Archive for Millennial Enrepreneuers

Need a Myspace Layout?

Imagine you are just starting out on Myspace (I understand you are a little behind on the times). Obviously one of the first things you will need is a flashy new layout to show people how cool you are. There’s  just one small problem- computers are hard. Thankfully, there is a young millennial entrepreneur who has the solution! Her name is Ashley Qualls.

Ashley Qualls started her website back in 2004. While in school, she learned HTML and applied what she learned to her website. Better yet, she enjoys teaching others how to master HTML through her tutorials. Her website quickly became a big hit as her friends began using her website to spruce up their Myspace pages. Ashley’s website was so successful that by the time she was 17, she had already become a millionaire.

How does one become a millionaire by making Myspace templates? There are a number of factors that played a role- all of them were critical to Ashley’s success. One of the factors was timing. The internet is still a relatively new development, but in 2004 there were not that many options for customizing Myspace pages. Another factor was her content. She was able to successfully deliver value to her audience, which in turn drove site traffic. Advertisers saw how many people were visiting her site, so they paid good money to place their ads where the most people could see them. This way, Ashley was able to make money, without ever charging users a fee for her templates. I’ve left her website name for last because, as the times change, so do websites.

Her websites is called whateverlife.com but it’s glory days of Myspace layouts is long gone. She now uses the website as “a hangout for alternative millennials”. If you are feeling sentimental, here is a taste of the old days:

myYearbook (MeetMe)

In 2005, David and Catherine Cook, both high school students, came up with an idea for an online yearbook as opposed to the traditional hard copy. This brother and sister team started “myYearbook,” it became popular with schools who would pay to have their yearbook on the site. Over the years however, David and Catherine would figure out ways to expand myYearbook’s reach including making it available for older demographics, introducing online chatting, gaming, and moving into different countries as well. They ended up merging with Quepasa Corporation and renamed their company to MeetMe. Today MeetMe is worth over 100 million dollars. This is just another example of how a simple, yet innovative, idea can be extremely successful and make a dent in any market. 

Actress turned Entrepreneur

JImage result for jessica alba the honest companyessica Alba is a well-known address who recently ventured into entrepreneurship. Several years ago, she was pregnant with her first child and as most new parents do she researched how to make her home baby safe. After one load of laundry, which she washed in “baby-safe” laundry detergent, she broke out in a rash. She thought,” If I had such a bad allergic reaction, I knew it couldn’t be good for my baby. So, I set out to educate myself.” After months of research, she saw there was a social injustice that the average family couldn’t easily find or purchase healthy products. So, she created Honest.com to make a better world for her children and other families. Today, the Honest Company sells everything from household cleaners to makeup. Jessica Alba saw a way that she could make a difference for healthier and safer families and used this as her motivation to create the Honest Company. Today, her role in the company is the visionary leader. She also guides overall strategy, creative marketing, and product innovation.

Jack Kim- Benelab Search Engine

Jack Kim is a young entrepreneur that is still in high school in Seattle. He is the founder of a search engine called Benelab that is designed to make philanthropy easier by generating donations. Jack’s project is not-for-profit and he plans to donate all of the revenue generated by Benelab. Jack quickly learned the power of a search engine’s ability to generate wealth from very little traffic through his work with search engines in the past. After developing an outline for his idea, Jack got a team of his high school classmates together to start working on the project. So far, Benelab has been incredibly successful at generating wealth, and all of this wealth is then donated to different charities and organizations to help the less fortunate. Benelab provides an easy yet effective way of enabling everday internet users to participate in philanthropy, even if they do not realize it.

“Many people think of charity as something limited to the rich or “good”, but in reality it’s something that can and should be incorporated into anyone’s daily life – you just have to know how.” – Jack Kim

Spotify – Daniel Ek

Spotify or Apple Music?

Answer: Spotify

Spotify has been around for many years, but it especially rose to dominance in the last few years. However, it hasn’t always been success and diamonds for the two Swedish founders and entrepreneurs, Daniel Ek and Martin Lorentzon.

Once upon a time (back in 2005), they were two guys fiddling and working on the development of Spotify from Ek’s apartment. It was so hot inside because of all the servers running– and the two founders were said that they were forced to sit around half-naked to avoid sweating to their death.

But let’s back up.

Daniel Ek has always had an unparalleled love for music… and technology. The young Swedish boy was without a biological father in his life and was given the chance to combine music and technology in his studies at secondary school. After completing IT college where he graduated with top grades, he landed a job at Europe’s largest advertisement company and rapidly became successful. At that age, 23, he was financially independent, owned a red Ferrari Modena, and owned a VIP card to the hottest clubs in Stockholm, Sweden. Source

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Restoration Apparel Co: Michael Mitchell

Image result for Restoration Apparel Co. // Michael MitchellImage result for Restoration Apparel Co. // Michael Mitchell

Today we live in a world where the apparel industry is more prevalent than ever. The rise in fashion has made it so that you could purchase a shirt anywhere from $10 to $1000 and the market just keeps expanding. In order to supply the heavy demand placed on clothing, the apparel industry employs many people from every corner of the world.

