Young entrepreneurs making the leap to millionaire
Changing the way we do business
The current generation is leading the nation in a number of areas, namely technology. In the past 30 years we have changed the way that the world communicates and plays games, and now it seems that Generation Y is getting into the business side of life at a much earlier age.
More than at any other time in history we have produced a large crop of under-30 businesspeople, entrepreneurs and millionaires. From Mark Zuckerberg, the inventor of Facebook, to Sean Parker, who gave the world Napster, we have introduced newer and cooler millionaires, and a younger, more attainable level of success to which we can aspire.
But a problem has been that few of these wunderkinds making it big looked like us or came from our neighborhoods, and a common misconception arose that the only way to get paid like Parker was to lay some clever wordplay over a hot beat or develop a wicked jump shot.
But now, it seems that more and more African American youth are shattering the under-30 barrier and realizing that there is more than one way to win at Who Wants to be a Millionaire? And they are taking their ideas straight to the bank.
Take Ephren Taylor, for example. At 27, Taylor is the youngest CEO of any publicly traded company in the history of the United States.
He began his first business venture as a videogame developer at the age of 12 and built a multimillion dollar technology company, GoFerretGo.com, by the age of 17.
So far he’s successfully developed other multimillion dollar initiatives, ranging from affordable housing for working-class families to the production of biofuels. One of his companies was on the “Top 100 Socially Conscious Corporations in the United States” list produced by the Wall Street Journal.
Taylor is now a nationally recognized authority on personal wealth and entrepreneurial development, an author, inspirational speaker and business mentor.
Farrah Gray is a businessman, social entrepreneur, philanthropist, best-selling author, syndicated columnist, and motivational speaker. He is also the CEO of Farrah Gray Publishing. Gray began his entrepreneurial career at age 6, selling home-made body lotion and his own hand-painted rocks as bookends door to door. By 8, Gray had become co-founder of Urban Neighborhood Enterprise Economic Club (U.N.E.E.C.) on Chicago’s South Side and New Early Entrepreneur Wonders (NE2W), the organization he opened on Wall Street. Gray is the youngest person to have an office on Wall Street.
Gray’s first big business venture Farr-Out Foods, “Way-Out Food with a Twist,” earned him more than $1.5 million in revenue.
The Farrah Gray Foundation focuses on entrepreneurship education and provides scholarship and grant assistance for students from at-risk backgrounds to attend Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).
Amos Winbush III came up with the idea for CyberSynchs after his iPhone broke and he lost all his contacts. That night he decided to figure out a way to synchronize data between his phone and his computer so that if he ever lost his phone contacts again all his information would still be accessible through his PC.
That summer Winbush found a software engineer through Craigslist, and by the fall, he met with two executives from Sun Microsystems. The two companies eventually partnered to make CyberSynchs’s software compatible with Sun’s JavaFX platform, which is used for more than one billion devices. CyberSynchs launched its service in November 2008, and within two weeks, 13,000 subscribers had signed up. Now the company has approximately 500,000 users.
Winbush also has his eye on overseas expansion. CyberSynchs already partners with telecom company Vonify in the Philippines, and the company plans to enter the United Kingdom this fall.
Tina Wells is the CEO of Buzz Marketing Group, an agency that specializes in youth needs, desires and trends, and reports these trends to the Fortune 500 companies targeting them.
Wells began her career at 16, writing product reviews for The New Girl Times, a national newspaper based in New York City. Soon companies were hiring her to review the products and offer feedback through the eyes of a teenager. So many companies began sending her products that she couldn’t review them all on her own. To remedy this, Wells hired ten of her friends to help out.
Today, the company is valued at more than $12 million.
Through innovative marketing strategies, research initiatives and youth marketing, Buzz has acquired clients in the fashion, beauty, entertainment, business and lifestyle sectors.
At 24-years-old, Wells is the now the author of the tween series Mackenzie Blue, and the youth marketing handbook Chasing Youth Culture and Getting It Right, which will be published this spring. Wells is also a celebrated blogger on The Huffington Post, and she serves on the board of directors of the Philadelphia Orchestra Association, The Franklin Institute, and The South Jersey Food Bank.
Jermaine Griggs is the CEO of Hear and Play Music, an online guide to learning how to play musical instruments by ear, that he started when he was 16. Griggs has made more than $4 million since he began Hear and Play Music. More than 2 million upcoming music stars go through his lessons and read his newsletters.
Griggs, like most of the aforementioned entrepreneurs, is no one-trick pony. Aside from Hear and Play Music, Griggs owns GospelKeys Productions, founded Nitty Gritty Marketing, and plans to soon break into real-estate. It is estimated that Griggs brings in about $3 million annually.
These young African Americans are paving the way for other youth to follow in their footsteps.
Some, but not all, are college educated, yet they have found what worked for them and capitalized on it. At a young age they were business-minded and that carried them into a successful adulthood. They are true inspirations and are proving to everyone that the only color that truly matters is America is green.
Billionaire Facebook investor Peter Thiel, recently launched the Thiel Fellowship—a new program that will support 20 techy under 20-years-old with entrepreneurs grants of up to $100,000 each.
Although still very cautious, cognizant of starting a firestorm that can become instantly uncontrollable, a growing number of African American leaders and spokespersons are asking the Obama administration, “OK, you’re a second-termer now—not running for reelection . . . . Where is the love you’re supposed to show us?”
Social networking, which seems to have magically appeared on the stage only about 10 years ago, virtually dominates many American lives today, from the way we receive information, communicate, interact with one another to the way we do business.
In many cases, we tweet, text, link-in rather than talk. We carry electronic tablets to read books, magazines and newspapers, and we scroll through the Internet to catch up on what’s happening around our cities, nation and world.
Angelenos have had enough.
After receiving billions in taxpayer bailouts—money that was intended to free up capital and get banks lending again—the large corporate banks sat on their hands and their wallets.
When I was in high school, an old man told me, “The way out of trouble is never as easy as the way in.”