Mark Zuckerberg, co-founder of Facebook, and his geek-to-billionaire story is the inspiration of the new hit movie The Social Network. “Young people are just smarter,” he told a Stanford University audience in 2007. Zuckerberg started Facebook from his Harvard dorm in 2004 as a sophomore. Now he’s a 26-year-old philanthropist, recently donating $100 million to the Newark, N.J., school district.
Zuckerberg’s youthful fame and fortune makes a great come up story. But across America every year, plenty of entrepreneurs make their first million before the age of 25, some in high school. It takes vision, smarts, opportunity, determination and a lot of luck. Here are five of them, along with their advice for achieving wealth and prosperity.
Age now: 45
Title/Company: Founder and CEO, Dell Computers
Made his first million by age: 19
Dell launched his computer company in 1984, just before dropping out of the University of Texas. By selling direct, Dell lowered prices and won over customers. At 24, the company had revenues of $258 million. At last check, his estimated net worth was $13.5 billion.
His advice for young entrepreneurs: “You’ve got to be passionate about it,” he said in an interview with the Academy of Achievement.
“I think people that look for great ideas to make money aren’t nearly as successful as those who say, ‘Okay, what do I really love to do? What am I excited about?’ ”
Age now: 20
Title/Company: Founder, myyearbook.com
Made her first million by age: 18
In 2005, Catherine and her brother founded the social-networking site, which functions like a digital yearbook with pictures, friends and virtual currency called “lunch money.” Today, it boasts 20 million members and is one of the 25 most-trafficked Web sites in the U.S.
Her advice for young entrepreneurs: “Stop just thinking about it, and make it happen.
When you’re young is the best time to start your own business, as you do not have the responsibilities you will have when you’re older. The worst that can happen if you fail now is that you have firsthand experience to make your next venture a success.”
Age now: 23
Title/Company: Founder, BizChair.com
Made his first million by age: 16
Belnick’s been selling business furnishings online for nearly a decade now, but the recent B.A. graduate of Emory University’s Goizueta School of Business still saw value in a college education.
His advice for young entrepreneurs: “It is never too early to start. I started when I was 14.There was a lot of great information on the Internet. Just do the research and find a way to do what you want to do.”
Age now: 21
Title/Company: Cofounder/CEO, MissOandFriends.com
Made her first million by age: 19 (Brindak won’t divulge when she earned her first million, but says that her company was valued at $15 million when she was 19)
At 10, Brindak started drawing the “cool girls” cartoon figures who became stars in 2005 of her online community for tween girls. Today, she is seeking investors and preparing to take the site public as she attends Washington University in St. Louis.
Her advice for young entrepreneurs:: Find a solid support team who believe in your idea. “If someone starts to doubt your company and what you’re doing, you need to get rid of them.”
Age now: 27
Title/Companies: Founder, Sitepoint, 99 Designs and Flippa
Made his first million by age: 22
Mickiewicz, who launched his first company in 1998, points out that the Internet enables immediate customer feedback, making it relatively inexpensive to test and launch new ideas.
His advice for young entrepreneurs: “People who say it takes money to make money are using the worst excuse ever. . . Create massive value for others by providing a solution where no other exists.”