Seventeen-year-olds Brandon Iverson and Jordan Williams are “treps.”
Yup, that's what the cool kids are calling “entrepreneurs” these days. Atlanta natives Iverson and Williams launched their first company when they were only 10 years old, then (literally) wrote the book on teen entrepreneurship at the ripe age of 14. The veteran treps now have a clothing line, Young Moguls Brand, that spreads the message of entrepreneurship and empowerment through hoodies and tank tops.
Iverson and Williams aren't alone. Kid entrepreneurs are actually cool now. Cool enough to have their own slang — “treps,” “teentrepreneurs” and “kidtrepeneurs” — and to have entire schools, organizations, conferences and websites devoted to training, mentoring and funding kids and their business ideas.
Tanya Hamilton runs Independent Youth, a nonprofit organization that's spreading the gospel of entrepreneurship through TrepStart Days, nationwide conferences connecting kids with peer mentors and digital resources for launching their own companies.
“These kids want to do something in the world, whether it's owning something of their own or going out and making a change in the world,” Hamilton tells HowStuffWorks. “Ten years ago, you had to have an office to be considered a legit entrepreneur. The Internet has given kids so many ways to distribute their products. Without needing any technical skills, kids can use sites like Wix and Shopify to get a business website up and running in just a few minutes.”
Kid Hire is another website that lets kids (and their parents) launch a customized ecommerce site for little Adrian's dog walking business or little Hannah's lemonade stand consulting services. Parents can monitor all business activity online while letting their little ones spread their capitalist wings.
What about fundraising? Crowdsourcing website Kickstarter requires “creators” to be 18 or older, but competitor Indiegogo lets kids as young as 13 launch a fundraising campaign with the consent of a parent or legal guardian.
Not every kid needs an easy website builder or crowdfunding to launch a lucrative business. The Mark Zuckerbergs of tomorrow are already poised to make their first billion. Thanks to coding summer camps and online coding courses for kids, youngsters are storming events like Apple's annual Worldwide Developer's Conference to pitch their apps alongside 20-somethings.
Sixteen-year-old Thomas Suarez is the kid coder poster child. At 12, Suarez gave a TEDx talk about the hugely popular iPhone and iPad apps he created after teaching himself to code Python, Java and C. His latest project is a revolutionary 3-D printer.
Social entrepreneurship as a youth movement is also having its moment. Social entrepreneurship fits nicely with the U.S. emphasis on STEM education (science, technology, engineering and math) and the addictive do-gooderness of Upworthy videos. At alternative public schools like the Incubator School in Los Angeles, kids learn to code their own video games, develop entrepreneurial business plans and think about how their business ventures can have a positive social and environmental impact.
Even “adultrepreneurs” — is that a thing? — are capitalizing on the trep trend. David Kieve is the co-founder of My Comic Story, a Brooklyn-based startup that creates custom comic books for birthdays, anniversaries and businesses. Kieve's latest venture is My First Startup, a Kickstarter campaign to publish a comic book that teaches kids the skills essential to any successful entrepreneur: problem-solving, creative thinking, time management and more.
“It's something we wish we had when we were starting our first businesses,” says Kieve in a phone interview. “A comic book is something a kid can pick up and read on his or her own, and get useful information about entrepreneurship in a fun, non-patronizing way.”
Maybe he can ask Thomas Suarez to kick in a few bucks.