Do you ever feel that you are investing in the dreams and success of others while neglecting your own? You punch a clock day in and day out, earn a meager pay-check for performing mundane tasks far beneath your capabilities, and for what–to help catapult someone else to success? If so, you are not alone. Many people are trapped in a cycle of chasing someone else’s dream for them, while theirs go unrealized.
Being an entrepreneur is the sexy new trend these days. Everyone seems to be doing it. What if you were to gain the necessary capital needed to launch your own business- would you? Or would the fear of failure stop you dead in your tracks?
If you chose to heed fear’s warning, you may be smarter than you think. Your fear is rational and not without merit. Building a startup is hard. That’s the tough reality despite all of the hype, glamour, and sexiness surrounding entrepreneurship. Statics show that over 90 percent of startups fail.  The odds are not in your favor.
10 young entrepreneurs show us how to achieve success
What about that small 10% who do manage to become successful? Their success is not accidental nor did it happen by chance. These young entrepreneurs prove that success is possible despite the odds. Everyone — from the young budding business person to the one looking to get out of debt — can learn something from these savvy upstarts.
1. William Zhou, Co-founder and CEO of Chalk.com
Lesson: Connect and care.
Chalk.com is described by Forbes as “Microsoft for teachers.” This education-based software company was birthed out of William’s desire to assist overworked, overburdened educators. His company has created software that simplifies lesson planning, assessments, and the evaluation process for teachers.
The lesson we can learn from William is that it is important to connect and care about your customer. His primary motivation for starting this company was to provide a service to help teachers and not just to earn a great pay check. He ended up doing both.
2. Brennen Byrne, Co-founder of Clef
Lesson: Keep the right people and stay away from the wrong ones.
Clef is a replacement for usernames and passwords. The technology works through phone cryptography, eliminating the need for passwords and making logging in quick and safe.
In an interview with AL.com,, Brennen cites hiring good people as one of the most important aspects that helps perpetuate his company’s success. This lesson applies in life and especially in business. You must keep good people around you. Conversely, once you find that a person doesn’t fit the company character and vision, nix them quickly. You can’t afford to wait for a person to bloom, nor can you afford to keep an employee who doesn’t support your mission.
3. Adam Lipecz, Co-founder of Codie
Lesson: Focus on one idea at a time.
Codie is a toy robot and web app that introduces and teaches kids how to write code. In an interview with Forbes magazine, Adam describes Codie as being like Legos for architects.
Adam is an idealist. He has tons of great ideas all of the time. His success has come from learning how to focus on one big idea at a time and incorporate smaller ideas into the larger one. He is confident that he will create a ton of innovative gadgets because he has the discipline to throw all of his time, energy, expertise, and resources into each idea at the appropriate time.
4. Daniel Fine, Co-founder and CEO of Team Brotherly Love and The Fine Companies
Lesson: Passion and drive are essential to sustaining long-term success.
Daniel Fine is founder and CEO of Team Brotherly Love and The Fine Companies. These companies include a sunglass company — “Glass-U”, a medical app — “Dosed”, and a tutoring firm — “NexTutors.” Team Brotherly Love has raised over $2 million for Type-1 diabetes research. Glass-U makes fully-folding sunglasses and is licensed to hundreds of universities. It has been featured at events ranging from The Rose Bowl to Lollapalooza.
In an interview with the Huffington Post, Daniel says that passion and focus are the two keys he attributes to his success.
“Those are probably the two most important things that if anybody has they’ll be able to achieve something. You need the passion and the drive in order to achieve something. Early on, you can create things without being incredibly passionate about it but you can’t consistently create things without being passionate about it. Focus is probably the next thing by a very, very close shot. The focus and drive overlap are two things that are just so necessary for you to be able to create what you’re shooting for. “
5. Sam Shames, Co-founder of Embr
Lesson: Your must work hard, but your work should capitalize on your strengths.
