10 Awesome Companies Built by Teens

By Glen Stansberry on 29 April 2010 24 comments

The entrepreneurial spirit starts early for many teenagers, but for most things like high school, college and social lives overpower the urge to start a business.

But not every teenager.

Occasionally there are a few really driven youngsters who actually create successful companies before they are old enough to vote, buy alcohol, or even drive. Here are ten inspirational stories of some incredibly successful young entrepreneurs, who all started their empires in their teens.

1. Fred De Luca

In 1965 Fred De Luca borrowed just $1,000 to start the now-famous Subway sandwich restaurant. Fred was only 17 years old when he decided to be an entrepreneur, and he started the restaurant as a way to earn money for college. Since opening the first shop in Boston, the chain now has 32,401 locations and makes over $9 billion in sales yearly. Fred and his co-founder Peter Buck have also founded Franchise Brands, a resource to help franchisors and entrepreneurs grow their brands.

2. Mark Zuckerberg

Mark Zuckerberg created the software that would eventually become the popular social networking site Facebook while he was at Harvard. He launched the site from his dorm room, and since that day has become the youngest self-made businessman who is worth more than a billion dollars. Zuckerberg dropped out of college and became the CEO of the fastest-growing site on the Internet. Facebook has since recorded over 400 million users and is now one of the most successful websites ever built.

3. Matt Mullenweg

Matt Mullenweg is another software developer who found success at a very early age. When Matt was 19, he announced that he would be starting an open source initiative for better blogging software and started Wordpress. Since then the software programmer started Automattic, which has two flagship products Akismet, a trap for site comment spam, and Wordpress.com, the hosted version of the open source Wordpress software. Since founding Automattic, the company has raised over $30 million dollars and owns some of the most popular software on the Web.

4. Anand Lal Shimpi

Anand Lal Shimpi started AnandTech in 1997, when he was only 14 years old. The original AnandTech website was hosted on a GeoCities platform. What started as a simple hobby grew into one of the world's largest websites covering computer hardware. The AnandTech forums is one of the best places to get computer advice and find tech bargains.

5. Carl Churchill

By 2020, Carl Churchill is expected to be worth $100 million. Carl founded DMC Internet in 2001 at the age of 15, and since has built an empire on helping businesses with their Internet presence. Churchill's company offers anything from wireless broadband to server security for businesses, and from its launch grew exponentially. So much so that in 2003 Churchill was listed in the Royal Bank of Scotland's "Rich List" of under 21s who would be millionaires.

6. Farrah Gray

Farrah Gray was a successful businessman before he reached his teens, and his success story is so bizarre that it's almost impossible to believe. When he was 10 Gray formed a club that raised $15,000 for financing a lemonade stand, by 12 he had started a venture capital firm that raised $1 million from investors to help teenagers start their own business. Before he was 16 he had started business ventures that include pre-paid phone cards, One Stop Mailboxes & More franchises and The Teenscope "Youth AM/FM" interactive talk show. He became executive producer of a comedy show on the Las Vegas Strip, and was the owner of a food company that had orders exceeding $1.5 million.

Gray has since become a best-selling author. In 2005 his book Reallionaire was an international bestseller, and was even endorsed by Bill Clinton. Gray has written many books since then, including co-authoring Chicken Soup for the African-American Soul. But aside from all his success, Gray started his own non-profit Farrah Gray Foundation, which gives grants and scholarships to inner-city and students with at-risk backgrounds. And he's done all this well before his thirtieth birthday.

7. Romero Bryan

Romero Bryan started designing clothes at the age of 12, and his own clothing line has taken off like a rocket. He's dressed some of the most popular people on the planet including Beyonce, Victoria Beckham, Cameron Diaz, and Alicia Keys. Romero's empire is expected to earn him over 30 million pounds by 2020.

8. Kristopher Tate

Kristopher Tate is a kind of programming wunderkind. Tate started working with HTML at age 4, before most kids have started reading. He started the photo-sharing site Zooomr at age 17 as a competitor to Flickr. Since then the company has grown into one of the top photo-sharing services on the Web. He has since moved the site's headquarters to Japan, and is involved in creating Japan's first society-based community site.

9. Jason O'Neill

Jason O'Neill has probably the most successful business created by someone under 10. At the age of 9, Jason started making Pencil Bugs, colorful pencil toppers in the shape of bugs. Aside from his business, Jason's been featured on many major network shows, not only for his young entrepreneurship, but also for his philanthropic efforts. He's donated money for foster children, and has sent his pencils to schoolchildren in Africa.

