Archive for Millennial Enrepreneuers

Beautiful Business: Michelle Phan

Michelle Phan is a YouTuber and entrepreneur who turned her passion for beauty into a business. Every week, she posts new content about makeup, hair, and beauty. She started off, much like this website, with blogging about things in which she cared about. As time went on, she amassed more and more followers.

She became famous when she put out a makeup tutorial to show people how to look like Lady Gaga. Michelle became an instant hit. The time leading up to that moment is proof that if you want something, you have to start working towards it. Even though it seems like she became an internet personality overnight, it was really lots of work behind the scenes to make it happen.

When it comes to entrepreneurship, it can be really easy from the outside to point at someone and say “well, they were just lucky.” The thing is, if you want to be a great entrepreneur, you have to accept that it is never just luck. Serendipity, sure. Luck? No. Luck should never be an excuse for not working harder yourself. Michelle combined her talent for makeup and her networking skills to get her work seen. Even if you have the best product, if it isn’t seen, nobody is going to care. Be seen.

The Book of Faces

Have you ever seen this guy?

If you couldn’t guess from the background, he invented Facebook. Some take the internet for granted. When I think about all of the companies that are around today, one thing is noticeably strange to me- there was a time when they did not exist. The statement is obvious as it should be, but there was a time when there was no Facebook. It is odd to me because I grew up with it (whether or not my Mom allowed me to have a Facebook account is an entirely different matter).

How did it come to be? The way all good things come to be- an entrepreneur took initiative. Mark Zuckerberg was a student at Harvard when he and his friends came up with an idea for a website in which people could compare other people to each other. In some respects, it is like some dating apps in which you can view someone’s profile picture and determine if they are attractive or not. At first, this website was limited to those who went to Harvard, but eventually, it spread out to just about anyone above the age of 13.

Mark realized that people like connecting with other people. At the time, there were other “social” sites in which people could view other people’s virtual profile (such as myspace), but Facebook was simply better at delivering what people want over its competitors. In order to be a good entrepreneur, you have to see opportunities and take action. While the story of Facebook’s creation is relatively well known, what is less known, but has become more known recently, is that others who were at Harvard with Mark claim that he stole their idea of Facebook. Whether or not this is the case (which it very well could be) at least he did not sit on those ideas- he went and did something. This is not advocating stealing intellectual property in the pursuit of entrepreneurial endeavors, but I think that far too often “would be” entrepreneurs spend too much time talking about what they are going to do versus what they are actually doing. Mark took action- and that’s what makes him a great entrepreneur.

Té Amo – The Drink That Loves You Back

Grove City College prides itself on faith, freedom, and its entrepreneurship department (amongst other things). One of the fruits of the department is the amazing Mark Sotomayor. I knew Mark when he still went here. He transferred out a couple of months ago to focus on a business idea he had–a company that sells tea and uses its profits to help plant trees. In fact, they plant one free tree for every bottle sold. That’s good for the planet and for your tastebuds!

The business is called Té Amo. I love the name because “te amo” is Spanish for, “I love you,” and thus expresses the social good aspect of the business. Also, it’s a pun because “té” with the accent means tea in Spanish. The recipe was developed by his grandmother and was brought over to the United States when his parents moved here. Now he wants to share this delicious nectar with the world.

I asked Mark what the best and worst thing about being an entrepreneur was and replied:

“Being an entrepreneur is like a heartbeat, there are ups and there are downs but you must keep pumping. If you stop, you (your business) die.”

I think that statement is a great overview of the entrepreneurial lifestyle. There is such a positive social benefit involved, as well as a pleasant drinking experience, why would you not want to get involved? If you are interested in checking out his progress or buying his product, check out the link below!


Save the Storks

Joe and Ann Baker founded Save the Storks in 2011 after living out of a gutted Mercedes van for years. Joe and Ann Baker realized the emotional power of expecting mothers seeing the ultrasounds of their unborn children but because most abortion clinics don’t offer ultrasounds, this provided a gap in the market. They decided to start a company that provided a simple service: giving expectant mothers considering an abortion a free ultrasound. They gathered together investors and employees and began a well-planned movement.

In a slightly poetic manner, they bought the same vans that they lived out of for years and refurbished them with an ultrasound machine and leather couches. They drove these vans to abortion clinics and parked outside. They then invite any expecting mother they see entering or exiting the clinic to come in an see the baby’s ultrasound. Because the vans are clean, sanitary, and professional-looking Save the Storks has a large number of mothers take them up on the offer. According to their website, for every 4 women that see their baby, 3 decide to keep it.

This company is expanding rapidly. To date, they have 50 vans parked at abortion clinics around the nation.

Me and My Golf

As social media becomes more and more of a marketing tool for all kinds of companies, many smaller, niche companies generate most of their business from their social media accounts. Me and My Golf is a small company started by two young golf professionals, Piers Ward and Andy Proudman. The small business offers coaching videos for general advice and tips as well as personalized golf swing analysis. They have a strong presence on Instagram in the golf community and are well known by many of the PGA’s top golfers including Rory Mcilroy, DJ, Speith, Fowler, and many more. They have 130 thousand followers and have great ways of getting people involved including giveaways, free videos, and fun interactive content. While this company is still small, I believe that is where it should be. Golf is slowly declining and Me and My Golf is making it seem fun and less difficult than most believe it is. They are promoting a great game and making money doing so. 

Blair Files

When we were little – 4 or 5 years old – my cousin Blair and I liked sitting on the rocky coast of Maine with paper and crayons, drawing what we imagined to be grand scenes of the mighty ocean; to anyone else, those pictures looked like a bunch of scribbles. As the years past, my pictures were still just scribbles – I have roughly the same degree of artistic talent as an elephant holding a paint brush in its trunk; Blair was a different story: it quickly became apparent that she had real talent as an illustrator. She loved to draw and she was good at it. Over the years she also picked up talent with paint and sculpture.

