Highlights from Chapter 3 in our forthcoming book.
An entire ecosystem of products and services exists by and for Gen Zers. Here, we showcase just a few examples: handmade candles, designer sneakers, bottle-cap decor, sports and office equipment, online youth-centric marketplaces and apartment-finders, luxury buses and pedicab rides–companies that have created jobs and fortunes!
Super Business Girl/Pretty Brown Girl
Detroit, Michigan, U.S.
Known as Detroit’s youngest entrepreneur, Asia Newson, now 14, makes and sells her handmade candles through her company, Super Business Girl.
She began selling candles door-to-door at age 5, and a few years later, decided to spread her business model to lead other young entrepreneurs to success.
Now co-founder and CEO of Super Business Girl, Asia has been featured on The Ellen DeGeneres Show and America’s Got Talent, and she was a keynote speaker for TEDxDetroit. Asia’s mother and father serve as president and director of sales, respectively for the company.
New York, New York, U.S.
Flogg is a social community and virtual marketplace for teens where they can sell, buy, and barter items within their network. Ben Pasternak is committed to “changing the world and building the next Apple.”
The best advice he’s ever received: “One of my mentors Chris Smith told me to drop out of high school and move to NYC. I did and have no regrets.”
Benjamin “Kickz” Kapelushnik
Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, U.S.
At only 16, Benjamin “Kickz” Kapelushnik created a rare trainer reselling website as a hobby.
As his business grew, he began to gain celebrity clients including DJ Khaled and Odell Beckham, alongside an ever-growing customer list.
As he made more contacts, Benjamin was able to bulk buy sought-after items. His sales are now worth over $1 million. Read an in-depth feature on him here.
Sneakerdon.com is an online sneaker resale marketplace that caters to fans of high-end exclusive, rare and limited sneakers.
With a roster of celebrity clients including DJ Khaled, it’s estimated Benjamin will bring in about $1 million in sales this year.
“The best advice was from my mom,” he says. “‘Follow your dream and your passion.’”
Dallas, Texas, U.S.
When she was 10, Maddie Bradshaw wanted to decorate her locker. Since there wasn’t anything on the market that interested her, she started to decorate soda bottle caps.
Maddie then became the founder and president of M3 Girl Designs, hired her mother and sister, survived Shark Tank, and authored a book titled Maddie Bradshaw’s You Can Start a Business, Too!, to inspire other young entrepreneurs.
She made her first million by age 13; and at 16, she was selling over 60,000 of her unique bottle-cap necklaces a month and making over $1.6 million annually.
Maddie tells Digital Journal, “The great thing about our company is that it’s growing with me. As my tastes change, so will the products.”
Her advice to other young entrepreneurs is, “Follow your passion. If you come up with an idea and you love it, chances are other people will, too.”
Since then, she’s closed up the company to focus on college at Stanford.
Now 16 years old, Nic Bianchi started Bianchi Candle Co. when he was 12. He says he put his love of math and science to work to design all-soy, wonderful-smelling, all-natural, handmade candles.
Each batch of Bianchi’s candles is hand-poured in small batches and made of all-natural soy wax that burns longer and cleaner. The candles are designed in Italy and produced in Nebraska.
Boca Raton, Florida, U.S.
Rachel Zietz’s company, Gladiator Lacrosse, sells lacrosse equipment, including backyard goals and rebounders.
Rachel says her company, which is on target to exceed $2 million in revenue this year, recently acquired All Ball Pro with the intent to expand into other sports. Her gear also was used at the World Lacrosse Championship, which was broadcast on ESPN.
“The school day is the same as the business day,” she tells Entrepreneur magazine. “So, it’s a lot of time management and explaining to teachers that you have to miss part of the day because you’re speaking at a conference about your business.”
Now at Princeton University studying economics, she plans to continue building her business.
Rachel says, “I don’t know what the future will hold for me, but I hope that I can look back and say that I somehow left my mark in the sport of lacrosse.”
