TweenA wise generation trains its youth for leadership and business ownership. Doing so helps to prevent gains made by a previous generation from eroding over time. On October 13, 2010, President Barack Obama acknowledged the efforts of a group of teens from around the country. They were the winners in the National Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge. Four of the winners are still in high school.

Teen Leaders in Action

Some youth like Long Island’s Leanna Archer begin thinking about starting a business when they are only seven or eight years old. Leanna Archer is a 15 year-old African-American girl who owns Leanna, Inc. Her company sells and distributes natural hair products. Supportive parents can help their children realize their dreams of business ownership. “Other kids find it fascinating that Leanna rung the stock market bell at only 13 years old,” says her father, Gregory Archer.

Ephren Taylor went into business when he was 13 years old as well. He read a book about creating video games and then started to make and sell his own videos. He sold 30 copies of his videos the first time out. Ten years later at 23 years old, Taylor has become the youngest African-American to serve as the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of a publicly owned company. His company, City Capital Corporation, sells and distributes computer sweepstakes. The software is used on more than 3,000 computers in retail stores and high traffic locations throughout the country. City Capital Corporation has offices in several states including North Carolina, Texas, Florida, and Massachusetts.

Social media networks like Facebook started by Mark Zuckerberg, Dustin Moskovitz, Eduardo Saverin and Chris Hughes were started by youth who were in their late teens or early 20s.  Zuckerberg was only 19 years old when he launched Facebook. As of 2010, his net worth is reported to be above $6 billion. Not bad progress for a 26-year old.

Support for Teen Entrepreneurs

“Starting your own business is more than just buying things and trying to sell them,” Amy Rosen, CEO of the National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship, told USA Today’s Laura Petrecca in an article released last year. Yet, teens do not have to go it alone.

The National African-American Relationships Institute, the National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship, the National Black Business and Trade Association, and Future Business Leaders of America are a few organizations that work with teens to help prepare them for business ownership. Leadership training, communication skills assessment and strengthening exercises, mentoring, coaching, marketing and financial management skills are provided to teens through programs offered by these and other forward-thinking organizations.

Parents and neighborhoods that embrace teen business ownership enrich their culture and communities.

Throughout history many of tomorrow’s leaders embarked on their life’s mission when they were pre-teens, teens or in their early twenties.

To realize what is involved in owning your own business, teens are advised to:

•    Continue to expand their interests; if a first passion doesn’t yield great results, perhaps a third or fourth will
•    Create a business plan
•    Be organized; keep receipts, tax and licensing papers in a central filing location
•    Market and promote themselves and their businesses
•    Build an interactive Web site
•    Take time to relax and enjoy life
•    Focus on their goals
•    Break goals down into smaller steps so that they can continue to move forward without feeling frustration
•    Encourage themselves regularly
•    Surround themselves with people who believe in their vision and who support them and their goals
•    Hire wisely; know when to seek help and hire staff that can get the job done

Teens can also reach out to adult business owners whom their parents know and trust. Ask them to share valuable skills and lessons they have learned. For example, a teen interested in owning a television station could ask a neighbor who works at a major network to show them how to produce a one-hour feature.

The fact that teens from around the globe have started successful businesses is proof that it can be done. That major hurdle has long been conquered. Now teens simply have to learn about their fields of interest and gain the knowledge and tools to launch their own companies. Resources, like the ones noted in this article, are available to help them do just that.

Additional reporting contributed by Sergie Willoughby.