Seth Goldman’s company, Honest Tea, prides itself on its socially responsible business practices, from using all-natural, organic ingredients, to sourcing sustainable materials to bottle his teas. From the age of four, Goldman was already building on those values. Climbing through the bushes of a golf course near his house, Goldman would find abandoned golf balls and resell them to empty-handed golfers. That’s when Goldman realized it pays to be resourceful.
Sometimes it’s all about making a product that people love. And who doesn’t love sweets? At age seven, Katrina Markoff was already pleasing customers selling treats she made in her Easy Bake Oven. As she got older, she sold her creations to local stores and country clubs and was trained at Le Cordon Bleu, one of the world's best cooking schools. It’s no wonder she became a gourmet chocolate maker. Today, her company, Vosges Haut-Chocolate, sells over $17 million of her creative chocolate treats.
From the time he was 10 years old, Devon Rifkin understood the value in the simple things. Growing up in Miami, Rifkin made money buying Blow-Pop lollipops from his local drugstore and then selling them to his classmates at Southwood Elementary School. His business became so popular that he had his parents contact the company so he could sell the lollipops by the box. Later, he found success with hangers. In 1999, he started The Great American Hanger Co., which makes clothes hangers for big companies like Bloomingdale's and Nike.
It’s hard to resist an ice-cold glass of lemonade on a hot summer day, and when you’ve just finished a run, it’s even more likely you’ll need to quench your thirst. That’s why nine-year-old Jason Finger set up his lemonade stand next to a jogging path in downtown Manhattan, where him and his cousin were sure to get business selling Kool-Aid punch and lemonade. There’s no shortage of business these days, either. Finger founded Seamless Web in 1999, a New York-based online food delivery service, which sold to Aramark in 2006.
Long before he became the CEO of Zappos.com, Hsieh made $100 each month selling photo-buttons by mail. Customers would send him photos and self-addressed envelopes and a 12-year-old Hsieh would transform them into buttons that people could pin on clothing, hats, and backpacks. That early success made him confident as an entrepreneur. Today, people can’t stop ordering their shoes from Zappos.com; the company booked $1 billion in gross sales in 2008.
As a seven-year-old girl, Jenny Craig received a penny for every hard-shell crab she could catch in Lake Pontchartrain, Louisiana, where her family spent the summer. She could catch up to three-dozen crabs in a single day, which her mother then stuffed and sold to local restaurants. Today, Jenny Craig is a household name, known for creating a comprehensive weight-loss program that she turned into an empire. In June 2006, she sold her company to Nestlé for $600 million.
When he was eight-years-old, Aaron Kennedy started two seasonal businesses in Elburn, Illinois – selling greeting cards in the fall, and selling vegetable-seed packets door-to-door in the spring. "I sold to anybody I could get to on my bicycle," Kennedy says. To better understand the customers’ needs, he planted seeds and tended to a garden in his own backyard. Today, he runs Noodles & Company, a 12-state franchise of restaurants that grossed more than $200 million in revenue last year.
Before he helped small companies keep track of the money they pay their employees, Michael Alter, president of SurePayroll, based in Skokie, Illinois, had to get through college. At 15, Alter started saving up by becoming a wedding, bar mitzvah, and special-events photographer. By 17, the company had taken off and he had enough money in the bank to pay his own way through Northwestern University that fall.
Growing up on a farm in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, Barclay kept herself busy making “thumbies,” animal figures she created by dipping her thumb in ink and pressing it onto card stock. She sold them for a quarter each, and she built on that creativity as a teenager, piecing together fabrics that expressed her personal style. What evolved was Blue Fish Clothing, an artisan, organic clothing company, with retail stores in New Mexico and New Jersey, and projected revenue of $2 million for 2009.