From the April 2002 issue of Startups

(YoungBiz.com) - American teens believe in business. In fact, a Gallup survey reports that 70 percent of American teens would like to own a business. What are they doing about it? They're entering college programs on entrepreneurship by the droves, for one thing. But a growing number of these entrepreneurial-minded teens ('treps, as they call themselves) aren't willing to wait. They're starting businesses now, while they're still in high school--or even junior high.

Traveling Fast

Take 17-year-old Matt Chaifetz in Manhasset, New York. On the phone, he sounds like any other high school student in America. But he travels to Puerto Rico regularly on business, takes awesome vacations most of us only dream about, and recently appeared on Business Week TV to discuss his award-winning travel business, Innovative Travel Concepts (ITC).

ITC is a travel booking service that Chaifetz started when he was 13. His clients are travel agents across the United States who use his booking service to make travel arrangements for their own clients. ITC also makes things easier for travel agents by providing record-keeping, handling commissions, filing reports and offering access to reservation networks. Currently, Chaifetz has about 500 clients and does about $1 million in sales per year.

Average Income for Teens

Matt ranked No. 6 last year in the annual YoungBiz 100 list of top teen entrepreneurs in the United States. This report, posted on www.youngbiz.com, indicates that the top 10 winners in 2001 earned more than $5.5 million combined in annual profit, which is an average income of $550,000. The other 90 winners earned an average annual profit of $17,389--which means they earned about $23.13 for every hour they worked at their business ventures.

So what are the most profitable businesses for young entrepreneurs? According to the YoungBiz 100, tech businesses rule. More than 33 percent of the top 100 'treps sell computer hardware or software, design Web sites or are involved in selling products over the Internet.

Try "Infotainment"

The second most profitable segment of business for teens is what YoungBiz calls "infotainment." This includes youth like Andrew Schneider in Tomball, Texas, who got interested in doing magic shows when he was in grade school. Today he performs up to seven times a week and earns about $6,000 per month.

Chris Short, owner of C.S. International in Cave Creek, Arizona, is an example of the "info" side of the infotainment division. When he and his younger sister Jennifer were in junior high, they started a neighborhood circular called The Rancho Review to advertise their Red Cross-certified babysitting skills. Jennifer stayed with the babysitting, but Chris, now 19, went on to develop several other papers and a printing business. Last year, his billing rate for printing services was $65 an hour. "I think I do pretty well for my age," he says.

You're the Boss!

So is it all about money? Or is there more to it? The Gallup survey says youth entrepreneurship is more about being independent. Of the students surveyed, 73 percent listed their number-one reason for wanting to be an entrepreneur as "to be my own boss." Kelvis Patrick, 15, a winner in the food division of the YoungBiz 100, is a good example. He says, "I knew I never wanted to work for anyone, so I needed to start my own business."

Whitney Smith, 13, owner of Whitney's Event Planning in Chicago, agrees. "I worked at two candy stores, and they told me when to come in and how much I could make," she says. "I would rather start my own business. I want to be the boss, say what I'm going to do and determine how much I'm going to make--without limits."

'Treps Make a Difference

A majority of the teens interviewed for the YoungBiz 100 said that success can't be measured by money alone. And Gallup reported that nearly 70 percent of the students interested in business wanted to give back to the community that supports their ventures.

Pankaj Arora, an 18-year-old in Rochester, Minnesota, says he founded his tech biz (known as paWare) in the true spirit of entrepreneurship. Says Arora, "I had two main objectives: to help people by giving them desired products and services, and to have fun doing what I like to do." What more could there be?

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