When US-based teenage fashion designer Isabella Barrett was 6 years old, she had already made her first $1 million thanks to her starring role in the TLC reality show Toddlers & Tiaras.
Capitalising on her reality TV stardom, Isabella — who is now 15 — started jewellery line Glitzy Girl, which cemented her title as one of the youngest self-made millionaires in the US.
“When I made my first million, I was just under 7 years old. I appeared on the biggest TV show at the time, Toddlers and Tiaras, and was placed as the star of the show,” Isabella, who recently appeared in an episode of Bling Life, tells The National.
“This gave me a constant public platform to not only promote the show, but also my new jewellery line, Glitzy Girl. We were able to monetise the brand to appeal to all major teen sports, creating a potential market of 150 million kids and teens worldwide in dance, cheer [leading], gymnastics, karate and soccer.”
Today, Isabella has doubled her net worth to about $2m through a diverse business portfolio that has expanded to include a clothing label and skincare line.
These days, youths are thinking outside of the box when it comes to their future employment, with many keen to pursue their entrepreneurial ambitions, according to a 2020 survey by global consultancy EY.
About 65 per cent of Generation Z respondents to the survey, which polled 6,000 people across 17 countries, said they hope to be running their own business in 10 years.
Similarly, 60 per cent of teenagers in the US are more interested in starting their own business than having a traditional job, according to a 2021 survey by non-profit organisation Junior Achievement USA.
While 37 per cent who are interested in starting their own business cite social media influencers and celebrities as their top inspiration, 45 per cent feel it is more beneficial to hear about starting their own company from business owners.
Additionally, 37 per cent of teenagers surveyed would be interested in programmes offered at school or after school that focus on teaching entrepreneurship, the survey found.
“My best advice is if you are a teen, now is the best time to start a business,” Isabella says. “We have access to so many free revenue streams such as Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube, among others.”
The teenager's clothing brand, House of Barretti, was launched in 2020 and features a collection of formal suits and swimwear for young adults, while she has showcased her collection at New York Fashion Week twice and has since branched out to include hair and skincare products.
“I am constantly learning about business and money management,” she says.
“I think it is important to know how a money revenue stream works and my biggest lesson has been not thinking the number on the cheque is what you actually get to keep.”
Isabella is currently writing a book called A Teen's Guide to Business, in which she plans to share a range of tips and tricks she has learnt during her entrepreneurial journey.
The teenager reinvests her money into new businesses and concepts most of the time, she says.
“I love being creative and trying different marketing and ad campaigns. Every now and then, I spend some money on things that make me happy such as jet skis, sneakers and four-wheeling,” Isabella says, adding that she does not support her family financially.
Most child actors and public figures in the US have “krugin accounts” that store and protect wealth when children are under the age of 18, according to Isabella, who was inspired by successful entrepreneurs in her family.
“I think I will always be an entrepreneur in some way. I love creating and am very passionate about my fashion line House of Barretti,” she says.
“I find great pride in making clothing other people love to wear. It is so exciting that people love wearing my label on the apparel and it feels good to see a lot of hard work pay off.”
Isabella cites jewellery, clothes, a jet ski and holidays as her indulgences. However, she admits to being careful about what she buys so she can focus on creating a future for herself.
Fellow teenage millionaire Pierce Woodward, also a US-based TikTok star and jewellery designer, dropped out of school when he was 16.
“One of the most difficult decisions I have ever made was to drop out of school with a 4.0 GPA and Ivy League schools within my reach,” the 18-year-old tells The National.
“Taking the traditional route of pursuing a degree would have required years of studying other people’s ideas and placed my dream of becoming a fashion designer on hold. That day, I made the decision to drop out of school.”
He started his company, Brand Pierre, out of his parents’ garage by converting a foosball table into a workbench. He bought a few tools, took vintage spoons from the kitchen and shaped them into rings.
Pierce started posting his ring designs on TikTok and Instagram. Within a few months, influencers, actors and musicians started contacting him for custom-made rings. Pierce has since designed rings for influencers such as Noah Beck, Dixie D’Amelio and Vinnie Hacker.
Within a year, Pierce had to move out of his parents' garage and into a larger workshop. He hired five friends to pack, manufacture and design rings with him.
“Within the first year, we did more than seven figures in sales. By 18 months, I achieved every financial goal I had,” he says.
He now posts videos on his social media channels of how rings are designed from items such as Lego, coins, an Amex card, a Red Bull can and a YSL cologne bottle, among others.
Although the teenager refused to divulge his net worth citing safety reasons, he admitted that it was more than $1m.
Pierce does not support his family financially. However, he surprised his mother with $50,000 to buy her dream car to thank her for her encouragement.
“The best indulgence as an entrepreneur is lifestyle freedom,” he says. “Being able to jump on a plane and go to Europe on a whim or take off to the Caribbean in search of a new summer collection or being able to spend the day in the mountains journaling and planning out the next venture.”
Pierce always reinvests back into his business, but has also bought a few luxuries, such as an apartment and his dream car — a Mercedes 63 AMG.
He invests in cryptocurrencies, other businesses and plans to purchase his first investment property this year. The teenager aims to continue expanding Brand Pierre, his podcast and investments as he grows older.
“The only value to money is to provide opportunities to fund and fulfil your passion,” Pierce says.
“You can only buy so many things. The real value is knowing you have the resources to go after anything you can imagine.”
He also advises teenagers to stop procrastinating.
“If you are waiting for everything to be perfect, then you will never start. The best thing you can do is start, fail fast, learn from it and make changes as you go,” he says.
Famous companies founded by teenagers — in pictures
Teenagers looking to set up a business must look for a niche to gain the first-mover advantage, says Vijay Valecha, chief investment officer at Dubai-based Century Financial.
“You can start by identifying issues you or others are facing and then attempting to solve them using a business strategy,” he suggests.
“Appreciation for the things you are most passionate about can also be a terrific source of inspiration for business ideas.”
Another critical factor in starting a business is seed money. While many start-ups secure the support of angel investors to get off the ground, one can’t always count on receiving that kind of financial support, Mr Valecha says.
Building a good credit score can make it easier to obtain an affordable loan to aid in financing the start-up, he says.
“Establishing realistic goals for the company’s expansion and development is crucial.
“Lastly, branding is how large companies are recognised — the use of branding, once the revenue ball starts rolling, will allow the company to set deep market roots. Branding distinguishes the business from rivals and fosters loyalty to the product or service. Creating a brand is an investment,” Mr Valecha says.
Tips for young entrepreneurs
- Stop spending time perfecting every little detail on your business plan. Jump in and pick things up as you go.
- Don’t start a business to only make money. You should launch a business doing what you are passionate about and what you love.
- Find a mentor. You may not have all the knowledge and abilities needed to run a business yet. Avoid attempting to make difficult business decisions by yourself.
- Many businesses cease to expand because they become used to a regular stream of income. Reinvesting in yourself and your business is necessary if you want to advance.
- Utilise technology to organise your work, manage your finances and perform other business-related chores.
Source: Vijay Valecha, Century Financial