Sam Shames is not new to success. From his college days as a star wrestler at MIT to his inclusion as one of Forbes’ 30 under 30 in 2015, Sam knows how to win. As a student at MIT, Sam engineered the core technology for his signature product: Wristify. Wristify is a wearable device that helps regulate temperature. It recreates the relief you feel when you warm your hands by the fireplace in the winter, or the cooling sensation you experience when you pour cold water over your head on a scorching summer’s day.
Sam believes that you should do what you love and it should be something for which you have a natural aptitude. He was built for everything he does. Sam believes in embracing and leveraging his unique set of skills, abilities, and aptitudes. He embraces hard work but believes that work shouldn’t go against your grain and should capitalize on your strengths.
6. Nanxi Liu, Co-founder and CEO of Enplug
Lesson: Go “all in” with your eyes wide open.
Enplug is technology that transforms any digital display (TVs, jumbotrons, billboards) from a static, one-way communication channel into an interactive and real-time display.
The entrepreneurial life is notoriously filled with risks, stresses, and sacrifices. Investing your life into a company at a young age is risky but the idea of taking risks is the fuel that propels successful entrepreneurs to keep moving forward. They don’t want, nor do they expect, failure but they understand it is a part of the process. To them, failure is a bump in the road- not the end of it. Expect it. Embrace it.
7. Becca Goldstein, Co-founder and COO of Fever Smart
Lesson: Always look to learn.
Fever Smart is a non-invasive, real-time temperature monitoring system. It is a preventative solution that enables users to head off potentially dangerous health issues through early detection.
Becca is a bit different from our other entrepreneurs. She wasn’t quite sure what she wanted to do with her life so instead of staying in college she took a year off to travel. Why? According to her, she knew she wouldn’t find the answer to the question, “Why am I here?” in a classroom. Becca, like most successful young entrepreneurs, will tell you that she doesn’t know everything but she is open to learning. Her secret to success? She is a true connoisseur of knowledge.
8. Gabe Blanchet, Co-founder and CEO of Grove
Lesson: Master the art of creating win-wins.
Grove is built on the belief that all people — regardless of location, climate or season — can grow their own healthy food right where they live. This business empowers people to actively participate in eating healthier while eliminating negative effects to the environment such as soil erosion and contamination of water runoff, and helps slow down the effects of climate change.
Gabe believes in having the best of both worlds. He and his partner are concerned with the state of the environment, mitigating hunger, and providing people with the technology that allows them to be proactive and productive in sustaining their health. They do all of this and they turn a tidy profit. He believes in helping mankind while building a powerful brand through savvy business processes. The takeaway from Gabe’s model is that your business should be a win-win.
9. Sarah Tulin, Co-founder and CEO of Oxie
Lesson: Don’t discount small ideas.
Oxie is an air purifier that you wear. It couples aerodynamic technology with a sleek design to protect users from air pollutants such as traffic smoke, pollen, and germs.
This genius idea was birthed after Sarah was assaulted by a huge cloud of bus smoke on her way to work one day. That one event has changed her life. She was able to combine her love and appreciation for fashion while simultaneously fulfilling a need. She believes that ideas — even the small ones — should be explored.
10. Caroline Pugh, Co-founder and COO of VirtualU
Lesson: Believe in yourself.
VirtualU integrates 3D human modeling technology with fitness and healthcare. It enables people to accurately track how their bodies change as they work out. It shows you exactly where you are losing weight and gaining muscle — in 3D! It also is being adapted to help people make more accurate selections when shopping for clothes online.
Caroline’s company’s mission is “to blur the lines between virtual space and reality to make the online experience as real as possible.” That is a pretty lofty goal, even for the most tech-savvy individual or company. Yet she states it with conviction and chases it with tenacity. Her mission statement truly is her mission and not just a group of words used to build a smoke screen brand. She believes in herself. She believes in her mission. She surrounds herself with those who believe in her and who push her to work harder and be better. Her belief in herself is what pushes her to keep going and makes the impossible plausible.
These are the secrets of ten young entrepreneurs who have beaten the odds. If you have ever felt that you are investing in the dreams and success of others instead of pursuing your own and you decide to start your own business, there is much to learn from these ten successes.