Jump forward to when we were a pair of 18-year-olds trying to make one of the biggest choices of our lives: COLLEGE. I was bound for the liberal arts, Blair for the fines arts; we both got our first choice: for me, Grove City College, for Blair, the prestigious Rhode Island School of Design. We were all so proud of her: despite the fact that no one in the recorded history of our family had ever done anything as impractical as going to art school, we were blown away by her talent and thrilled that she had been accepted to what is arguably one of the greatest art schools in the world.

So, we both packed our bags and shipped off for school. But while I immediately felt that I had made the right choice, Blair was plagued by doubts: not doubts about her choice to be an artist, but with questions about whether she was ready for this. She decided she wasn’t. After two weeks on campus she realized that she had a lot of personal growing to do and that RISD was not the place to do it – not yet, anyway. Of course, it was all a bit more complicated than that, but for the sake of brevity I won’t go into more detail.

Thus, Blair found herself taking a spontaneous gap year. In all honesty, she had always wanted to take a year off before college, but now that she was doing so, she didn’t have a plan. But these things always seem to work out in the end: she was offered the chance to go to Scotland to work for six months – something else she had always wanted to do. The only problem: travel is expensive!!!

But, undaunted as ever, Blair came up with a solution: she was an artist, and she was going to support herself as such! She had already created a large and impressive portfolio of original pieces, so she launched a website to sell prints of her work to support her trip abroad. She also started working for commission. 

Anyway, skipping ahead a little bit: Blair made it to Scotland where she had the incredible opportunity to work for YoungLife Ministries. In her work, she saw the incredible darkness that comes with a life without Jesus Christ: she saw kids who desperately needed Christ, and new that she was called to share Him with them. But it was very well to do so for six months in a youth camp, but what about back in America? She was going to be an artist, not a minister.

Well, like I said, Blair knew that she had a lot of growing to do: and grow she did. While she was in Scotland she had the chance to explore what it meant to use one’s talents for God; she learned that our gifts are not our own, but are to be used in service to the Lord. What did that mean for a 19-year-old who wanted to draw, but who also wanted to do more than illustrate children’s Bibles?

Eventually she found the answer: she decided not to go back to RISD but instead to enroll in the University of Delaware which had a program in Visual Communication – there, she would not only get a degree in fine art, but also in communications and visual media, learning the skills she would need to communicate truth through her art. She recognized that art isn’t just about creating beauty: it’s about creating the kind of beauty that points the viewer to the author of all things beautiful.

Today, Blair is a Junior at University of Delaware, still working to complete her degree. She is also still selling work through her website to help support her studies. Her story as an entrepreneur is still in it’s early chapters: much of it is still unwritten. Thus far, she has had enough success to allow her to fund the studies that we are confident will one day allow her to share the message that we are all called to spread. We don’t know what she will draw, who she will draw for, or what she will say through her art. But we know that she as chosen a profession that is, above all, about communication, and that she has the greatest story of all to communicate. Through her website and commissioned work she has already been able to start reaching people – now all that’s left is to watch her grow!

I like Blair’s story because it serves an in important reminder of the fact that entrepreneurship doesn’t have to mean something huge: sometimes its something as small as selling art to fund travel. Its also important to remember that as Christians we have a higher calling in whatever we do: to serve the Lord. Blair became an entrepreneur because she was a broke almost-college-student who needed to get to Scotland. Once there, she discovered that her true calling really was art, not business. Now, she’s learning what she wants to say with her art and how she wants to say it. Will she one day go into business for herself as an artist/entrepreneur? Who can say: I personally think that art is a form of entrepreneurship…. The important thing is that we serve the Lord in all we do – be it painting scenes of the cross or painting scenes of nature; running a “Christian Business” or running a “Secular business” that operates on Christian principles. I believe that finding ways to serve the Lord in all that we do is the highest calling of any entrepreneur and that turning our work into a way of serving God is in itself an entrepreneurial act.

Blair also reminds us that we don’t necessarily have to “paint the cross” to serve the Lord. I look at the things she creates and see the Master’s hand: whether she is painting the portrait of a child of God or something silly that just popped into her head, I see the kind of true beauty that is precious not because of who created it or what they created, but because it came from the hand of a woman who loves God and who knows who her talent is from and what it is for.

Ollie Dee Design

What makes Ollie Dee Design special is not so much what they do (it’s a pretty run-of-the mill custom design company that largely works with other small businesses) but the story they tell: Ollie Dee Smith is the grandfather of a dear friend of mine: Leigh Anne. Growing up, Leigh Anne watched her grandfather struggle as an entrepreneur but also saw the triumph of hard work and success. What did she learn form all this? She learned that if something is worth doing, it is worth doing well.

And that’s how she markets herself: as a young designer who is passionate about what she does and about helping others grow their businesses. And since that is the work she has chosen for herself, she is dedicated to doing it well! She takes her “old school work ethic” and adds to it “modern branding and design”. Leigh Anne promises her customers open communication, honest criticism, and level-headed guidance as they work together to provide high quality product to a market infatuated by all things fast, cheap, or easy.

We’ve all heard it before: “they just don’t make things the way they used to;” “we weren’t afraid of hard work back in my day;” “if young people would only take a little pride in their work, things would be better”… We’ve all heard this type of thing a thousand times; most of us role our eyes and assume that our grandparents are just nostalgic for their youth. But not Leigh Anne! She had the wisdom and humility to recognize that her Grandfather’s success as an entrepreneur wasn’t a coincidence. She saw that he had valuable insight to offer, so she built her business around the values he taught her. After all: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!

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 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 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.