10. Fraser Doherty

While most successful young entrepreneurs make their money building popular websites, Fraser Doherty built his empire using a more traditional way. Fraser started making jams at the age of 14 in Scotland, and by 16 left school to work on his jam business SuperJam full-time. SuperJam sells around 500,000 jars a year, which currently has around 10% of UK jam market.

Average: 3.8 (4 votes)
Your rating: None

Disclaimer: The links and mentions on this site may be affiliate links. But they do not affect the actual opinions and recommendations of the authors.

Wise Bread is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.

Guest's picture

Where are the girls/women? 

How much does this have to do with young girls' self perceptions vs adults not taking their ideas seriously?

Guest's picture

Thats remarkable that they grasped a concept of making money and working for themselves so young!

Guest's picture

Mistkae in article--- The first Subway was in Bridgeport CT.. never started in Boston.

Guest's picture

Seriously, not a single female on the list?

Guest's picture

Was just thinking the same thing.

Guest's picture

My thought too: Any female teen entrepreneurs? I kept hoping as I scrolled down the list that there'd be at least one.

I wonder how these kids got around not being old enough to sing legal documents.

Guest's picture


I have a feeling that some parents were the reason behind their children's success. They probably handled the paper work. Either that or the kids hoodwinked a lot of adults. It's always encouraging to see people succeed in their endeavors. Now if only I had some of that entrepreneur talent in me, that would be nice.


Guest's picture

I agree with Chris, Anna and everyone else . . . Come on, only guys have founded good companies? What is the author saying? Girls are incapable of being successful?

Guest's picture

yes, pretty much...nobody likes a nazi feminist

Guest's picture
Itay Meir

Great list.

Another awesome "teenager" is Jack Daniel, which became a licensed distiller at the age of 16, almost 150 years ago.

Guest's picture

Seriously?  No girls?  You could have looked further.  For example, this article talks about a twelve-year-old female entrepreneur: http://www.prlog.org/10135896-canberra-girl-12-to-be-featured-in-book-al...

Guest's picture

The article doesn't seem to be too much about WHO created the companies, but HUGE, POPULAR Companies that were started by teenagers. If you can find a popular and well known company that was started by a teenage girl, I'd love to see it.

Guest's picture

I was wondering the same as Chris in the first comment.  I am a businesswoman growing my own business (though, admittedly, I wasn't a teen when I started it) and I'm rather saddened to not see at least one woman make this list.  There has to be at least one.

Guest's picture

Is it a coincidence that they are all male?  Have any teenage girls started similarly succesful companies?

Guest's picture

I think we are going to see more and more teens starting business especially in technology.   Being a in your teens may be the best time to start a business.  The risk level is a lot less.  If it fails you still live at home and have your whole ahead of you. 

Guest's picture

Seriously? Why do women always have to jump in?


Guest's picture

This is so encouraging to read! Not taking anything at all away from the great things accomplished.....behind every young child is a giving and encouraging parent!

Guest's picture

I think the big advantage young people have is that they dont see obstacles in business, only opportunity, its part of the optimism of youth

Guest's picture

10 boys and not one girl? Really?

Guest's picture

Jason O'Neill - how has anyone made a fortune out of that idea? Congrats to him because I imagine you have to sell a massive amount of toppers to make any money in that game!

Guest's picture

According to my opinion,
These children are the most luckiest children on the earth!! In most of the above cases parents must be their strength to carry on their works, or else they should be orphans.Otherwise how can they reach to their target with a high endeavors like this?

Parents should trust their children.In most of the cases in nowadays, if parents don't trust their children, definetly they become the most unsuccessful people in the world! There can have conflict attitudes between children & parents but as the elders with a broad knowledge than children they should listen to their children's attitudes too.

The children who have parents with more flexible ideas ,those children can reach their goals in a very successful manner.

Guest's picture

Wow this is truly inspiring! I too was waiting to read about some successful girls but still the fact that these kids started so young is awesome. I bet their parents could be voted "best ever", mine wouldn't be as okay with all of that! At least not at first.

Guest's picture

Reading this I was most shocked how someone so young can do something so great. Being a young teen myself I have always wanted to make something amazing but as we all know not all of us can truly get behind the wheel and take off. I wish to wright a book but never the less writers block. It is a inspiration that these people have done an idea they had. Subway, I love that place and to know a teen did it makes it all the better. It was a little disappointing to see no teen woman was on the list but perhaps there will be one soon.