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10 SUCCESSFUL YOUNG ENTREPRENEURS WHOSE STORIES WILL INSPIRE YOU TO BECOME ONE

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Successful Young Entrepreneurs

The term ‘entrepreneur’ often conjures up images of experienced, successful individuals who had arrived at a point in their lives when they felt confident to take new risks and face new challenges. Harland David Sanders was 62 when he launched Kentucky Fried Chicken, and Robert Noyce was 41 when he founded Intel. Even research shows that the average age of an entrepreneur today is 40.

But success can come at any age. And many ambitious youngsters are going against the grain to launch their own startups during their 20s and 30s… and some while they’re still in school! If you’re a young person with a big idea, it’s important to know that you don’t have to wait until you’re older to put your plans into action. In fact, here are 10 inspirational stories that might motivate you to get started:

Successful Young Entrepreneur Stories

1. Nicholas Boehnlein

Boehnlein’s inspirational story shows that passion and determination are more powerful than age or experience, with the young entrepreneur’s rising star shining amongst the more seasoned professionals.

Graduating with an MBA from the EU Business School in 2017, Swiss-born Nicholas Boehnlein is now one of India’s most promising young entrepreneurs. Alongside business partner Ankit Chaudhari, Boehnlein founded Aiisma; one of the world’s first data marketplaces that is successfully changing the way consumer data is used, and working to transform data sets into essential, usable business assets.

Boehnlein had little doubt about his future, having grown up in a highly competitive and entrepreneurial household in Switzerland, inspired by his father’s and grandfather’s own entrepreneurial journeys. Yet despite success being in his blood, he states that the path to success ‘is not always rosy’, especially for ambitious youngsters trying to compete against seasoned professionals experienced in the industry.

The secret to his success? “As a young entrepreneur, having one foot in education and one foot in the professional life is an absolute must”, says Boehnlein. He achieved this by taking back-to-back online courses – a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration followed by an MBA – which allowed him to expand his theoretical knowledge while also gaining valuable practical experience out in the field.

2. Keiana Cave

Cave’s inspirational story shows that women really can have it all. She’s the example many young girls need, demonstrating how it is possible to juggle high school, extracurriculars, and business success.

Aged just 18, Cave is one of the youngest honorees on the Forbes ‘30 Under 30’ list for 2021. Based in New Orleans, Louisiana, Cave is the Founder of Sublima Pharmaceuticals, where she acts as CEO and Chief Scientist. The female-led startup is on a mission to launch the first non-hormonal birth control pill in the United States in a bid to provide women with more choice and control over their own bodies.

While Cave enjoyed life as a regular high school student, participating in ballet, track, and cheerleading, her passion for nanotechnology proved overwhelming. Her story fully begins in 2014, when she was awarded $10,000 – presented by NFL Quarterback Drew Brees – during the New Orleans Entrepreneur Week, allowing her to conduct research into the BP Gulf oil spill that attracted the attention of Chevron.

Having raised $1.2 million from the partnership, Cave drove the funding into her research at the University of Michigan, where she gained a Bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering, Aerospace Engineering, and Entrepreneurship. Today, Cave and her team are committed to building a community that both educates and empowers women to take back control of their own healthcare and bodies.

3. Claire Cleary

Cleary’s inspirational story shows that it’s OK to not know exactly what you want to do with your life in your teens, and that it is possible to become a young, successful entrepreneur following a career change.

Author of popular articles such as 7 Ways to Get and Stay Motivated, New Jersey-based Cleary is the Founder of Claire Cleary Coaching; a self-improvement business offering life coaching and personal training to help women achieve their goals. Cleary has been featured on ABC’s Good Morning America, Fox News, and Business Talk Radio, where she’s shared her story with the world.

And her story is truly inspirational. Despite seemingly having it all, Cleary began to feel ‘stuck’ in her 30s; as though she could achieve more, but didn’t know how, or even where to start. She bravely made the decision to step away from the stability of the corporate world to focus closely on her passion for fitness and, having found a way to realize her own dreams, is now on a mission to help others realize theirs.

“Even when people feel physically strong and healthy, some are still stressed, unfocused, and unhappy” says Cleary, who felt that way herself. Today, Cleary is a National Academy of Sports Medicine-certified personal trainer, behavior change specialist, corrective exercise specialist, and performance enhancement specialist, and is one of only 300 certified High Performance Life Coaches in the world.

