Whether you’re a 15-year-old with a dream or a 40-something starting over, these little ladies prove no one can tell you how old you have to be to make it big.
Catherine Cook — webpreneur
At ages 15 and 16 respectively, Catherine Cook and her brother David hatched a plan while flipping through their high school yearbook — to create a free online version that was interactive. In 2005, they convinced their older brother Geoff, who was himself a web entrepreneur, to invest $250,000 of start-up capital (and a little of his web-design mojo) to help them build and launch the social networking site myYearbook.com.
The unique thing about this social network was that it was by high school kids for high school kids. Later, they added free online study guides for members. The secret to Catherine’s success? She and her brother stuck with their niche audience and really listened to what they wanted, including refusing to rake in additional revenue by placing ads on the members’ profile pages.
A short time ago, the site became MeetMe, a place where you can meet people near you while playing fun games, where Catherine Cook acts as the VP of brand strategy.
No one knows exactly how much this gal is worth, but an unidentified investor said these young entrepreneurs raked in well over a cool million.
Bella Weems — jewelry designer
Bella Weems didn’t have aspirations of becoming a self-made millionaire. Like most teens, she just wanted her parents to buy her a car for her 16th birthday. But Mom and Dad said no dice. “You have to work for what you have. Things can’t just be given to you,” says Chrissy Weems, Bella’s mother.
She parlayed $350 of babysitting money and a super-creative idea into a 700-employee-strong company worth $250,000,000. Oragami Owl started out as a way for people to make their own custom “lockets” that really tell a story. Now people host Jewelry Bar parties across the nation.
Makes you think twice about agreeing to buy your kid a car.
Ashley Qualls — theme master
As a teenager, Ashley Qualls started a little website called WhateverLife.com, where she posted free MySpace themes she created for girls her age. Little did she know that idea would lead to serious cash. She was contacted by Ian Moray, marketing director of ValueClick Media, about adding shared-revenue ads to her site, which attracted several hundred-thousand girls a day (more than many popular teen magazine websites).
At first she said no, but she later changed her mind. Eventually, the site made her one of the youngest millionaires in the country. So, when did 40-year-old Moray find out his business partner was 17? When he got a call from FastCompany asking for an interview.
Now that MySpace has become a music site, Qualls has closed up shop. She’s currently working as the creative directer and social media marketer at her own company, Lucky Soul Clothing. I wonder if she ever paid her mom back that $8 she loaned her to buy the domain?
Maddie Bradshaw — upcycling guru
Maddie Bradshaw’s family has always been into recycling. At the tender age of 10, she decorated her locker with old bottle caps she’d painted, and her friends loved them. She loved them so much, too, that she decided to turn them into necklaces. And if she and her friends liked them, why not everyone else?
So she took $300 she’d saved up from gifts and the tooth fairy, used it to buy supplies and made 50 necklaces. She called them Snap Caps and asked the local toy store to sell them. They were all gone in a few hours. Fast-forward three years later, and she’d already made her first million.
But she’s more than just the founder of 40-employee company m3 girl designs. She wrote a book called You Can Start a Business, Too, and founded a new jewelry line, “Spark of Life,” geared toward older teens.
Juliette Brindak — webpreneur
Another 10-year-old, Juliette Brindak, launched the site Miss O and Friends as a website by girls for girls. The site features games, quizzes, advice on boys and more. She’s also launched a branded line of books.
Today, she works with her family to keep providing the same quality content for teens she started with, has done a TEDx Talk and is the writer of a syndicated column called KidsCounsel where she gives advice to young girls.