Even before he invented the light bulb, Thomas Edison was full of clever ideas. As a boy, he realized that fruits and vegetables were much cheaper in the nearby city of Detroit than his hometown, Port Huron, Michigan, so he took them back and sold them at marked-up prices. Then at age 12, Thomas started his own news publication, the Grand Trunk Herald, which he sold to railway passengers.
Maddie’s passion for recycling and art led her to make jewelry and decorations out of bottle caps at age 10. After the idea became popular at her school in Dallas, Texas, she pitched her products to a local toy store, and in 2007 her company, Snap Caps, took off and became a fad among tweens across the country. Now 15, Maddie still runs the business. She even got her little sister, Margot, 11, involved as the VP of the company!
After getting compliments on her hair (after using her grandma’s homemade hair products), 9-year-old Leanna began selling her grandma’s goods to friends. Once word spread about how great the products worked, she created the website Leanna’s Hair
to fill the demand, and orders came in from all over the country. Today, at just 10 years old, she is now the CEO of her own cosmetics company, gives motivational speeches to parents and teens, and has already received a scholarship from Harvard.
In 2005 Jason created “Pencil Bugs” — fun little pencil toppers that he hoped would help kids enjoy homework a little more — as part of a project for a craft fair when he was 9 years old. Pencil Bugs soon spread throughout his school, and Jason’s mom set up a website to sell them online. Soon enough, business was booming, with orders rolling in across the country. Now a teenager, Jason has written the book Bitten by the Business Bug
, which includes tips for other teens looking to get into business. Even more impressive? A portion of his annual proceeds go to the Rady Children's Hospital in San Diego.
The kid’s lemonade stand has become a bit of a clichÃ©, but we should give credit to the first one known in history. In 1873, 10-year-old Edward Bok sold ice water in Brooklyn for a penny to people in horse-drawn carriages. When other boys started to copy his idea, he upped his product and price, selling lemonade for a few cents a glass. We bet he didn’t know that nearly a century and a half later, kids everywhere would still be following his lead.
Cameron Johnson made his first million before graduating high school. He wasn’t an overnight success, however. At 9, he started his own online-greeting card company after his parents bought him a printer. By the time he turned 15, the business was raking in about $15,000 in sales per year and he was featured on Oprah. (He also had the foresight to buy his little sister’s Beanie Babies collection for $12 so he could sell them later on eBay — he got $50,000 for the items.) Though his company is now defunct, Cameron (now 26) has since been involved in many projects; he hosted a UK reality TV show called Beat the Boss and currently serves as a business consultant for Ford.
Juliette created Miss O. & Friends when she was 10 years old for “girls who’ve outgrown Barbie but [are] not ready for Britney.” The characters of Miss O. & Friends help tweens gain self-esteem and confidence through a fun, interactive website and book series. In 2009, when Juliette turned 19, the company was estimated to be worth $15 million — no worries about college bills
for this young woman!
As a young teen, Chauncey became frustrated with the lack of cards available for kids her age, especially when it came to celebrating birthdays. Using her passion for poetry and lyrics, she began to write and print her own cards and by age 15 had established Harlem Lyrics
, a successful greeting-card company for tweens, teens, and hip-hop enthusiasts. Through her late-teen years, Chauncey received entrepreneurial awards from Maybelline and Black Enterprise Magazine
(among other organizations). Today she remains the CEO of her company.
Lizzie Marie Likness
A self-proclaimed aspiring chef since age 2, Lizzie Marie started selling homemade baked goods at age 6 at her local farmers market in Georgia. A few years later, her success led her to create a website and business: Lizzie Marie Cuisine
. Her site offers original recipes and tips to help kids cook and eat healthier. Now, at age 11, Lizzie stars in the WebMD video series, “Cooking Healthy with Chef Lizzie,” and she appeared on the Rachel Ray Show
earlier this year. What’s next for Lizzie? She says she’s planning to launch a series of cookbooks, a new digital media show, and a line of packaged food products.
Savannah started publishing poetry and writing commissioned articles as a little kid and at 14, she became America’s youngest publisher ever with her own magazine, Girlpez
has now morphed into a fashion and news website catered toward girls ages 13-17 and has been endorsed by Amy Atsley, the editor-in-chief of Teen Vogue
. Savannah's become a red carpet regular at major fashion and music events including New York Fashion Week and eventually wants
to start her own PR firm.