4. Henry Burner

Burner’s inspirational story shows that not even a learning disability can slow down a great entrepreneur. He’s living proof that you don’t need to get top grades to build a successful business from the ground up.

Although he’s still in school, Henry Burner has already enjoyed quite the entrepreneurial journey, having gone from regular schoolboy to Founder of a company supplying Walmart within just a few years. With the help of his family, Burner launched Buttonsmith in 2013; a company selling pinback buttons in a range of designs, including political pins and buttons inspired by famous artists like Van Gogh and Monet.

What makes Burner’s journey all the more inspirational is that the young entrepreneur had long struggled at school. Diagnosed with dyslexia, Burner found academia to be challenging and worried about his future. The young boy, however, found that he had a very business-focused mind, and began selling his buttons at a local farmer’s market before moving into eCommerce with his own website.

With the help of a successful Kickstarter campaign in 2015, Burner’s business went from strength to strength. Today, Buttonsmith operates a physical store in Carnation, Washington, and 1600 Walmart stores across the US now stock Tinker Reel badge reels. Despite still being in education, Burner oversees 18 employees, and is inspirational proof that struggling at school doesn’t mean you can’t succeed.

5. Espen Larsen-Hakkebo

Larsen-Hakkebo’s inspirational story shows that even when things seem challenging, it’s worth battling through. Despite financial difficulties during the early years, he now co-owns a thriving tourism business.

Alongside Agnes Arnadottir, Espen Larsen-Hakkebo is the Co-Founder of Brim Explorer; a cruise company that offers voyages onboard its silent, pollution-free, hybrid-electric vessel of the same name. In 2019, Larsen-Hakkebo and Arnadottir were together crowned Young Entrepreneurs of the Year in front of King Harald of Norway at the Nor-Shipping awards, and today the young businessman acts as CFO of the firm.

However, it wasn’t always this way. Larsen-Hakkebo earned his Bachelor’s degree in European Studies, followed by a Master’s in Innovation and Technology at the University of Oslo in Norway, and went on to work as a business consultant specializing in public affairs, and as a Project Manager for a political youth organization Jeunes Europeens Federalistes before finding his passion for sustainable tourism in his 30s.

Speaking to Nor-Shipping, he described his entrepreneurial journey as “a bit of a battle”, relying on donations from friends and family to get the business off the ground before later receiving funding from ENOVA and Innovation Norway. It was two years before the firm took delivery of their first vessel. Larsen-Hakkebo is proof that it’s never too late to make a change and to follow your dreams.

6. Jack Parsons

Parsons’ inspirational story shows that where you come from doesn’t have to dictate where you’re going. Once a vulnerable young person, Parsons now supports those growing up in similar circumstances.

20-something Jack Parsons is the Founder and CEO of The Youth Group; a UK-based global initiative that supports young people as they strive to reach their full potential. What’s so inspirational about Parsons is that he was once a vulnerable young person in need of support himself, having experienced a difficult childhood and a lack of school support. Today, he’s in charge of a company of more than 155 people.

By age 26, Parsons had recognized the value of learning from failure, and he became motivated to take his own experiences and use them to help others. He launched The Youth Group as a way to build strong professional networks and secure placements, apprenticeships, and employment opportunities for those that lack academic qualifications. To date, the initiative has helped 1 million people around the globe.

Parsons’ tips for other budding entrepreneurs? Focus. “You may feel overwhelmed, feel like you want to stop, that you no longer want to be an entrepreneur, this is why it’s so important to be present in the moment and in the task you’re completing”. Parsons believes in taking things one step at a time and never losing sight of your vision; two techniques that have helped him get to where he is today.

7. Mariia Plotkina

Plotkina’s inspirational story shows that one person really can make a difference. The young entrepreneur is changing the face of Russian education because she was brave enough to take action.

Mariia Plotkina launched Geek Teachers in her native Russia back in 2018, and just two years later was recognized as Female Entrepreneur of the Year (Europe) by Youth Business International. The organization offers online classes to support teachers as they incorporate new technology into their lessons, and Plotkina was awarded $5000 from Citi Foundation in 2020 to develop her enterprise.

Plotkina’s professional story begins with graphic design and later moves into education. Her entrepreneurial story, however, begins in a computer science classroom in Russia, where the young teacher began to feel ‘deflated’ by the current state of education across the country. Keen to make a change, Plotkina, with zero business experience, launched an innovative firm… all before age 30.

