It’s always impressive to hear about entrepreneurs who created popular products and businesses in their early 20s. But the entrepreneurial spirit sometimes strikes even younger than that. Some of the entrepreneurs on this list haven’t learned how to drive or even been to high school yet, but they’re running their own companies and on an early path to success.
1. THE DENTIST’S BEST FRIEND
Alina Morse is one lucky girl. She has visited the White House not once but twice, and never as a tourist. Each time, she was an official guest, personally invited by none other than First Lady Michelle Obama
The enterprising Wolverine Lake, Mich., native presented the one and only candy at this year’s White House Easter Egg Roll — a special treat she invented when she was just seven, with help from her dad, Tom (the co-creator of 5-Hour Energy).
Her sweets are fruit-flavored lollipops that her little sister, Lola, named Zollipops. There’s something unusual about them: They’re sweetened with a blend of xylitol, maltitol syrup, beetroot juice and stevia — not with sugar.
“I love candy,” Alina said, “but I always knew it was bad for my teeth so that’s why I created Zollipops. So I asked, ‘Why can’t we make a lollipop that’s delicious and good for your teeth?’”
She did just that in 2014, when she started up her company using $7,500 of savings from her grandparents. Soon, she took to the road to promote her candy creation, available in-store at Whole Foods and SuperValu and online on Amazon. She’s even pitched Shark Tank celeb investor Daymond John on Good Morning America and appeared on NBC News.
Alina’s favorite part of being a kidpreneur:
“The most fun thing about being a kidpreneur and working on Zollipops is that I get to travel, meet lots of people and see lots of places. All around the world, we share Zollipops with many people and brighten their smiles!”
Alina’s advice for aspiring kidpreneurs:
“Always keep asking questions. You can do anything if you work hard, try and believe in yourself and never give up!
2. THE TEEN ADDING TEXTURE TO TEXTING
Like most teens, Mercer Henderson uses a flurry of emojis when texting with friends — but she uses them a tad differently than most people. She adds sounds, turning the expressive visual icons into what she calls “soundmojis.”
One day, the tech-savvy San Francisco teen was making her own soundmojis when the entrepreneurial lightbulb went off. “It was something I had fun doing already,” Mercer said. “So why not put the two together?” And the seed for her Audiots iOS app was planted.
The app, put forth by Mercer’s new company, 4 Girls Tech LLC, features 50-plus noisy emojis. Among them is a kissy-face emoji that makes smooching sounds, a broken heart emoji that audibly shatters and a poop emoji that, uh…we’ll just stop there, ‘k?
To take Audiots from concept to downloadable reality, Mercer Henderson got a decent leg-up from her mother, Lisa, a product marketing exec at Salesforce. Her uncle, a LucasArts sound engineer, also pitched in on sound-mixing. Not a bad startup support team, right?
The budding young tech-preneur recently penned strategic branding partnerships with GE, HINT water and the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA). For her SPCA collaboration, she’s raising awareness for animal welfare by enabling Audiots users to send fun dog and cat emojis that say “funny things” and, of course, bark and meow. She also recently released Cardoji’s, a line of customizable digital greeting cards targeted to members of generation Z.
Henderson’s also working on integrating Audiots with email and Facebook. All of this, of course, after her homework is done.
Mercer’s favorite part of being a kidpreneur:
“The most fun part for me is the emails I get from people telling me they like the app! One girl told me it is the only app she has ever downloaded! I try to email everyone back after I do my homework and stuff. Also, being on TV was fun.”
Mercer’s advice for aspiring kidpreneurs:
“My advice is if there is something you like to do, think about if other people like it too. Then try to create a more fun or simple way to do it.”
3. THE BEE-STUNG BEVERAGE QUEEN
Founder: Me & the Bees Lemonade
For Mikaila Ulmer, it all started with a bee sting. Make that two. Encouraged by her parents and teachers, the Austin, Texas, native signed up for two entrepreneurship contests when she was just four and a half years old. “At that same time, I got stung by two bees in one week,” she said. “What are the chances?!”
To help ease Mikaila’s resulting fear of bees, her great-granny Helen sent her a 1940s cookbook that contained her favorite recipe for flaxseed lemonade. “Then I did some research on bees and found out how important they are to our ecosystem and that they’re dying, so I created a product that would help save them.”
That product is Me & the Bees Lemonade, a flaxseed- and mint-infused beverage that is sweetened mainly with honey from local honeybees. For each bottle sold, Mikaila, who prefers the title “queen bee” over CEO, donates a percentage of the profits to organizations working to ease the plight of the bees, including her home state’s beekeepers association.
Mikaila originally sold her lemonade at a local pizzeria when she first started in 2009. She later showcased her naturally sweet wares at a local Whole Foods store, where she held workshops on saving bees. Eventually, she was asked to sell her lemonade at the high-end grocery store. Now, thanks in part to Mikaila’s charming but “nerve-citing” appearance on Shark Tank, she says, Whole Foods carries Me & the Bees Lemonade throughout its southeast region.
Mikaila’s favorite part of being a kidpreneur:
“Being able to meet awesome people is the most fun part. I love being able to go to different events and presentations to share my story, and to teach people about bees and how we can help them.”
Mikaila’s advice for aspiring entrepreneurs:
“Be a social entrepreneur. Do something to help solve problems in the world. Don’t go into business to make a lot of money. Create a business that you see the that world is missing, solve a problem with it and do something you have a passion for. Because the more passionate you are about what you do, the more fun you have while doing it!”
Think about that the next time your little one bugs you to help her springboard her own business. We’ve compiled a list of Good Financial habits for money smart kids in a book called : It Doesn’t Grow On Trees