Young Entrepreneurs- How these 20-somethings are making it BIG

Think big. Start young. Hire yourself.

How difficult is it to start early in life? With all the resources and support just a call away, starting young is the best thing you can do for your future.

We bring to you a little inspiration that can help you take the big step. Presenting superstars of the future.

1. Twice

bl1Twice founded by Calvin Young and Noah Ready Campbell.

Campbell says, ‘I remember I really liked Brooks Brothers shirts. I got one that had a $250 price tag on it for $10.’

Noah, a Chinese immigrant is from a small town and remembers that the only way he could afford to comply with his school dress codes was to shop at a seconds shop.

These early experiences, and their challenges with selling their used goods online, were the inspirations for Twice. “Noah and I were used to buying and selling things on eBay,” says Young. Their biggest pains were taking photos of items, answering a bunch of questions from the buyer, and shipping the goods. So, Young adds, Twice seeks to “abstract away all of that pain.”

The company allows sellers to ship a box full of laundered used clothes to Twice, which gives the seller a single, all-or-nothing offer for the items that were sent. If the offer is accepted (as it is in 97 percent of cases), Twice uses a proprietary software program called Vulcan, designed by Young, to take photos of the items, color correct the images, determine suitable prices, and upload the photos and descriptions to the Twice website. When Ready-Campbell and Young first got their idea, they wanted to determine if sellers would trust them enough to send their clothes with just the promise of possible payment. So they launched a rudimentary website, and when boxes of clothes started arriving, they knew they were onto something. They used investor funds to buy 1,000 pieces of clothing at Goodwill to prime the site, and the inventory sold down faster than they predicted. Today, the company buys items directly from sellers and the products are stored in the company’s warehouse and then shipped to buyers for just $4.95 per order, or free for orders over $49.

2. Enplug

bl2Enplug: An Operating System for Digital Billboards founded by Navdeep Reddy, Zach Spitulski, Nanxi Liu, and Alex Ross

Enplug was basically started with a motive to focus on digital signage – from jumbotrons in stadiums to TV displays in restaurants–because one unifying software platform didn’t exist for the medium. Smart billboards and jumbotrons, like the ones in Times Square, require expensive custom development work because there is no universal operating system that can host apps and commands. Think about how a smartphone would work without an operating system: You’d have to program every action yourself. Enplug’s operating system and app market help businesses get a display up and running, with whatever apps they want to use, faster and cheaper than before. “The technology for displays had not changed in decades, most were just running slideshows through PowerPoint,” says Liu. “It made no sense to us, especially looking at the evolution of personal computers to smartphones. We thought it was archaic.”

3. CoachUp

bl3Coachup founded by Gabe Durazo, Arian Radmand and Jordan Fliegel.

These young entrepreneurs have already provided coaches for 100,000 athletes.

Jordan Fliegel, founder and president of Coachup, wasn’t a great basketball player as a kid. Poor footwork. An average shot. He rode the bench for his high school freshman basketball team in Cambridge, Massachusetts, only faintly grasping the game’s fundamentals and nuances. It wasn’t until he met a coach at camp that summer that he began to understand what it took to succeed on the hardwood.

Three years after its launch, CoachUp connects over 13,000 trainers with more than 100,000 clients nationwide. The site vets each coach upon their signing up, then tracks reviews and response rates to ensure they remain up to par–providing athletes with an easy and safe way to improve their skill set. CoachUp offers specialties in 25 sports, from baseball and football to swimming and yoga. The company takes a small percentage of the coach’s fee for each session. In exchange it provides an instant payment tool, a session calendar, and $100,000 in liability insurance–not to mention a self-advertising platform that didn’t exist just a few years ago. The majority of CoachUp’s athletes range from grade school up through high school–a natural pyramid, as Fliegel points out, with the best athletes most likely to continue through high school graduation.

4. NatureBox

bl4NatureBox founded by Ken Chen and Gautam Gupta.

As a teenager, NatureBox co-founder Gautam Gupta was overweight, as roughly two-thirds of Americans are today. He ate poorly, and knew very little about dietary health.

Then, in his senior year of high school, he lost 70 pounds in six months: “I was fortunate enough to learn about nutrition,” he says.  It was a discovery that Gupta wouldn’t soon forget.

Years later, in 2012, after spending much of his career working for venture capital firm General Catalyst Partners, Gupta decided to quit his job and start a business with his best friend, Ken Chen. Gupta wanted to bring healthful, carefully sourced snack foods to consumers like his younger self. “Starting a company was an opportunity to combine a professional interest with that passion,” he says.

Consumers order from an online Snack Catalog, which includes nutritionist-approved items that cater to their dietary needs and preferences. Unlike some of his competitors, Gupta private-labels all products under the NatureBox brand, rather than sourcing them through third-party vendors. The ingredients come primarily from independent manufacturers and farms, although the company refused to disclose specific partners.

To date, NatureBox has raised $28.5 million over two funding rounds from investors Red Point, Canaan, and SoftBank, as well as from Gupta’s former employer, General Catalyst.  The company brought in nearly $50 million in revenue in 2014, more than double that of 2013.  NatureBox also boasts one million Facebook fans, and expects to ship as many as five million boxes in 2015. The company is projecting $100 million in revenue this year.

5. BucketFeet

bl5BucketFeet founded by Aaron Firestein and Raaja Nemani.

Unemployed and adventurous, Aaron Firestein moved to Argentina after graduating from college to study Spanish and volunteer with L.I.F.E. Argentina, a nonprofit that serves kids living in extreme poverty. That’s where he met Raaja Nemani, who had recently quit a job in finance to travel the world for a year. He and Firestein wound up at the same organization.

“We met playing soccer with street kids,” recalls Firestein, who had an artistic bent and had been drawing designs on canvas shoes since college. Nemani admired them and Firestein sold him a pair. And so the seeds for BucketFeet were planted. The partners didn’t go into business together immediately. Nemani wore the shoes on the remainder of his trip around the world, and found that his original footwear sparked conversation–and envy–wherever he went. “At the end of his trip, he approached me and said, ‘This is a cool idea, and we should turn it into a company,'” recalls Firestein, whose college nickname was “Bucket.”

The company now collaborates with more than 13,000 artists globally to produce canvas shoes with original designs. BucketFeet now collaborates with more than 13,000 artists globally to produce canvas shoes with original designs.

Have an idea that can strike the deal for you as an Entrepreneur? We say go for it! Give your leadership skills, innovation and dreams a chance. Passion and hardwork will always pay off. And remember, you are never too young to dream big.

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