However, many of these workers, especially in third world countries, are being paid extremely low wages.On average, only 2.5% of the wholesale price of apparel goes to all workers who construct the  products in the developing world.

Michael recognized the exploitation that occured so frequently in this industry and decided to act on his compassion for these people. Michael along with others started a company called Restoration Apparel Co. Restoration Apparel Co. strives to lift the lives of workers and restore dignity to the apparel manufacturing industry through living wage job creation and its Wage Restitution Allowance give-back program. It offers factory direct access to dye sublimated, screen printed, and embroidered sportswear while providing its customers peace-of-mind regarding the production of their products.

I admire this entrepreneur for his compassion and selfless heart. And unlike so many other people, this entrepreneur chose to act on his compassion by supplying a better paying job for people who are stuck in their poverty.

Cookie Monster’s Favorite Company

Seth Berkowitz is the founder of Insomnia Cookies. As a college student, at the University of Pennsylvania, a lot of his friends were finding investment banking internships, but Seth wanted a different career path. As a student, Berkowitz baked the first batch of cookies himself, and started giving away samples on Penn’s Locust Walk; the cookies became an instant success. His friends even said they would pay for him to deliver the cookies.  Within a couple of years, Berkowitz received FDA approval, set up his first retail shop in New York, and found angel investors.  today, Insomnia Cookies is a chain of bakeries that specialize in delivering warm cookies, especially late at night. His target market is college students, especially because they could spread the word about the business on campus. Today, Insomnia Cookies has over 100 locations, especially in college towns. Berkowitz wasn’t intimidated by the fact that most restaurants and food service companies end up failing. He was a risk taker and was not afraid to forge his own career path, which clearly paid off.

Garrett Gee: Lucky Hunch

Just before the Ipad 2 came out, a young university student named Garrett Gee had the hunch that there would be blog posts all over the web listing the top 10 apps for the new device. Garrett then came up with the idea that there should be much easier QR code software and apps to use with the new device. Because Garrett felt that he was on to something, he go to work immediately.Had to act quickly to be the first to implement his idea. After quickly getting an Ipad 2 into the hands of his ios developer, Garrett spent two sleepless nights developing his service before it was completed. He named his app Scan and recruited two fellow classmates to help develop the service further and it was finally launched in February of 2011. In the first year, Scan earned over 10 million downloads and made over 1.5 million dollars from venture capitalists such as Google Ventures.

In class we have talked about how many ideas originally stem from a lucky hunch like Garrett’s. When a hunch is taken seriously, it can lead to big ideas and successful accomplishments like the scan application. Hunches are able to develop by clashing with other people’s ideas and hunches. After getting the input of his two fellow classmates, Garrett’s hunch was improved and transformed into the extremely successful idea of Scan.

SparkVision – MaryBeth Hyland

SparkVision – Igniting Advocates

SparkVision is a business that helps other businesses, such as associations, corporates, non-profit businesses, and more. Seeking to build a healthy, thriving, environment for team members and employees, SparkVision helps businesses connect their members through interpersonal connection.

The end result?

Teams that are better able and more willing to

collaborate, empathize,

and achieve together.”

Life Lens

MaryBeth Hyland, founder of SparkVision, didn’t always have a vision.

Growing up, she suffered abuse from her father, who told her that she was never going to amount to anything. The abuse that she endured from her parent has stayed with her throughout the rest of her life– it still affects her to this day– and she has a hard time coping with “success.”

However, using the pain and emotional abuse she experienced has led her to gain insight into minds of others. She is able to empathize and connect with others. Her past experiences has allowed her to culminate a business that is centered around connecting with others.

While I had not heard of SparkVision until recently, I find it inspiring that Hyland used her past experiences to cultivate a business that would give others the emotional connection and benefits that she never had. She ensures that business organizations would have teams full of connection– because where there is connection, there is purpose, and the organization thrives from happy, connected members.

Warby Parker: Making Glasses Cheap Again

Warby Parker has reimagined the eyewear industry as the first company to introduce affordable eyewear that can be purchased online. The company offers prescription eyeglasses for a flat $95 and has a number of stylish options. Customers can order a number of different eyeglasses, try them on at home, and return the pairs that they do not want. The idea started with a simple question. Why are glasses not sold online? Founder, Neil Blumenthal asked that question so he recruited three friends and Warby Parker was born. However, the company ran into problems early on. Forty-eight hours after the website had launched, it had to be taken down because they received so many orders. The website did not indicate when a product sold out which led to a 20,000 person wait list. Eventually, they sorted out their website issues and are currently making waves in the industry.

This company peaked my interest because of Warby Parker’s ability to recognized gaps in the marketplace. Currently, Luxottica has a near monopoly in the eyeglasses industry. While Luxottica controls the brick-and-mortar sales, they do not address the online market. Neil Blumenthal saw that gap in the market and was able to capitalize on it. However, the problem he solved wasn’t complicated, it was simple. Sometimes the best ideas are the simplest.