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June 2, 2009, 8:27 a.m.

Young entrepreneurs grow revenue

weparkThe next time anyone in the employ of a newspaper company — or anyone blogging here on Nieman Journalism Lab, for that matter — throws up their hands in despair and cries, “I’ve run out of revenue ideas,” I suggest we all return to this list of ten entrepreneurs and idea-generators who do not yet qualify to drink legally — or even drive a car in some cases — who have launched new, growing businesses that are actually making money.

It’s Fresh Faces in Tech: 10 Kid Entrepreneurs to Watch (actually, its 12, but who’s counting?), most of whom are still teenagers.

Take, for instance, twin Chicagoans Ashton and Ryan Clark, serial entrepreneurs at the ripe age of 20. One product in their portfolio, “We Park Chicago,” sounds like an idea that could have hatched from the Trib guys at RedEye. Except it didn’t.

Since launching their first web site in 1999, the siblings have created nearly a dozen web businesses that sell everything from consumer electronics to shoes to tickets—even parking spaces. Never mind that the Internet was supposed to usher in an age of disintermediation. The Clarks have found their calling serving as intermediaries between online consumers and manufacturers and wholesalers.

And then there’s Kayvon Beykpour, 20, who saw an opportunity in a common problem: Companies that wanted to connect with a younger audience but which were utterly bereft of employees in the target demographic:

Around the same time, Facebook had become big, and so they also started creating web applications. “We went around to companies like Sprint and Comcast and said, ‘Look, we’re college kids. We know how kids use Facebook. Let us implement your brand campaigns on this new medium.” In just a few months, the pair was managing the Facebook presence for Sprint, Best Buy, Comcast, Doritos and others.

Beykpour and Bernstein, both iPhone fanatics, also pitched their school on iStanford, a mobile application that would allow students and faculty to access all university services, from a course catalog to the athletic department schedule, on their iPhones. If a friend recommends a class, the application would give you a course description and tell you when and where the classes are being held the next semester, as well as provide a brief bio of the professor.

And, finally, consider Catherine Cook, whose entire product research phase was essentially a conversation with her brother in which they decided that traditional high school yearbooks “suck.” The resulting company, MyYearbook.com, had sales last year of more than $10 million.

The entire list is simultaneously inspiring, and humiliating.

Read it, then phone your significant other and tell them you’ll be working late tonight.

POSTED     June 2, 2009, 8:27 a.m.
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