Summer plans for teens normally involve spending days at amusement parks, binging on video games or the occasional part-time job to earn a little cash. But normal isn’t an option for three teens this summer. These teens have business to handle. Real business.
Having the creativity and a determination that stretches beyond lemonade-stand ideas, these teens are creating their own innovative and impactful companies. Chase Reed, Maya Penn and Warren Cassell Jr. have turned their visions into reality, and they are all under age 17.
Take a look at their credentials.
Title: Founder of Sneaker Pawn USA
Résumé: Chase’s passion for high-end sneakers runs as deep as his drive. Learning a lot from his father, video documentarian Troy Reed, the young entrepreneur turned his love for fashion and footwear into the world’s first sneaker pawn shop. Prior to opening his business, he began reselling sneakers from his arsenal of more than 300 pairs of shoes. He even refurbished and redesigned shoes to make them look new.
“Sometimes it would be a time when I didn’t have enough money to buy sneakers or go out, so I would have to give my father a pair of my sneakers just so I could have money,” Chase said. Giving his shoes to his father until he could repay the money gave him the idea that others would be willing to do the same for their coveted Air Jordans or a fresh pair of LeBrons. He carefully went through his prized collection and invested about $30,000 worth of kicks to create his dream. The shop sells new sneakers, shoes that Chase designed himself and matching hats and key chains to complement certain sneakers.
Starting this business wasn’t easy for Chase. The self-proclaimed “sneakerhead” has sacrificed hanging out with his friends and many pairs of shoes already. He believes the tradeoff is worth it, however, especially with the relationship he builds with his clientele (which has already become international since the store’s inception). “What’s more fun than having your own business, seeing sneakers you’ve never seen before and interacting with people?”
Future goals: “Finish high school, graduate from college, franchise the store and start a clothing line.”
Advice: “Never give up. The more you chase your dream and the more you wake up and grind, the more possible it’s going to become.”
Title: CEO of Maya’s Ideas, philanthropist, designer, artist, animator
Résumé: Maya has carried the title of CEO for six years. As a young child, she created her own clothing and accessories. When people began to ask her where she got her clothes, a spark was lit and the then-8-year-old created Maya’s Ideas for others to be able to purchase the shirts, scarves, jewelry and hats she was making.
Her items are unique because all of her clothing and accessories are handmade and eco-friendly. Made with organic cotton, bamboo, hemp and other biodegradable materials, Maya has stayed true to the integrity of her company while expanding in the process.
Maya has control over everything within her company from creating the website to the company’s brand extensions—an animated series and book are in the works. Business has been booming for the 14-year-old. Since she appeared on Tedx Youth, her international clientele has soared. Thus far, Maya has received the Black Enterprise Teenpreneur of the Year Award for 2013 and the SCLC Women's 33rd Annual Drum Major for Justice Award in the youth category.
Maya’s Ideas also has a philanthropic aspect, with 10 percent of all proceeds going to global charities. Maya has also organized a nonprofit called Maya’s Ideas 4 the Planet. Its mission is to help the community, spread environmental awareness and encourage girls to follow their dreams in nontraditional fields. “It’s always been instilled in me, even at an early age, to give back and do good anywhere that you can,” Maya said. “It’s always been important to me to give back to the people as well as the planet.”
Future goals: “Of course I’m going to let go and let God and go wherever my business takes me and my passion takes me. I see my business growing and getting bigger, still eco-friendly, still giving back and getting a lot of my animations out there and really doing all I can to inspire other people.”
Advice: “If something goes wrong in your business, don’t just immediately give up. I think it’s actually a really good thing when things go wrong in your company because it’s a learning experience.”
Warren Cassell Jr.
Title: Entrepreneur, investor and graphic designer
Résumé: Warren knew from early on that he wanted to start his own business. His first company was a greeting card company for which he did all of the graphic designs. He doesn’t operate the greeting card company anymore, but he still has a full plate in front of him. Today, Warren invests in hedge funds, private equity and real estate opportunities. He also designs and maintains websites for about 50 to 60 clients worldwide.
Warren is now shooting the first season of his Web series, Teen Tycoon. The show is meant to share the lessons the Montserrat native has learned as a young person in business and to inspire the next generation of tycoons. In addition to expanding his investment opportunities, he’ll also be starting an internship in August with the Montserrat Development Corp., a company formed by the government of Montserrat to assist residents with increasing economic activity and foreign investment on the island.
Warren has been able to make connections with many successful businesspeople and political figures, such as the former prime minister of Antigua and Barbuda and the governor of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank, just to name a couple. His concrete jungle dreams started with the nature of his island, however, which prompted him to write his first two books, The Farm of Wisdom: 25 Unforgettable Tales That Will Ignite a Wiser You! and Swim or Drown: Business and Life Lessons I've Learned from the Ocean. One of the first lessons that Warren learned from nature was to embrace the sun.
“That means to embrace positives,” he said. “If you look at plants—I think when I was in the sixth grade, when I learned photosynthesis, and that is how plants actually make their food—if you block sunlight from a plant, it’s going to move around and try to find a source of energy and a source of light and continue to grow.”
Future goals: “My ultimate goal in life is to become a person of value and I intend to become one by maximizing my potential. I hope to be an inspiration to others and be the living proof that anyone can accomplish anything. In the next few years, I would hope to start an investment company that provides investment opportunities that are usually reserved for wealthy people to everyday families so that they too can create wealth in their life.”
Advice: “I'd encourage them to think big and be delusional when setting goals. Yes, delusional. The biggest mistake that I made with my first business was I didn't think big enough. I limited my success by just focusing on a small geographic area and focusing on hitting small sales targets. Now when I set my goals, I make sure that they are ridiculous. I prefer to work extremely hard and fall short on my ridiculous goals than to achieve mediocre goals.”
Taryn Finley is a summer intern at The Root. Follow her on Twitter.