10 Teen Entrepreneurs

By Kirsten Chang, CNBC.com

With today's jobs market in a dismal state, no buzz word has given more hope to the youthful unemployed than the word "entrepreneurship."

More and more, young men and women are striking gold - armed with a strong innovative spirit, a razor-sharp focus and an ability to hold their own in the marketplace. From coaches, automobiles and limos to T-shirts, street fashion - and, yes, the inevitable social networking tools so embraced by the 21st century, industries across the globe are seeing their very own Mark Zuckerbergs-in-the-making.

Read ahead to see these budding young entrepreneurs who have already made it big - even in the face of today's daunting market!

Catherine and David CookCatherine and David Cook Catherine and David Cook
Started business when they were 15 and 16
Business: Social media

When Catherine Cook moved to her new high school in New Jersey, she and her brother Dave saw a need for "social discovery" and better tools to meet new people. With the help of a $250,000 investment from their older brother, Geoff, the pair created the online yearbook known as myYearbook.com. The site grew rapidly, and within 10 months, myYearbook had 1 million users.

As the firm expanded, it left the high school realm and started connecting many more multitudes of people. It has since been sold to social networking site Quepasa for $100 million in cash and stock and been renamed MeetMe - attracting advertisers like Neutrogena, ABC and Disney. The Cooks expect MeetMe to be translated into six more languages by the end of 2012.

According to comScore, MeetMe jumped from the 29th most-trafficked site in the U.S. to 18th by page views, with roughly 32 million users reported in 2011. Dave and Catherine still work at the company. Geoff Cook is COO.

Jon KoonJon Koon Jon Koon
Started business when he was 16
Business: Auto parts, fashion

From a very young age, Chinese-American Jon Koon was already a mogul-in-the-making. He saw huge discrepancies between American and Japanese automobiles in terms of innovation and design, and used the $5,000 he'd saved up from red "lai see" packets to make aggressive moves into the auto market.

He started purchasing car parts from international supply chains, teamed up with a local mechanic and worked his magic to give tons of cars spiffy, high-end finishes and fancy engines with top-notch speakers - all of which gave rise to the blinged-out car craze that was MTV's "Pimp My Ride" show.

Not long after, Jon opened a manufacturing business that distributed auto parts to a variety of niche markets. In 2008, he switched gears when American rapper Young Jeezy took Jon on as the exclusive partner in his line of clothing, 8732. Soon enough, Jon stuck with fashion as his true calling and his company, Tykoon Brand Holdings, now owns and operates several brands across the globe.

As of 2011, Tykoon Brand Holdings was worth $80 million - and Jon looks forward to several new projects Tykoon has lined up for the near future.

Connor ZwickConnor Zwick Connor Zwick
Started business when he was 16
Business: Education

During his junior year of high school, Connor Zwick quickly grew disenchanted with the education system. He saw a deep disconnect between that system and the process by which students learned new things, and wanted to explore that dynamic further.

After looking to different governmental policy changes for a solution, he soon realized that the only true way to improve the system was by innovating through technology. "Flashcards+ was my initial attempt at disrupting the education system, by targeting the way individual students learn, and optimizing it," he said.

Now, the website is one of the most popular grassroots educational tools of all time, and it continues to grow like wildfire. To date, 1.6 million users have downloaded and used the site.

Ray LandRay Land Ray Land
Started when he was 17
Business: Coach, car and limousine service

When Ray Land was in eighth grade, he was already a natural-born coordinator. He planned his first trip - a trip for his classmates and him to venture to Universal Studios in Orlando, Fla. - and unearthed a passion for planning, traveling and meeting new people. It wasn't long before he became known as the resident travel planner in his school, and other classmates would ask him to plan tours for them in cities like New York and Washington, D.C.

By age 17, he bought his first motor coach - an old 1989 49-passenger - to provide premiere transportation to passengers needing to travel. With a newfound company, Fabulous Coach, Ray soon realized the need to expand. At its peak in 2011, the firm operated 65 vehicles across North America on revenue of $6.5 million.

"This year, we downsized to help [streamline] the fleet, and we are back in growth mode now," he said.
Right now, Fabulous Coach coordinates roughly 150 trips per week for several thousand guests, and Ray is currently working to create a travel destination in Florida and to create an interstate stop that showcases all that Florida has to offer.

Brian WongBrian Wong Brian Wong
Started business when he was 19
Business: Mobile rewards network

After leaving his job at Digg, Brian Wong decided to do some traveling to take his mind off things. On one of his trips, he began observing "a ton of mobile activity around the globe," even as he strolled up and down airplane aisles.

He saw that no matter where he went, everyone appeared to be engrossed in playing games on their cell phones, and he suddenly had an epiphany - achievements create happiness, and natural happiness can be leveraged in a meaningful way. So, with the help of a former co-worker and seed money from venture capitalists, Brian formed Kiip - a mobile app rewards network that enables companies to dole out tangible rewards to players for in-game achievements. Just imagine getting a $10 gift card from Starbucks whenever you hit that next level in Mega Jump!

Right now, Kiip has partnered with more than 40 brands to hand out rewards in over 400 games. In its latest round of funding, the firm raised $11 million to fuel more global growth in the mobile rewards market. Kiip has raised a total of $15.4 million to date.

His advice to aspiring young tycoons? Generate serendipity. "You actually have the ability to create your own luck, and most of us don't realize this," he said. "Don't wait around for things to happen. Seize every opportunity."


See the full list of Teen Entrepreneurs


Catch episode one of "20 Under 20: Transforming Tomorrow" premieres Aug. 13 at 10 p.m. ET; episode 2 premieres Aug. 14 at 10 p.m. ET.


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