Young and Restless: 4 Entrepreneurs Under Age 20

These four successful teenage entrepreneurs have a lot more than homework and exams on their minds.
Freelance Writer and editor, Self-employed
June 29, 2012

Some people are entrepreneurs-in-the-making, slogging away in the corporate world before taking the plunge. Others start their own companies, sometimes even before hitting legal drinking age. Meet four teenage entrepreneurs, who have turned their dreams into money-making companies.

Jason Li, 15-year-old Founder of iReTron

Last year Jason Li finished a Junior Achievement competition feeling unsatisfied. “The experience taught you to create a mock business; I wanted to create something real,” he says.

With the help of a $2,000 loan from his father, Li launched iReTron out of his bedroom in Los Gatos, Calif. in August 2011. The online company buys back old electronics (iPhones, iPads, etc.), refurbishes them and then sells or donates them back into the market. He is building his business by showcasing the company at festival booths and speaking at schools.

Li plans to make iReTron “a $1 million company, but that may take a while. I think it will happen while I’m in college,” he says.

Li's advice for young entrepreneurs is to never give up. “The bigger the impact, the harder it will be and the longer it will take to see results,” he says. “You just have to keep with it.”

Austin Jackson, 18-year-old founder of Zuram

Austin Jackson was just 13 years old when he launched Zuram. Back then, the company specialized in building websites for small businesses and had a few clients, including Jackson’s uncle.

In September 2011, Fremont, Calif.-based Jackson entered his freshman year at Princeton University and decided to change the company’s direction into “proactive maintenance,” which includes custom management of website updates and social media accounts. This year, the company is on schedule to bring in more than $50,000, according to Jackson.

“We have 31 small businesses signed up so far and I only see us getting bigger,” he says. “I have two employees and several contractors working for me.”

Jackson recommends staying focused on your core business offering, as it can be easy to get distracted by flashy opportunities. He says, “Pick one thing and strategize about it. If you are going to do something well, you can’t do more than one thing at a time.”

Jeffrey Owen Hanson, 18-year-old Artist

At the age of 12, Jeffrey Owen Hanson started chemotherapy for Neurofibromatosis, a genetic disorder affecting the nervous system. When hospital visitors showed signs of overwhelming sadness, often not knowing what to say, Hanson’s mother, Julie, came up with a solution.

“I brought in note cards and had Jeff and his friends paint with watercolors on them,” she remembers.

Hanson, who hadn’t previously expressed an interest in art, took to the note card project with enthusiasm and surprising talent. Two years into chemo, a doctor asked him to paint a few note cards for a charitable organization. From there, Hanson began painting on canvasses, frequently auctioning off pieces to charity.

When he was granted a Make-A-Wish to see Elton John, he gave the singer one of his paintings and John reciprocated by flying Hanson and his family, of Overland Park, Kan., to Dubai for a concert.

Today, Hanson is 18 and feeling well. His pieces hang in the homes of John, Susan Sarandon and Warren E. Buffett. He regularly features his paintings at charity auctions and is selling his works for profit.

“I’ve auctioned more than $700,000 worth to charity,” he says. “Last year I made $144,000 in revenue and this year I’m on par to make $200,000.”

Daniel Schlessinger, 18-year-old founder of FixMySkin

It was 2007 when 12-year-old Daniel Schlessinger first started thinking of skin moisture. A resident of Omaha, Neb., his hands and fingers were cracking in the winter, so he tried using lip balm to soothe them.

“It didn’t work at all, so I decided to research it,” he says.

Two years later, Schlessinger approached chemists about creating a lip balm/hand treatment that contained hydrocortisone, a topical steroid. More than 50 formulations later and he had what he wanted: a balm for overly dry hands, faces and bodies.

He named the company FixMySkin and today he boasts $60,000 in revenue and mostly sells his product on LovelySkin.com.

Are you a teenage entrepreneur? What advice can you give others following the same path?

Photo credits: Courtesy subjects