Today, Plotkina is in charge of a team of 15, with more than 40,000 users across Russia logging in to training masterclasses with the former teacher to build their confidence using technology in the classroom. And as a young entrepreneur, Plotkina believes she still has a long way to go, with big plans to expand into the United States and create a form of ‘exchange program’ with American establishments.

8. Fung Lam

Lam’s inspirational story shows that small beginnings can lead to big things. He’s living proof that taking even the smallest steps towards your goals can form solid foundations for growth and development.

He’s only in his 30’s, but Melbourne-based Fung Lam has already been crowned Australian Young Entrepreneur of the Year, and has a place on the Young Rich List for 2020. Lam is the Founder and Executive Director of New Aim; a small startup that grew to be one of Australia’s leading online retailers, reporting a growth rate of more than 40% over the past decade and with an annual turnover of $300 mil.

Lam’s story starts with a Bachelor’s degree in information technology, which was obtained from Monash University in 2003. Lam put his IT knowledge to good use, using the web to upsell low-cost products on eBay sourced from Melbourne’s two-dollar stores. Drawing on product-sourcing networks in his native China, Lam transformed his startup with no external funding into a leading marketplace supplier.

The hardest part about moving from graduate to business leader, according to Lam? Managing people. “Data doesn’t have emotion; it doesn’t change what it says. Understanding human behavior is difficult but you need to understand why people think the way they do”. Today, Lam’s business employs upwards of 300 people, supplying marketplaces like Amazon with thousands of products like tools and furniture.

9. Adelle Archer

Archer’s inspirational story shows that success can be born in the strangest and most unusual of ways. Archer is proof that groundbreaking ideas and true passion can hit you when you least expect it.

Adelle Archer may only be young, but she’s already become one of the leading names in the grief wellness industry having founded Eterneva back in 2017. Based in Austin, Texas, Archer’s company turns ashes into diamonds; a process that takes around 8 months. A self-confessed mission-driven person, Archer has featured on Shark Tank and now acts as CEO of her firm, transforming the death care sector.

Archer’s inspirational story begins with the untimely death of a close friend and mentor, and the disappointing, impersonal experience she had from another company when turning the ashes into a keepsake. The former Product Manager and Business Development consultant decided to put her Master’s in Entrepreneurship and Business Administration to good use, starting her own company.

Although Archer comes from a long line of what she calls ‘enterprising, stereotype-busting ladies’, she believes that the true secret to success is driving your energy into something you’re really passionate about. “I work on something that feels aligned with my passion and my values. Whenever I encounter hardships, they seem more surmountable because the motivation is deeper” says the California native.

10. Grace Beverley

Beverley’s inspirational story shows that your natural, inherent talents don’t always have to be the pathway you follow. The British entrepreneur is proof that you get to choose your own destiny.

Grace Beverley is the 20-something founder of sustainable fitness label TALA. Which is inspiring enough on its own. Add in the fact that Beverley achieved this while at the same time studying at England’s prestigious Oxford University, and the inspiration is even greater. Today, Beverley acts as CEO of the company, which promotes slow fashion and offers fitness wear for all different body shapes and sizes.

Originally planning on becoming a musician, Beverley studied violin at the Royal Academy for Music at the University of London before becoming a music major at Oxford. However, a passion for sustainability took her down a different path. Gaining a Sustainable Business Strategy certification from Harvard Business School, Beverley went on to launch TALA, and was a Forbes ‘30 under 30’ honoree at age 23.

One of the hardest aspects of being a young entrepreneur, according to Beverley, is not how other people see you, but how you see yourself. Beverley has openly discussed feelings of imposter syndrome, often feeling like she doesn’t belong amongst others who have achieved great things at a young age. Her advice is to believe in yourself, and understand that age isn’t a barrier when it comes to success.

Becoming an Entrepreneur

Many people – particularly young people – have big ideas, yet feel held back by their age or lack of experience. But as these 10 inspiring entrepreneur stories show, some of the world’s most innovative and transformative new companies have been built by those who are still in school, or by those who have completely shifted their career path to follow their passions.

Today, you are reading these stories. But tomorrow, you could be one of these stories. It’s never too early – or too late – to follow your dreams.

Till next time,

STRIVE

PS – If you enjoyed these inspiring entrepreneur stories and if becoming an entrepreneur is something that is interesting to you, then you’ll love this article on the top reasons to become an entrepreneur.

With years of experience as a content strategist and creator, Anita has a 'super-power' of being a clear human voice for brands when talking to their audience. One of the projects she currently enjoys the most is being a content associate to EU Business School, where she's writing about business education, student life and online learning.

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