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Thanks to the internet there have never been more opportunities for young people to start a business. More and more of them are achieving levels of success that only few even dare dream of. Many start with nothing more than a few dollars and are able to grow their businesses into million dollar enterprises.
The young black entrepreneurs listed, handpicked by Fueled, are not only successful but have proven time and time again that hard work really does pay off. Check them and their companies out below.
After learning about 16 year old Jaylen Bledsoe, we will no longer accept any excuses involving age when it comes to owning and running a business. Jaylen founded his company, Bledsoe Technologies, at the remarkable age of 12 and in just a few short years is worth almost 3.5 million dollars.
It has also grown to become the top information technology consultancy firm in the Midwest that is operated by a minor. Because of demand, what started out as a small, two-person venture now has nearly 150 contracted workers.
Jaylen’s journey began in third grade after taking a video editing class that jumpstarted his interest in web design. A year later, after learning HTML and PHP, Bledsoe Technologies was born. The company provides services in e-commerce, corporate branding, technology consulting, and online marketing campaigns to small and mid-sized businesses.
Bledsoe’s current project is called Check-In Mobile and it allows customers to check into their hotel rooms using their cell phones, as well as use their phones as a room key.
One of the oldest on the list at 29, Eric Kinoti opened up Shades System East Africa in 2007. Before starting his own business he worked graveyard shifts as a cashier at a hotel. During the day he would sell milk and eggs to other hotels. When he realized this was a more lucrative business he quit his cashier job and went into food sales full time.
The switch to tents came after a client requested one along with a food order. Kinoti made so much money on just that one order that he decided to open up the tent business immediately afterwards.
Shades System East Africa manufactures different canvas equipment such as car parking shades, marquees, luxury tents, and bouncing castles for clients that include humanitarian and non-governmental organizations. They export their products to Congo, Somalia and Rwanda. The Nairobi based company generates a million dollars in annual sales and employs 25 people full time.
Joel Mwale has founded not one, but two companies. The 20 year old founded SkyDrop Enterprises when he was nominated to to compete for the annual Anzisha Award. The then 17 year old went on to win the award, which included $30,000 in prize money and a two year scholarship to attend ALA, the African Leadership Academy.
His first company, Sky Drop, filtered rainwater and bottled it to make low-cost purified drinking water in Kenya. Mwale was inspired when he suffered dysentery and saw the destruction that the lack of clean drinking water could lead to. He sold his 60% stake of the company to an Israeli firm for half a million dollars in 2012. Last year, he went on to establish his new company, Gigavia, an educational social networking site.
Gigavia is meant to take the supposed distractions social media provides and integrate them into an educational arena. It’s similar to Facebook visually but differs from there. There is a section of the website where teachers can share academic materials, a place for students to share books with each other, and also a place to just casually chat all in one.
Patrick Ngowi, 28, founded Helvetic Solar, Tanzania’s leading solar brand, in 2006. His company installs, maintains, and supplies various kinds of solar power and thermal systems in East Africa and Tanzania.
Ngowi started out with a small loan from his mother during his gap year from school and began selling Chinese mobile phones. He flew back and forth from Tanzania and Hong Kong so he could provide affordable electronics, something that Tanzania sorely lacked.
During this time, he came into contact with Tanzanians who desperately wanted to have reliable and stable electricity. He saw an opportunity to jumpstart a niche industry in his country and created Helvetic Solar which grew to a million dollar business. His company serves such clients as World Vision, the United Nations and the Tanzanian Army. He also founded a foundation called Light For Life which provides basic lighting services to poor rural areas in Tanzania.
Ashish Thakkar, the oldest on the list at 32, has been dabbling in business since he was 15. The UK born, African transplant borrowed $5,000 to start an IT company that sold computers in high school. His company Mara Group followed soon afterwards, officially established in 1996. The company has made Thakkar so wealthy that he will be the second African person ever to go to space on Virgin Galactic’s first space flight, the first person being South African millionaire Mark Shuttleworth.
Headquartered in Dubai, his company is a conglomerate with stakes in hotels, renewable energy, financial services, technology and manufacturing. They have an active presence in over 21 countries, employ 8500 people, and make about 200 million dollars annually. Thakkar has figured out how to work the growing GDP capabilities of East African countries to his advantage and soon others will follow suit.
Article written by: Diana Zelikman