Youth, we've been told so many times, is wasted on the young. Not this group. A generation ago, when many of our entrepreneurial whiz kids were still in diapers, starting your own business was considered akin to career loafing, occupational flailing. The kind of thing your parents would frown upon, and encourage you to find work in, say, plastics.
And then a funny thing happened. The Michael Dells and Richard Bransons of the world -- very young people with very big ideas -- started to make entrepreneurship cool (not to mention, finding fame and millions in the process). Why spend your early years toiling away in Corporate America, the thinking evolved, when you could circumvent it from the get-go? Add to that a proliferation of college programs, an entire how-to industry, a legion of overnight dot-com millionaires for inspiration, and you have the makings of a new, well-treaded career path.
Consider the numbers. In the early 1980s, there were just 270 entrepreneurship courses offered at colleges and universities across the nation. Today, roughly 5,000. Some 200,000 students are now enrolled in some type of entrepreneurship class -- and that's not even counting those who bypass college to hang their own shingle (there are plenty). Entrepreneurs are starting companies younger and younger.
Over the past several months on Inc.com, we've been gathering nominations in hopes of finding some of nation's most dynamic young entrepreneurs. And, oh, was it fun to pour through them. From dumplings to lifesaving medical devices to custom T-shirts, it quickly became clear that innovation today extends to a range of industries wider than that of their entrepreneurial elders.
We weren't looking solely at revenue (though we do have multimillionaires). What we set out to find were entrepreneurs with great potential -- those that have already found business success, through their inventions or ideas or strategies, but whose best days are almost surely still ahead of them. Companies, and people, you might want to keep an eye on. We certainly will.
Who made the final cut? Check out our list to find out.