Highlights from Chapter 3 in our forthcoming book.
Turns out, Generation Z includes a LOT of foodies. You can find plenty of amateur chefs on TikTok and Instagram, but we’ve included here a sampling of youth who’ve created entire industries around nutrition and food. And when it comes to sports, this generation has their own unique approach–as they do with everything else–for example, a world-champion gamer with hearing loss, and an 8-year-old supporting his entire family with winnings from Defense of Champions.
Food and Nutrition
Baltimore, Maryland, U.S.
A homeschooled food lover and health enthusiast, Abby Kircher invented her first batch of healthy, good-for-you nut butters at age 15. Trying to stave her own rumbling appetite for a filling snack, she concocted five flavors.
What started as a hobby in her parents’ kitchen soon became “Abby’s Better,” a brand distributed along the East Coast and Midwest in stores including Wegmans and Lowes Foods, with annual revenues over $1 million.
Abby currently manages twelve employees (including her parents and brothers) and has learned a lot about leadership.
“I’ve learned a lot of humility, that’s for sure,” Abby says. “You can’t rely on just yourself or just your experience. You have to ask for help and advice and support.”
Englewood, New Jersey, U.S.
When Cory Nieves was 6 years old, he dreamed of saving up for his own car, because he was tired of taking the bus to school. He’d need a lot of money for that.
First, he tried selling hot cocoa and lemonade, but then he began a quest to create the perfect chocolate chip cookie using all-natural ingredients. After much trial and error, Cory and his mother, Lisa, perfected their recipe, and Mr. Cory’s Cookies was born.
Through the cookie business, Cory has worked with Aetna, Citibank, Macy’s, Whole Foods, Williams Sonoma, J. Crew, Viacom, and Pottery Barn.
Cory plans to “grow the business into a multi-billion-dollar brand. I also want to be an angel investor, a chef and help people all around the world,” he says.
His advice to other career-builders: “Stay humble, never give up, and always dream of six impossible things.”
Healthy Active Positive Purposeful Youth (HAPPY)
Dallas, Texas, U.S.
Haile Thomas’s venture, HAPPY, aims to improve the health and wellness of children by implementing programs that teach kids how to cook nutritious meals—many of which are free or affordable—and promote physical activity.
Haile began her journey when she was 12, working for Hyatt Hotels “For Kids-By Kids” menus. Since then, she’s spoken all over the world, joined on multiple occasions by former First Lady Michelle Obama, hoping to empower people to eat healthier.
She was inspired by her family’s ability to reverse her dad’s type-2 diabetes through conscious eating choices and an overall healthier lifestyle.
Next, Haile would like to host “a televised plant-based cooking show showcasing vibrant, delicious and nutritious, plant-powered meals to the masses, to speak and share my message all around the world and continue to motivate youth to put their passion into action.”
Austin, Texas, U.S.
Mikaila Ulmer decided at age 4 to “make a difference in the world and save our [bee] pollinators” by opening a lemonade stand that raised funds for beekeeping.
Using a 1940s recipe from her grandmother for flaxseed-honey-sweetened lemonade, Mikaila directs a percentage of profits on her sales to “save the bees.”
Having received $180,000 in funding from SharkTank, Mikaila now sells through Whole Foods in a deal worth $11 million.
She says, “My biggest lesson about money is simple and has not changed since I was 4. Give, save, spend—in that order.” She learned this from her dad.
She says, “When I have a challenging day, if I know I saved a bee or inspired someone to be an entrepreneur, I know I am making a difference.
She says the best advice she’s ever received was from her parents, who always encouraged her to dream big and that she could do anything she wanted. “I translated that into ‘Beelieve,’” she says.
Gaming and Sports
It’s not surprising to hear of a young athlete becoming a millionaire, but it’s particularly inspiring when someone is able to use their athletic abilities to improve their situation by a young age.
Kylian Mbappe grew up in a poor suburban area outside of Paris, France. He played soccer nearly every day, and wished he could be like his idol, Cristiano Ronaldo. And it paid off.
Coaches noticed his talent when he was just 6 and by 11 years old, Kylian had his choice of teams to sign with.
He joined the AS Monaco Football Club with a $217 million contract when he was 16 years old and is the youngest person to ever sign with the team. He’s also earned the second-highest sign-on bonus.
He’s now valued at an estimated $110 million.
Soleil Wheeler “EwOk”
Indianapolis, Indiana, U.S.
Thirteen-year-old Soleil Wheeler is a deaf Fortnite livestreamer who goes by the name “EwOk.”
She gained popularity when popular gamer Timothy John Betar, or “TimTheTatman” hosted her channel thus giving her the attention of thousands of viewers.
EwOk’s remarkable gaming ability became increasingly clear as she must either sign to other players or type on a second chat while simultaneously playing at an extremely high level.
Since joining the platform at age 13, EwOk has gained over 100,000 followers on Twitch, a video live streaming service, and competes in Fortnite tournaments.
Sumail Hassan Syed
Some parents try to discourage their kids from playing too many video games; but Sumail discovered how to turn his hobby into a lucrative income.
Born in Karachi, Pakistan, Sumail Hassan Syed started playing a game called Defense of the Ages when he was 8 years old. His parents did not have a lot of money, and they worked hard to move them to the United States, where eight people had to live together in a small apartment.
When he was 15, he had to sell his bicycle in order to keep playing the game. This was a big deal for him, because his family did not have a car, and it was his only mode of transportation, but Sumail retained faith that his gaming career would one day find success.
Sumail specializes in a game called Defense of the Ages 2 (also known as “DOTA 2”), and his team was good enough to compete in tournaments that awarded monetary prizes.
In 2015, his team won the International DOTA 2 Championships in Seattle, Washington and Sumail broke the Guinness World Record for becoming the youngest esports player to become a millionaire, at 16.
After winning the prize money, he moved to Seattle and helped his family out financially. He still continues to compete in DOTA tournaments every year and earn more prize money.
Cover photograph used with permission from and gratitude for uriel-soberanes-MxVkWPiJALs-unsplash.jpg for Unsplash; profile images as follows: Abby Kircher from The Insider, Cory Nieves from Crains New York Awards, Hailey Thomas from Experience Life, Mikaila Ulmer from ATXWoman, Kylian Mbappe from Daily Mail, EwOk from Daily Mail, Sumail Hussan Syed from Redbull.com.
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:
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–Suzanne & Sanam