At a time of high levels of youth joblessness – the latest U.S. figures show that the unemployment rate for workers under 25 is over 16 percent – some are betting that the best chance for finding a job, is creating one.
Over the past month, we have been interviewing young women who have started their own businesses to understand how they’ve came so far, so fast.
What we found is a group who are fearless in the face of uncertainty and simply propel themselves forward without over thinking the obstacles.
We spoke to Jessica Matthews, who together with her college classmate Julia Silverman, came up with an idea for a soccer ball that doubles as an eco-friendly portable generator, which can help light up communities with limited access to electricity.
The two worked on their product – dubbed the sOccket – for a university class project, having no idea how they could functionally make it work. The pair knew they needed engineers to help design their product but many were skeptical.
So they booked their tickets to Africa. They were able to show how well their concept resonated with the people there, which in turn convinced the engineers to come on board.
Matthews and Silverman could have easily given up but instead, they got busy. As a result, their new enterprise has about 6,000 sOcckets confirmed for distribution to developing countries in Africa, Central America, and Asia, with more roll outs planned soon.
When Garg was starting Gobble, she knew she needed more capital to get her venture off the ground. She was trying to break through to Silicon Valley’s top investors – she wasn’t the only one – and getting introductions wasn’t easy.
But Garg persisted and finally got to Reid Hoffman, co-founder of LinkedIn. She not only convinced him to invest (she raised a total of over $1.2 million from investors in 2011) but also to become a key advisor to her company.
“Being the only woman in a room full of 100 male CEOs, you stand out … [so] you need to be there and prove that you’re paving the way and you’re just as qualified and important as anyone else,” Garg told us.
And then there was Tara Haughton, who at 16, came up with the idea of creating stickers to adhere to high-heeled shoes to give them a unique designer-like look.
She tried and failed to find a material that would stick to the soles of shoes and then enlisted the help of her father, who helped her come up with a solution.
He soon turned into her first employee and barely gets a day off work. Two years after starting her business, Rosso Solini, Haughton is taking orders from 23 countries and her “designer sole makeover kit” is sold in 150 stores throughout Ireland.
Cheryl Yeoh made what some might argue is the bravest decision of all: she pulled the plug on her business, CityPockets – a web service to keep track of daily deals that she started in 2010 after raising $750,000 — and developed a new one from the ashes.
When she realized there was a problem with her business model, Yeoh went back to the drawing board and started a new site, Reclip.It, a social catalog for deals, which combines features from Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest to create a shopping destination for the budget-conscious.
As Yeoh put it: “I don’t give up. I’m definitely meant to be an entrepreneur.”
These entrepreneurs are paving the way for the next generation and are role models for an emerging movement inspiring young people to start their own businesses.
For example, at the Association for Enterprise Opportunity conference last week, I learned about the Extreme Entrepreneurship tour, which travels to colleges, universities and other venues around the country to promote youth entrepreneurship.
Then there’s the Young Entrepreneurs Council’s initiative #FixYoungAmerica, which is looking for proposals to alleviate youth unemployment, and that includes entrepreneurship (their baby mascot deserves a shout out).
It’s inspiring to see young people taking initiative, solving problems and giving back — especially at a time when joblessness is a major issue. And we at The Story Exchange can’t wait to see even more.
Posted: May 8, 2012