET Enterprises that he began experiencing success.

As CEO, Taylor has implemented a four-day workweek to boost morale as well as productivity. His most recent business move has been an appointment to the board of directors at 1stDibs.com Inc., a luxury design online marketplace. [Learn how your small business can boost productivity with our guide here.]

Whitney Wolfe Herd, 34, founder and executive chair of Bumble

Before starting Bumble, Whitney Wolfe Herd was the vice president of marketing for the popular online dating platform Tinder. Due to growing tensions and a sexual harassment lawsuit, she left Tinder in 2014 to start the female-friendly online dating platform Bumble. The site was so popular that, in 2021, 31-year-old Wolfe Herd became the youngest woman to take a company public.

According to Wolfe Herd, Bumble was founded under the principle of “solving the problem that I shared with so many other women … to be treated as equals in our relationships.” It’s safe to say she accomplished that goal as evidenced by the app’s millions of users. [Related article: 50 Inspiring Quotes From Trailblazing Women We Admire]

Wolfe Herd served as CEO from the company’s inception through 2023. In 2024, Bumble hired a new CEO with a tech background to implement AI innovations and Wolfe Herd took on the role of executive chair of Bumble.

Tips for aspiring young entrepreneurs

Do you have your sights set on starting your own business? Below are tried and tested tips on how to find success as a young entrepreneur.

Find your passion

Make note of the things that make you happy, whether that thing is a hobby or in your professional career. Once you identify a potential avenue, ask yourself if you have strengths surrounding this topic and if you could share that knowledge with other people. If your answer is yes, you’re on your way to finding your passion.

Focus on what you excel in

If you don’t have a passion that you think could be a viable business venture or you don’t want to mix business with pleasure, center your attention on your skills. Is there something that comes easy to you that most people find hard? Is this a skill you could continue to build upon? If you are already on your way to expert-level knowledge, let that fuel your entrepreneurial journey.

Provide a solution for a need (or want)

The needs and wants of consumers drive the market and ultimately determine if your business venture is successful. Survey the market, friends, family and acquaintances for a need or want they are looking for that you think can be fulfilled. It may be difficult to create a new product or service but, perhaps, your unique take on it is what can be successful.

Pitch to investors

The main goal of any entrepreneur is to earn money. Sometimes, that means funds are needed upfront to get started. Take the time to work on a solid investor pitch to increase your likelihood of securing the necessary capital. Focus on what your product or service is, why it matters, what kind of funding you are looking for and how it would impact your business.

Did You Know?Did you know
Government loans for entrepreneurs can help you get your business off the ground.

Turn setbacks into opportunities

Business can be hard, but life can be harder. Many entrepreneurs, including the entrepreneurs in our list, will tell you their story was not an immediate success and they faced many challenges, but they stayed the course anyway. Consider a “no” from an investor more time to craft a pitch to someone who will give you double the funding. Look at a slow start getting your business off the ground as more time to perfect your product. Overcoming challenges will make your success story that much better.

Shayna Marks contributed to this article.

author image
Sean Peek, Senior Analyst & Expert on Business Ownership
Sean Peek co-founded and self-funded a small business that's grown to include more than a dozen dedicated team members. Over the years, he's become adept at navigating the intricacies of bootstrapping a new business, overseeing day-to-day operations, utilizing process automation to increase efficiencies and cut costs, and leading a small workforce. This journey has afforded him a profound understanding of the B2B landscape and the critical challenges business owners face as they start and grow their enterprises today. In addition to running his own business, Peek shares his firsthand experiences and vast knowledge to support fellow entrepreneurs, offering guidance on everything from business software to marketing strategies to HR management. In fact, his expertise has been featured in Entrepreneur, Inc. and Forbes and with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
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