I meet young entrepreneurs all the time, some under the age of 12. Whenever I meet one of these remarkable people, my first thought is, "How will they change our world?" And I think of my kids, and how this business will impact their lives down the road.
More often than not, these businesses will change the world for my children in truly incredible ways, because the next generation of entrepreneurs has their hearts and minds set on purpose as much as bottom lines. That's not to say that you can't be profitable and make the world a better place. You absolutely can, and there are countless examples of tour de forces from Gen Z and the Millennials that are focused on people, planet and profit.
Mikaila Ulmer, 11, founder of BeeSweet Lemonade, is a prime example of how a social entrepreneur can be profitable. I had the privilege of meeting her this year and when she was four, her family encouraged her to make a product for a children's business competition and Austin Lemonade Day (two brilliant organizations.) Around the same time, she was stung twice by bees. Rather than let their daughter stay scared, her parents encouraged her to learn more about the insect. Mikaila discovered bees are endangered and an important part of our global agricultural system. She wanted to help. One day, inspiration struck while she was sipping her grandmother's flaxseed lemonade (a special family recipe since the 1940s.) She could use her grandmother's recipe, sweetened with honey, to help save the bees.
Fast-forward seven years and the award-winning lemonade is sold at a growing number of Whole Foods stores as well as restaurants, food trailers and through natural food delivery companies. A portion of the profits go to local and global organizations fighting to save the honeybees, and she often gives talks and leads panels to educate the world about the insect. Her business even earned a $60,000 investment from "Shark Tank" investor and FUBU CEO Daymond John. I'm not surprised that she secured that investment, considering her business' profitability and the fact that her cause is one that appeals to everyone.
That is one of the secrets of entrepreneurs: They are able to turn their everyday problems into solutions all the time. Like Robert and Jonathan Sadow, two brothers in California who were annoyed with the amount of traffic on the road and therefore emissions in the air, so they started Scoop. Scoop is a long distance ride share application that partners with corporate headquarters to give employees the opportunity hitch a ride. Scoop's mission is to end traffic congestion nationwide by turning single-occupant vehicles into efficient carpools. They want to curb climate change, give people extra cash and bring better talent to companies.
Alloysius Attah, CEO and co-founder of Farmerline, started his business based on challenges he faced when he was 5 years old. At the time, Alloysius' parents divorced and he moved in with his aunt, a small-scale farmer in rural Ghana. Firsthand, he witnessed the struggles of small-scale farmers in producing food and supporting their families, partially due to a lack of access to agriculture information.
Determined to give back to people like his aunt, he started the Farmerline, a mobile-based messaging and voice service that allows farmers to communicate critical information related to price, weather and farming techniques. Many of the company's customers are women, like Alloysius' aunt, who can feed their families with this income. According to The Guardian, agriculture is one of Ghana's key sectors, comprising 22 percent of the country's GDP and employing 42 percent of the nation's workers. Over the next five years, Farmerline is projected to reach 500,000 farmers in West Africa by 2019. The company's latest impact assessment indicates farmers who have used its services for an entire season have increased their income by 55.6 percent per acre, an incredible impact!
More and more in Africa, we're seeing young entrepreneurs like Alloysius come up with innovative solutions to issues such as limited access to water, electricity and healthcare. About 85 percent of Africa's population is younger than 35 and technology is the vehicle for entrepreneurs to solve these problems.
These entrepreneurs, though they come from different backgrounds and are changing the world in vastly different ways, aren't just thinking about their legacies in the future; they're thinking about their impact now. As Ugandan entrepreneur and "Africa's youngest billionaire" Ashish Thakkar says, "People say the youth are the leaders of tomorrow-we're not. We're the leaders of today, but it's our responsibility to take the seat at the table."
These innovators are proving that at any age, you can make a difference and turn a profit. Let's keep our eyes open for entrepreneurial inspiration the way these amazing Gen Z founders have, and let's nurture their ambitions through mentorship and access to capital, because it's this purpose-driven group that will pave the way for generations to come.