Canton, Georgia, U.S.
As a young teenager in middle school, Sean Belnick started selling online with small items like Pokemon cards on eBay. He started BizChairs when he was 14 years old—long before Amazon and other sites offered online purchasing with free delivery.
BizChairs, an online office furniture website, offers simple designs as well as ergonomic and very trendy options. The drop-ship company removes the middleman and allows consumers to order online without visiting stores.
This simple idea was started with only a $500 loan (for advertising costs, from his stepfather) and around 100 products. He shares with Retire@21 the story of how he locked himself in his bedroom for three days and emerged with his company.
Soon, his customers included Abercrombie and Fitch, Microsoft, and Google. By the time he turned 20, his business had already brought in $24 million in revenue.
Today, Sean has a warehouse in excess of 300,000 square feet and his clients include Google, the Pentagon, and Microsoft. He’s worth an estimated $42 million.
Cedar City, Utah, U.S.
Caleb Nelson, age sixteen, who lives in Cedar City, Utah, opened Romeo’s Rickshaws with his dad in 2017. They advertise not only a ride, but a local guide to the city as well.
The pedicab business started during the Utah Shakespearean Festival, one of the biggest tourist events in Cedar City and the state. Caleb initially came up with the idea after listening to his father, a real estate mogul, discuss how to draw more residents to the area.
Caleb doesn’t actually charge for rides, though he accepts tips. Romeo’s Rickshaws are also available for weddings and other events.
Salt Lake City, Utah, U.S.
When George Matus was 17 years old, his fascination with aviation and drones inspired him to launch his own company, Teal Drones.
The company, Teal, sells commercial drones, some of which are presently the fastest on the market. Its first product was a battery-operated, camera-equipped unmanned aerial vehicle that reached speeds of 70 mph. The company seeks to make drones more accessible to the public and improve their design.
George has raised $2.8 million in seed funding and is a Thiel Fellow. View this video on how he invented his first drone. His company now employs thirty people and has raised $16 million in venture funding.
He credits his success to believing that one’s dreams can come true, as well as having a big backyard and parents who “kept telling me to find what I love.”
Branford, Florida, U.S.
Can a charter bus service make millions? Yes, it can. Ray Land wanted to be a truck driver from the time he was a little kid. By high school, he’d grown to hate the school buses chartered for away games and other events: dirty, bumpy, uncomfortable, and either no or filthy restrooms.
So at 17, he bought “an old rust bucket,” he tells Inc., and refurbished it with his own money. After graduating from high school, Ray, who had gotten his commercial driver’s license and was driving one of the coaches himself, tried attending North Florida Community College for a while. It didn’t stick. “All the papers I tried to write turned into brochures for my business,” he says.
At its peak, Fabulous Coach Lines had over 200 employees and its buses offered red carpet entryways, espresso machines, and even seat-back monitors. One of Ray’s 56-passenger buses rents for just over $1,000 per day; they’ve even transported the White House Press staff.
However, owning your own business comes with as much potential for tragedy as triumph. The next year, a university student involved in a hazing activity aboard one of Land’s buses died; and the family sued Fabulous Coach Lines.
Moving to California in 2014, he launched Dreamtech, a company that buys double-decker buses and converts them into luxury tour buses. According to The Gainesville Sun, he manages five startups and is always pushing himself to do more. “If a person can dream it, we can build it,” he says.
You can meet Ray and view a brief video on his company in this article by Inc.
Travel and Real Estate
Boston, Massachusetts and Jersey City, New Jersey, U.S.
Alex Hodara started his first year at Boston University riding around in taxicabs, checking out rental listings that he would then connect with other students. He spent $2,000 on cabfare, he reports to B.U. ‘s Questrom School of Business. But by the time he graduated, he’d made his first million.
His company, Hodara Real Estate–now called Colivo–opened in 2009 and since then has acquired more than seventy properties and sold more than $5 million in investment type properties with the help of fellow college students as employees. He quickly discovered that students trusted him and his peers more than (older) professional real estate agents.
