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10 Inspiring Entrepreneurs Under 40

Shayna Marks
Shayna Marks

The world we live in is one of constant change and innovation. Just a few short years ago, we read newspapers that were delivered to our doorsteps, used a Thomas Guide for directions, and dialed friends from pay phones that actually worked. Our everyday lives have changed with major advancements in technology and business, and behind all of these innovations are the brilliant minds of ingenious entrepreneurs. What's even more impressive-many of these heavy-hitters have yet to see a gray hair.

Here's our list of 10 inspiring entrepreneurs under 40 who have paved the way for themselves and many others.

1. Sophia Amoruso, 30, CEO/Founder of Nasty Gal

Girl Boss, indeed! Back in 2006, a 22-year-old Amoruso decided to take her hobby of scavenging for vintage clothing online and created an eBay boutique where she sold her thrifted finds. Fast-forward five short years, and her hot online clothing shop is raking in $23 million in revenue, reported a three-year growth rate of 10,160%, and has more than $40 million in investments. The icing on Amoruso's cake? Her recently released book, #GirlBoss, an empowering account of her journey from former shoplifter to multimillionaire CEO, made the bestsellers list and was called "the most motivational fashion book to read this year" by the Telegraph UK

2. Brian Chesky,  32, Co-founder & CEO of Airbnb

Back in 2004, a jobless Brian Chesky and his also unemployed roommate, Joe Gebbia, were struggling to make rent. A big conference was coming to town, so they decided to rent out three air mattresses in their apartment to avoid eviction, an idea that would lead them to disrupting an entire industry with their $2.5 billion dollar company, Airbnb. Not only are they on track to book more stays than Hilton and InterContinental hotels combined this year, but they've defined a new economy in the process: the sharing economy. In early 2014, Chesky told the Wall Street Journal, "I want to challenge the status quo, but in a way that's constructive. There were laws created for businesses, and there were laws for people. What the sharing economy did was create a third category: people as businesses."

3. Tony Hsieh, 40, CEO of Zappos

Tony Hsieh is his name, and delivering happiness is his game. Though initially skeptical, the venture capitalist invested in Nick Swinmurn's idea to create an online space to sell shoes. After a shaky launch in 1999, quick growth followed and ten years later, Zappos reported a revenue of $1 billion. Focusing on the highest level of customer service, Zappos has revolutionized relationship marketing, and in turn, 75% of their customers are returning. Not only that, Zappos has been on Forbe's "Best Places to Work" year after year. In his 2013 book, "Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose," Hsieh reveals his secret to success: ""I had decided to stop chasing the money, and start chasing the passion." Oh, and he's investing $350 million in revitalizing downtown Las Vegas. That's a lot of happiness!

4. Alexa Von Tobel, 29, Founder & CEO of

One of two Harvard dropouts on our list, Alexa Von Tobel was in one of the best business schools in the world, but didn't have control over her finances. She realized that she was not alone-many of her peers hadn't received much in the way of financial education. Her realization led her to launching the a, a personal finance website whose mission is to "help you feel amazing about your money." With accessible financial planning services and relatable, educational content, LearnVest is helping people take control of their finances. Ready to be inspired?

5. Matt Maloney, 38, Founder of GrubHub and CEO of GrubHub/Seamless 

Who's hungry? Forget your drawer of menus for delivery-Matt Maloney has everything you need at GrubHub. Maloney and co-founder Mike Evans started the "nation's leading online and mobile food ordering company" in 2004, and are now in 700 U.S. cities with almost 30,000 restaurants on their delivery roster. Upon merging with delivery service Seamless, former software engineer Maloney was named CEO, and has dedicated himself to the companies' success. He's done practically everything in the company from sales to engineering, so he understands just how hard everyone works-and he rewards them for it with a great work atmosphere. What's more? The family man works around the clock, to make sure he spends waking hours with his wife and kids. Aww.

