If you had a penny for every time you had an idea in high school or college but ended up letting it go, how many pennies would you have? The entrepreneurs on this list would likely have zero — coming into their own for them meant executing their ideas at very young ages.
Thanks to the Internet, it’s easier than ever to start a business, and the seven Gen Z business owners we’ve spoken to have taken full advantage of the opportunities available to them. If you ever doubt your idea, take inspiration from these young entrepreneurs for your business.
Jonas Tressel: Changing the real estate status quo through technology
When asked when he knew he wanted to be an entrepreneur, Jonas said, “Since I was a kid, I've always wanted to have a software or real estate company.” Glacier is both — an integrated workflow platform that helps commercial real estate professionals improve their day-to-day work. The goal of the app is to get real estate agents at any level to list a property and close, all from one platform.
Innovative technology comes hand-in-hand with challenges — and a major one that Glacier has faced is getting an older generation and established industry to adopt new technology. The Glacier team’s primary focus is providing high value through their app and differentiation from products similar to Glacier.
Jonas’ main recommendation for other entrepreneurs is to take the leap when you get the opportunity. He says, “You can have a corporate job any day, but you may only have the chance to change the world with a business you create just once.”
Eve Gay: Breaking into the male-dominated fine jewelry industry
Eve Gay is the brains behind Stoned Fine Jewelry — a concierge service for fine jewelry.
She’s always had an entrepreneurial spirit, saying, “Whether it was selling cupcakes in my neighborhood or selling my clothes on Instagram, I have always loved working for myself and dreamed of starting my own company.”
Finding herself with some extra time, thanks to the pandemic, she took a leap of faith to launch her business in the middle of her senior year at college. The combination of completing her degree and launching a business was challenging, but she found a way to make it count by using her company as a case study in class to get insights from her professors.
Eve also found it difficult to break into the jewelry industry because it’s male-dominated, and she had no family ties to it. She combated these challenges by finding a mentor to provide guidance, reaching out to influential people in the industry, and becoming a GIA graduate gemologist.
Despite all the difficulties, she's found the growth of her business rewarding.
Advising other entrepreneurs, Eve says not to fear failure — she believes being okay with the possibility of failure gives you the confidence to start your business or do almost anything in life.
Jaffry Mallari: Monetizing his passion for art and fashion
Resurgence Supply is a fashion brand that drops periodic collections throughout the year. Through an active Discord community, Jaffry Jan has created an organic audience that anticipates every drop from the brand.
Jaffry has always had a passion for art and fashion. He says, “When I was in high school, I wanted to monetize the graphic designs that I used to make for fun. Since getting into fashion at the time, I've thought of using garments as a canvas for the work that I do. Basically, marrying two passions together to create something that is monetizable.” He started this through a brand, NGHTPRWL, that stumbled before evolving into Resurgence.
A major challenge he’s faced is getting enough funding and support, as well as marketing the brand to people outside his network.
He says, “Funding was the biggest hurdle as you can't make intricate garments without enough money. So I had to resort [to] basic designs when I first started. Second, marketing to a cold audience is definitely one, if not the hardest thing, to do with any business.”
Funding is the most important bloodline of a business, and you need to find the most cost-efficient ways to achieve results (he started with only $400). He advises aspiring entrepreneurs to use whatever free resources they can find, saying, “You don't need to have the fanciest computers, cameras ,and gadgets to run a proper business.”
Kelsey Ang: Connecting people through dance and movement
Hong Kong native Kelsey Ang created SHIFT Dance to teach dance to people all over the world. Her passion birthed a business that has encouraged people to start a dance career and find a community of fellow dancers.
SHIFT Dance offers classes for dancers at all levels, and these classes are accessible to people across the world, thanks to virtual teaching.
She singles out administrative and legal work as the most challenging parts of running a business. Regardless, Kelsey advises other entrepreneurs to follow their passion.
She says, “When you're really passionate about the industry/business, you will have more interest in what you're doing, learn more and be more successful.”
Sam Park: Helping brands connect to Gen Z
Despite not having any entrepreneurial aspirations, Sam Park has evolved JoyBox Media, where he is managing partner, into a reputable agency, working with companies like Uber Eats and Universal Music Group. JoyBox aims to help brands connect to Gen Z by guiding them through the latest trends, platforms, and strategies.
Sam identified credibility and money as the agency’s two biggest hurdles in the beginning. To solve this, the JoyBox team invested all of their savings into creating their own channels, which gave them the credibility that their clients were looking for.
He says, “The majority of problems in business can be solved given enough time and focus, but it's about making sure you have enough of a runway to do so.”
Always focus on doing the best work while working with the people you enjoy the most.
He advises other entrepreneurs to maintain their integrity, saying, “Doing good work travels fast, but doing a bad job travels even faster. Integrity to customers, friends and colleagues is so important to building a strong reputation around your brand. Your skills can get you into the right rooms, but integrity will keep you there.”
Alexandra Debow: Empowering female entrepreneurs
At 19, Alexandra Debow is the youngest person on this list, with two companies under her belt. She is the co-founder of The Entrepre女ers Network and The ‘WHY WAIT?’ Collective — both companies aiming to empower female entrepreneurs.
Her biggest challenge has been balancing school with running a business. She says that finding time to juggle both aspects of her life has been challenging, but they also complement each other when done well.
Her business philosophy is, “Everything happens for a reason. Both on your professional and personal entrepreneurial journey, every opportunity, connection, and challenge will happen for a reason, so be ready to adapt to different outcomes.”
Celine Chai: Representing Gen Z in marketing
With no regrets, Celine Chai took the cards that life dealt her and co-founded NinetyEight.
She doesn’t let her age or qualifications deter her, saying, “There are many days where I don't feel qualified or 'experienced' enough to run my own business, but at the end of the day, everything is a learning curve, and NinetyEight has become my pride and joy."
NinetyEight is a marketing agency with an interesting founder team all born in 1998. The agency harnesses their youth and understanding of their generation to help brands market to Gen Z.
Before they built a client roster, they had a hard time getting people to believe in their capabilities/services, or people expected them to offer their services below market price. They also faced condescending clients, with Celine saying, “People treated us like ‘kids’ or talked down to us because they ‘had more experience.’”
Additionally, many brands the team encountered felt that Gen Z wasn't worth their time or effort. They didn't see the potential in the generation as a consumer group or as a community, so the NinetyEight team spent many of their early days convincing brands that Gen Zs are and will continue to be the most important demographic.
Be bold. Take risks.
Sentiments around Gen Z have definitely evolved, and NinetyEight is perfectly positioned to take advantage of the gold rush. Celine’s advice to other entrepreneurs is two-pronged: “1. Never say no to trying new things. 2. When you have a moment, pause and think about all the amazing things you have accomplished.”
Take notes from these entrepreneurs and start your own business today
A common theme with all the entrepreneurs we spoke to is that they all took a leap of faith, ultimately wanting to control how they do business and make money. Independence is a common value, as well as creating a business that makes an impact. They also chase their passions unreservedly. Ultimately, don’t be afraid to create something new — you never know where it might lead.