Generation Next

Michael Podraza, 16

CollectibleX.com Inc. & Whimsical Beans Inc.
Michael Podraza just got his driver's license. He won't get a car until the summer, but this little rite of passage means he won't have to ask his mother for anymore rides to the Streamwood, Illinois, office that houses his two companies, CollectibleX.com and Whimsical Beans Inc.

When Podraza was 11, he and his father created CollectibleX.com, a Web site where people can indulge in collectibles like Beanie Babies and Precious Moments. "I wanted to make it easier to buy, sell and trade collectibles without having to go to conventions and shows and phone ordering and things like that," he explains.

Five years in, CollectibleX.com pretty much runs itself. The site employs about 15 people who handle transactions and customer service, and it's rung up about $6 million in sales since its founding.

Looking for a new challenge, Podraza took an interest in customized stuffed bears in 1999 with the launch of Whimsical Beans. Each bear is designed by Podraza and benefits a charity, such as the Batten Disease Support and Research Association of the American Cancer Society. Podraza runs Whimsical Beans on his own, not only designing the bears, but also dealing with manufacturing, shipping and sales. "I'm being a child and an adult at the same time," he says. "It's fun because most kids my age do other stuff like sports and I'm running a business. It's just weird." -Devlin Smith

Pop Quiz

Are you ready to be an entrepreneur? Take this quick quiz to find out (answer yes or no):

  1. Are you self-confident-or willing to become that way quick?
  2. Are you willing to challenge established norms?
  3. Do you have more business ideas than you know what to do with?
  4. Are you willing to work long hours for little pay to achieve your dream?
  5. Are you competitive?
  6. Are you creative?
  7. Are you good at planning ahead?
  8. Are you strong-willed, unwilling to give up and able to be a good leader?
  9. Do you have good communication skills, in speaking, reading and writing?
  10. Are you willing to take risks when the potential reward is great?

If you answered yes to six or more of these questions, congratulations. You are an entrepreneur.

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This article was originally published in the May 2002 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Generation Next.

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