Here’s two key takeaways from looking at trends among young entrepreneurs: if you want a successful business, your brand should be socially conscious, and social media should be your No. 1 marketing tool.
Young people have climbed their way to the top of the entrepreneurial ladder. A 2016 Global Entrepreneur report showed millennial-run businesses outperformed baby boomer businesses by 43% in terms of annual turnover, the rate at which goods or assets of a business sell. And Gen Z is predicted to be more entrepreneurial than ever, too.
But the up-and-coming entrepreneurs are thriving for good reason — they’re disrupting norms and breaking barriers that have been standing for one too many years. Women entrepreneurs, for instance, in the same 2016 study cited “making social impact” as one of the top three reasons for their success. And all the while, these socially conscious entrepreneurs are making money from their businesses by reaching a like-minded customer base through networks such as TikTok and Instagram.
Among the young women who have caught our eye recently are those challenging Eurocentric beauty and body standards, while others are destigmatizing periods, teaching women financial literacy and creating technology to improve the justice system.
Read below about five women founders under 30 that we believe are worth a watch.
1. Cami Tellez, Parade
Tellez co-founded Parade — an affordable, comfort-first underwear brand for all body types — with $3.5 million in seed funding when she was just an undergraduate at Columbia University in 2019. She then dropped out to become full time CEO of the company, which is currently valued at nearly $140 million, according to CNBC.
Tellez, 23, relies heavily on marketing to Gen Z. In the earlier days of the business, Parade would send out its underwear out to college students who would then show off their ethically-made boyshorts and hip huggers on their Instagram accounts. The appeal of the brand comes from it’s body inclusivity, steering away from the Victoria-Secret-model standard.
Now the company has secured backing from celebrity figures such as Shakira and Karlie Kloss. Parade is set to open a brick-and-mortar “experience” in New York’s Soho neighborhood next month after a recent $20 million Series B funding round.
2. Tori Dunlap, Her First $100K
Rumor has it: Dunlap could retire next year if she wanted to. At the age of 26, she has apparently found the secret ingredients to saving money (smart investments!) and is now sharing her expertise with women across the world through her financial education business, Her First $100K.
Dunlap’s own personal goal was to save $100,000 by the age of 25. After having successfully carried out her plan, she then saw an opportunity to create a full-fledged business out of her financial journey. She says she has since helped over 1.5 million women through her finance courses, teaching them how to save money, invest wisely and build generational wealth. Her business is on track to earn seven figures this year, she told Time Magazine. The founder uses social media for promoting her business and expertise, with 1.7 million followers on TikTok alone.
3. Nadya Okamoto, August
At 23, Okamoto co-founded August, a menstrual wear brand, after she decided she had enough of the stigma around periods. Much like the other companies, August saw a large following through social media.
What makes August different from the traditional menstrual-care brand is not just the fact that the founder will quite literally show off her tampon string on social media, but the products are entirely sustainable. Tampons and pads typically take up to a thousand years to biodegrade, but August is trying to reach “green” menstruation. It is also one of the only brands to get rid of the “tampon tax,” the sales tax imposed on feminine hygiene products.
Okamoto has been in the menstrual industry since the age of 16, when she founded the non-profit organization Period. (Period’s board terminated their contract with Okamoto last summer over accusations of her not being inclusive towards her peers.)
4. Yelitsa Jean-Charles, Healthy Roots Dolls
The typical Barbie doll is blonde with silky straight hair. Nearly every Disney princess, from Rapunzel to Cinderella, shows off the same silky locks. That’s why Jean-Charles, 26, founded Healthy Roots Dolls, so the next generation of young Black women can learn to love their hair from day one, she told Women’s Health.
Jean-Charles launched her first doll, Zoe, in 2019. Zoe’s hair is made of special fibers that can be washed and styled to add to the play experience. The doll became increasingly popular this year, and a $1 million seed round in February helped Jean-Charles reach 1.5 million dollars in total funding to expand her toy line. The founder was featured on this year’s Forbes 30-under-30.
5. Devshi Mehrotra, JusticeText
At 23 years old, this tech entrepreneur and University of Chicago grad co-founded JusticeText, an audiovisual evidence management software for public defenders to speed up the pretrial process. The software can generate automated transcripts of body cam footage, interrogation videos or jail calls, and it identifies key parts of transcripts to help attorneys easily generate video evidence.
The inspiration for the product came during Mehrotra’s freshman year of college when Laquan McDonald, an unarmed 17-year-old Black man, was shot 16 times by police. In the days to follow, one thing became clear, Mehrotra wrote in a blog: the police possessed numerous technologies for their own needs, but public defendants lacked technological resources.
JusticeText has raised funding from multiple companies including 500 Startups, and is piloting software with public defendants in Washington D.C, Houston, Cincinnati and Queens, according to this year’s Forbes 30-under-30 for Social Impact.