The Secret Decoder Ring for the Millenial Entrepreneur
In the age of thriving startups, young entrepreneurs are fueling innovation in American business. Now, more than ever, Millennials are seeing the appeal of being the boss. Sixty-two percent of Millennials have considered starting their own businesses, and 72 percent think startups are “essential for new innovation and jobs,” according to The Millennial Economy.
￼But having a problem to solve is one thing. Creating a successful business is another.
Some of the young business founders who are dominating their industries reveal their path to entrepreneurship and share their secrets to take an idea to market.
Find a Meaningful Purpose
Yunha Kim (27) is determined to help her fellow high-achieving Millennials de-stress. A former investment banker on Wall Street, Kim found her stress levels were unmanageable. She started meditating to help her relax, and found that apps proved a reliable source, but were difficult to fit into her schedule.
“I actually became a power user of meditation apps,” Kim said. “After a few months, I was inspired to create a meditation app specifically for busy people like me, with 5-minute meditations from a variety of top teachers.”
Kim created Simple Habit, an innovative platform that offers 5-minute sessions specifically targeted to certain problems, such as managing workplace stress, improving sleep, improving focus, and harnessing creativity. Just this year, Kim was named to Forbes’ 30 Under 30 List, and her user base has skyrocketed. Her business is now helping thousands destress and find relaxation.
“Stress is a modern epidemic,” Kim said. “I saw a huge opportunity to solve meaningful problems and build a thriving business in this space.”
Listen to your team
Nick Candito (29) started his career in the pharmaceutical industry where he was exposed to the disorganization of old-fashioned paper procedures and regulations. He knew companies needed a better way to execute their business practices to streamline operations.
“It provided a unique insight around how traditional industries operate,” Candito said of his time in the pharmaceutical industry. “Riddled with siloed information and fragmented tools. The idea for Progressly started at that point.”
In light of the need for a better solution, Candito co-founded Progressly, an innovative platform that allows businesses to centralize core processes, examine business analytics, and secure information, all while working collaboratively with other team members. Candito created a business solution that is setting a new standard for how businesses operate, and has created a successful team to lead it.
“Your one fundamental responsibility is to make decisions that will allow for you and your team to be successful,” Candito said of owning a business. “Ask for feedback and see if you can connect the dots.”
Ask for Help
Zachary Watson (33) is another young entrepreneur revolutionizing his industry. In his previous work as a generalist investor, he reviewed investment proposals, including those for senior housing.
“I learned about the scale of problems facing our country as a result of shifting demographics,” Watson said. “I knew there was technology that could lower the cost of senior housing, but there hadn’t been a company to successfully utilize it.”
Seeing a niche he could positively fill with a better solution, Watson founded HoneyCo, a unique option for baby boomers to “unretire” and maintain their independent lives while still being monitored through non-invasive technology. A Stanford MBA program graduate, Watson has created a multi-million-dollar business from his idea. But he didn’t do it alone – Watson quickly realized he needed people to depend on.
“In the early days, I thought that everything had to go through me, but in a startup that gets overwhelming fast,” Watson said. “Help isn’t an admission of defeat, it’s a signal of self-awareness.”
Solve a Problem
Nathan Rothstein (32) and Ross Lohr (32) thought it surprising that many sentimental t-shirts from the United States ended up in landfills or donated to other parts of the world. Attempting to repatriate (return to the country of origin) these t-shirts to the U.S., Rothstein and Lohr founded Project Repat and created a solution for Americans to keep their sentimental t-shirts by repurposing them into quilts.
“We knew there was an endless amount of clothes, and many of the clothes that were donated ended up in landfills,” Rothstein said. “We launched the t-shirt quilts on Groupon, and sold 2,000 in a week! There was pent up demand in the marketplace for an affordable t-shirt quilt.”
In the five years since introducing the quilts, Project Repat has sold over 150,000. Creating the unique product filled a need that few realized was there.
“If you offer something, and you don’t have to tell the story behind it, and it’s solving a problem for people, then you have the right idea,” Rothstein said of finding the right idea to start a business around.
Remember to Team Build
Three million students take the SAT or ACT tests every year, creating an evergreen market for a solution that could help students study for and succeed at these defining tests. To help students and parents with this preparation, Tom Rose (34) founded Testive, an online modernized approach to studying for the SAT and ACT. He combined his two careers – engineering and education – to create a unique combination of technology and education for optimal learning and preparation.
“Navigating the test prep process is rife with anxiety, especially in this day of hyper-scheduled kids,” Rose said. “Diminishing that fear by being prepared and confident is a universal need that parents and students alike want to address.”
Testive offers a personalized experience for each student to unlock their individual potential, and aids with planning, assessing, and coaching for success. The goal is to humanize education, and instead of just throwing information at students, Testive helps them absorb it while motivating them to learn more. Rose has created a better solution for students nationwide, and has created an innovative business around this unique issue.
His team of developers and educators has successfully encouraged hundreds of students, but they also found support within their own team.
“Not only is it impossible to do everything by myself,” Rose said. “But team building is more important than sales growth. Sales can happen at any time, but team building takes slow, deliberate persistence.”
Like these five founders demonstrate, the path to success isn’t limited to climbing the corporate ladder. Finding an innovative solution and building a business from the ground up is still the American dream.