Sean Spooner and Louis Porter
While Savannah Britt took the title of the youngest publisher stateside, these Brits became the UK’s youngest publishers of all time when they founded Corby Magazine last year at age 14. The boys had wanted to start a business project for a while, so when they noticed a gap in the market for a local magazine, they started their own. The monthly publication covers local news, events, and competitions in Corby, Northamptonshire, and is available for free at doctor’s offices, salons, community areas, and other businesses in the town. (Sean and Louis make money through ad revenue.) Their vision is to see the magazine in every single home and business in Corby by 2012.
After growing up on food stamps and watching her single mother struggle to make ends meet, Zoë dove into the fashion business at age 13, when she received a sewing machine as a gift. Within a year she was selling custom-made clothes on her site, Zoe Damacela
. Now a student at Northwestern University, ZoÃ« runs her own style blog, has been featured on The Tyra Banks Show
, and even met with President Obama in the Oval Office.
In 2010, after studying code for just one month, young teen Robert Nay launched his first game, an app for the iPhone called Bubble Ball. Within two weeks it had been downloaded 2 million times and in January 2011, it knocked Angry Birds off its spot as the #1 most downloaded free game in the Apple store. After the success of Bubble Ball (now available for droids, too), Robert started Nay Games and says he’s currently working on some “awesome new stuff.” We can’t wait to
see what he launches next!
In 2007, at 13, Anshul created Elementeo, a card game designed to teach kids about chemistry in a fun way. With names like “Copper Cyclops” and “Helium Genie,” the periodic elements take on personalities to fight each other based on their properties and oxidation states. (Finally, a game that teachers don’t have to keep telling kids to put away!) Anshul still runs the company to this day and gives lectures to adults and kids across the country about how to be a
successful young entrepreneur.
The daughter of two entrepreneurs, Asya knew she wanted to start a company from a very early age. A year ago, at 13, she started Stinky Feet Gurlz, a company that designs, markets, and sells 1940s-inspired t-shirts, clothing, and gear for young girls. Asya says the company is slated to make $20,000 a month starting next year, and she also donates a portion of the company’s earnings to She’s Worth It! — a non-profit organization she founded that’s dedicated to
ending human trafficking and sex slavery.
Back when Myspace was still the top social network for teens, 14-year-old Ashley decided to create a website that provided free Myspace layouts and HTML tutorials to other teens and users of the site. She gave her mom $8 to buy the domain name, WhateverLife.com, and within 3 years, the site grossed over $1 million through ads! Now at 17, Ashley has dropped out of high school to focus on WhateverLife.com; so far she’s built the site up to 60 million pageviews a month.
Cecilia’s passion for fashion began at 6 years old, when she received a sewing machine for her birthday. She soon became obsessed with designing and sewing, and at her first trunk show, Cecilia sold all 50 of her girls' clothing pieces in less than 3 hours. Buzz about Cecilia and her clothes spread, and she began making TV appearances, including a spot on Oprah. Now at 11, she has designed clothes for celebrities such as Miley Cyrus and Bella Thorne from Big Love, was a VIP guest at New York’s Fashion Week, and sells one-of-a-kind girls dresses at
Fred Segal Santa Monica.
This 17-year-old teen already has 42 employees working for him! Farrhad discovered the joy of entrepreneurial work at age 13 when, with just $10 from his parents, he created an online community devoted to aviation and sold the community months later to a fan for $1,200. His current endeavor, Rockstah Media, started as a $400 investment and is now an award-winning, international company based in India that focuses on marketing, branding, and web development.
When 8-year-old Alexandra begged her parents for a horse, her dad told her she could only have one if she earned the money to buy one for herself. While many kids would have given up at that point, Alexandra started a company called Kid’s Roar, which introduced kids to fun products that might interest them, like toys and stuffed animals. The companies in turn gave her a percentage of the sales that came from her site. Now a college graduate, Alexandra runs another company called Kid's Horse Camp that connects kids with horse-related activities in their area. We wonder if she ever bought that horse …
Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen
We’re sure their fame from Full House helped them out, but this list just wouldn’t be complete without these famous entrepreneurial teens. While other child stars typically fade away, these two continued their success by branding themselves through TV shows, films, and books. In their early teens, they went on to start a $1 billion fashion empire, with clothing and cosmetic lines in Walmart stores. Today, their fashion lines are more high-end, with items from The Row and Elizabeth and James sold at designer prices.