Who says you have to be an adult to own a successful business?
No one, at least not anymore. Some of the nation’s brightest entrepreneurs weren’t even old enough to drive when they first started, and a few in the group we have compiled for you are still under voting age. Yet, armed with grit and ready to work, these young stars have found ways to live out their dreams while still in their teens.
Entrepreneurship is nothing new. Throughout history, people have felt driven to experiment and create great things, from George Washington Carver to Steve Jobs. However, teaching entrepreneurship to school-aged children has been relatively new in the last few decades. From 2009 to 2015, the number of states that introduced proficiencies for entrepreneurship in K-12 education rose by 23, from 19 out of 50 states to 42 out of 50.
Public and independent schools alike are seeing the distinct advantages of helping kids learn entrepreneurial skills like critical thinking, creative problem-solving, teamwork, and communication. And here at The Academy of Scholars, we say it’s never too early to start. Our private elementary school students are taught how to launch online businesses and optimize sales funnels. They’re grasping these concepts and running with them.
As they learn to become Kidpreneurs, here are several of the role models they look to for inspiration:
Moziah Bridges – Mo’s Bows
In 2011, Moziah wanted a distinctive bow tie to complete his look, but he couldn’t find any that fit the bill in the clothing stores around Memphis. Not to be deterred, this 9-year-old style icon went to his granny for assistance in making a bow tie out of her old scrap fabric. Word spread quickly that Mo’s bow ties were the accessory to have, and Mo’s Bows was born.
Young Mr. Bridges appeared on ABC’s Shark Tank, and though he didn’t get a deal, he was offered free mentorship from legendary investor Daymond John, CEO of FUBU. And it looks like the lessons stuck. Today, Mo is making people happy around the globe with bow ties, pocket squares, neckties, and other fashion-forward accessories, and his net worth is around $2 million. Not bad for a kid who just wanted to look good.
Essynce Moore – Essynce Couture
Essynce Moore knew she wanted to be a fashionista at six years old. In 2013, at age 10, she turned her fashion design doodles into the launch of her own branded clothing line for children, tweens, and teens, called Essynce Couture. Later, she would add body care products, such as lip gloss and soap, under the label “Wynk” by EC.
And if that weren’t enough to keep her busy, in 2015, she started the Essynce Couture Spa & Boutique exclusively for the non-adult set and finished writing her first book in what would turn out to be a three-book series. Oh, and did we mention that she had to go to school this whole time?
This enterprising Jersey girl has lit up the runways at New York’s Fashion Weeks and Atlanta Kids Fashion Week and has been featured by various media outlets, including NBC, BET, and Verizon Fios News. She’s also an actress and motivational speaker. Is there anything she can’t do? We don’t think so.
Mikaila Ulmer – Me & the Bees Lemonade
What’s the connection between an elementary school girl, a few bees, and a very old cookbook? A multimillion-dollar lemonade business, that’s what. When four-year-old Mikaila Ulmer was stung by bees twice in the course of a little more than a week, the last thing she probably wanted to do was devote her budding entrepreneurial efforts to saving the honey bee. And yet that’s precisely what she did.
Encouraged by her parents to research bees so she wouldn’t fear them in the future, she discovered how important these little critters are to our ecosystem and how we need to protect them. Couple that with the desire to develop a new business idea and a lemonade recipe in a 1940s cookbook she received from her Great Granny Helen, and her lemonade company was born.
Using honey instead of sugar in her flaxseed lemonade recipe, this Austin native took the juice world by storm and became a millionaire before middle school. But with all that success, Mikaila hasn’t forgotten about the lowly insect that started her on this quest. When she’s not in school or running her business, she’s out leading ‘Save the Bees’ workshops and authoring books on social entrepreneurship. Me & the Bees Lemonade also donates a percentage of its profits to local and global charities that protect bees and support responsible honey harvesting.
Cory “Mr. Cory” Nieves – Mr. Cory’s Cookies
In 2009, this scrappy six-year-old decided he didn’t want to take the bus to school anymore. It was time to get a car! So Cory started selling hot cocoa and cookies to earn the necessary cash. He and his mom experimented with several different ingredients and finally came up with the perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe.
While the cookies were popular with the locals, the business hadn’t quite taken off yet (at least not enough to buy a car). Mr. Cory’s luck changed when he and his cookies caught the attention of Ellen DeGeneres in 2014. He and his mom were invited as guests to her show and offered a brand-new car and $10,000 in seed money. Mr. Cory’s Cookies took off.
At 17, Mr. Cory continues to head his successful cookie business, delivering fresh-baked, high-quality treats to customers all over the nation. He has also starred on MasterChef Jr., was featured in Season 5 of Marcus Lemonis’ series The Profit, and is slated to host a reality TV competition show sometime soon.
Emmanuella Mayaki – Web Designer, Teacher
Nigerian-born Emmanuella Mayaki first discovered computers at the tender age of 6. This brilliant young lady started her career by mastering Microsoft applications like Excel and PowerPoint and quickly gained fluency in HTML, CSS, Java, and Python.
As much as Emma loves programming and coding, she’s even more passionate about sharing that knowledge with others, especially girls. In 2019, at age 10, she was hired to teach an after-school coding club at Southfield Primary School in Coventry, England. A year later, she started similar after-school and holiday coding clubs in Nigeria and founded Emma’s ICT (information communications technology) Academy in the country’s capital, Abuja.
In 2021, CBBC’s My Life series spotlighted her for International Women’s Day, and this past May, she was nominated by STEM Kids New York City as a STEM icon. Next spring, Emma will again break barriers as the youngest person to attend an American university. She has been accepted to the Program for the Exceptionally Gifted (PEG) at Mary Baldwin University in Staunton, Virginia. Her major? Computer Science, of course.
As entrepreneurial education continues to take hold in schools around the nation, we expect to see a whole new generation of kidpreneurs who will actively reshape the world of business and social engagement. Who knows, one of them might be your child.