Alex takes a comfort-first approach to building his career. “I’m not a big fan of going outside my comfort levels, so throughout my career I’ve always calculated the downside,” he says.
“Figure out what it is you can lose—time, money, sleep—and then get focused. You know your downside and you’re okay with it, so strive for that upside,” he advises.
Tapping into the shared economy approach preferred by many Millennials and Gen Zers, Alex has now transitioned his company to Colivo, an experimental co-living company in which potential tenants, called members, sign up for around $1,000 per month (all inclusive) and are matched with roommates in fully furnished, multi-bedroom apartments that include gym memberships, weekly house cleaning, Netflix memberships, PlayStation 4 gaming systems, and regular Colivo-sponsored social events.
Alex made Businessweek’s “Top 25 Entrepreneurs Under 25” and the Forbes “30 Under 30” list and is reputed as having closed over $1 billion in real estate deals.
Dubbo, New South Wales, Australia
Bella Tipping had a really bad experience at a hotel where she didn’t feel welcome as a kid, so she wanted to make vacations more fun for kids. “I want to change the way kids travel,” she told Fortune.
“I want restaurant owners to look beyond the chicken nuggets and chips on the kids’ menu and to make sure their venue is fun for all ages.”
At age 12, she crafted a business plan and pitched it to her parents. She convinced them to invest $80,000 into Kidzcationz, a travel review website (similar to Expedia or TripAdvisor) that enables kids to rate hotels, restaurants, and attractions, based on how well they support their needs–especially families with special-needs kids.
“I didn’t even know what an entrepreneur was,” Bella tells Kebloom.com, “I just considered myself a kid who wanted to help other kids and learn about business along the way.” She says developing a thick skin has been critical to her survival, and that now, when she hears the word “no,” she simply views that as a chance to stop, listen, and go back to the drawing board and re-vision her goal.
So far, the site runs only in Australia, New Zealand, and the U.S., but Bella says she hopes to expand.
Next, Bella plans to write a funny book and gaming app about her dog Jed. She sees her long-term career as one of “fighting for social change, because I want to live in a world where everyone is included.”
Bella firmly believes for herself and all Gen Zers that, “If you can think it, you can do it.”
Cover photograph used with permission from and gratitude for blake-wisz-tE6th1h6Bfk-unsplash.jpg for Unsplash; profile images as follows: Asia Newson from The Undefeated, Ben Pasternak from New York Post, Benjamin “Kickz” Kapelushnik from Yonah.org, Maddie Bradshaw from ybridgedotcom, Nic Bianchi from Edge Magazine, Rachel Zietz from Millennial Entrepreneurs, Sean Belnick from RetireAt21.com, Caleb Nelson from Jordan Allred/The Spectrum and Daily News, George Matus from Deseret News, Ray Land from Inc., Alex Hodara from ConradChallenge.org, and Bella Tipping from Daily Liberal.
This post comes to you as a portion of the book:
MY JOB Gen Z: Finding Your Place in a Fast-Changing World
(c) 2021 by Suzanne Skees and Sanam Yusuf
An open-source, narrative nonfiction book full of true stories of jobs along with best practices for how to make your dream-job come true.
Note from the authors:
Join us each Tuesday and Friday as we release highlights from our new book, that will be FREE to our community members.
Share with your friends and followers; it’s FREE, open-source, and available to everyone.
No one makes a penny on this book project, which is intended to inspire and empower Gen Zers to launch their careers and land their dream jobs. Suzanne and Sanam have volunteered their time, and we’ve chosen this platform to transmit our book so that YOU don’t have to pay for publication costs.
However, if you feel inspired to help someone in poverty to have access to dignified work, jump here to donate directly to the nonprofit job-creation program of your choice–all vetted and supported by Skees Family Foundation.
Thanks for being with us! We’re excited to share our book with you.
–Suzanne & Sanam