6. James Park, 37, CEO & co-founder of Fitbit

Our other Harvard dropout, James Park was living the start-up life in San Francisco when he realized that the long hours and free meals were changing his formerly athletic build, and not for the better. He and longtime cohort Eric Friedman came up with an idea that revolutionized technology and created a new  product category: connected, wearable technology. Though they raised an impressive $43 million last summer, Fitbit has fought an uphill battle when it comes to success. Park told Forbes that Fitbit's struggles over the past seven years "almost put the company out of business-seven times." His perseverance has paid off, with Fitbit leading the pack in wearable technology while making our world a healthier place.

7. David Karp, 28, CEO & Founder of Tumblr

At just 28, high school dropout David Karp is worth $200 million big ones. After learning HTML at age 11 and beginning his first internship at just 14, Karp and computer engineer Marco Arment founded Tumblr, a microblogging platform in 2007 when he was just 21. Host to more than 190 million blogs, Tumblr sold to Yahoo! in 2013 for a staggering $1.1 billion. Instead of focusing on making money, Karp is driven by passion, and is 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 did eventually sign over the deed to Yahoo! After the deal, he shared his longterm vision with Bloomberg TV, stating, "hopefully we get this right, and Tumblr will be home to the most aspiring and talented creators all over the world."

8. Marissa Mayer, 39, CEO, Yahoo!

Becoming one of the first female CEO's at a Fortune 500 company is just one of the impressive accolades Marissa Mayer has on her resume. After her hiring in July 2012, Mayer became a household name, but prior to that, she was employee number 20 at Google and their first female engineer. She spent 13 years at the giant before becoming one of the most powerful women in the world. Almost two years after her appointment, Mayer has led Yahoo through a series of major purchases, such as Tumblr and photo sharing site Flickr, and stock has doubled. Though she has been widely criticized for some of her unconventional decisions and somewhat awkward demeanor, Mayer is leading the way for powerful women and mothers all around the world.

9. Blake Mycoskie, 37, Founder/Chief Shoe Giver, TOMS

While traveling in Argentina, Blake Mycoskie was struck by how many children he saw without shoes. This simple realization led to an entire movement, and a wildly successful company that was founded on giving. Since founding the Shoes for Tomorrow Project in 2006, TOMS (short for tomorrow and derived from the original name) has given more than 10 million pairs of shoes to kids in need. Mycoskie later developed TOMS eyewear, which would similarly give glasses to those in need, and most recently, launched TOMS Roasting Company, which sells premium coffee and provides clean water to developing countries.

To say Mycoskie is inspiring is an understatement. His 2011 book "Start Something That Matters," is full of inspiring advice, like this quote: "When you have a memorable story about who you are and what your mission is, your success no longer depends on how experienced you are or how many degrees you have or who you know. A good story transcends boundaries, breaks barriers, and opens doors. It is a key not only to starting a business but also to clarifying your own personal identity and choices."

10. Kathryn Minshew, 27, Founder, The Muse

When Kathryn Minshew was looking for a new job, she realized that the resources online were not only frustrating, but also didn't embody what the modern, professional woman cared about. After a failed attempt at creating another job-related site in 2011, Kathryn founded The Daily Muse, a website dedicated to helping women discover their passions and search for jobs that reflected them. Now rebranded The Muse, Kathryn's site has more than 3 million users-both men and women alike. Her past failures and hardships have created for a positive, yet very real outlook. "Life is messy," Kathryn told Huffington Post. "Even when you're following your calling, that doesn't mean every day will be great. It's so freeing to understand that."

Image Credit: Prostock-Studio / Getty Images
Shayna Marks
Shayna Marks Staff
Shayna Marks is the founder and principal at Citrine Marketing, a boutique marketing studio that utilizes content marketing and social media for brilliant brand storytelling. Prior to launching Citrine, Shayna built her career by creating engaging, educational content on behalf of influential brands on digital mediums. Shayna Marks has a degree in Literary Journalism from UC Irvine, where she learned rich storytelling skills to later pair with her love of new media and technology.