Young entrepreneurs: Meet this week’s bright young things

The most successful of the bunch is Christian Owens.  The 16-year-old should be busying himself with videogames, coursework and hormones. Instead, he's launched two successful businesses and has just made his first million.

At just 14, Owens began stock-piling his weekly pocket money to build his first venture, Mac Bundle Box. Launched in 2008, this online business sells a combination of popular Mac applications for a fraction of the price: "Retail: $458.59, Our Price $49" proclaims the website.  Mac Bundle Box pulled in a total turnover of £700,000 in two years.  But this young entrepreneur wasn't content. He didn't retire to his Xbox or splurge his earnings on wild parties. Instead, he reinvested the profits into the business and, in 2009, started pay-per-click firm Branchr.

Branchr has notched up an impressive roster of clients including William Hill and Myspace, turning over £0.5m in its first year. The company sells more than 250 million adverts to 11,000 websites each month. Owens has even completed his first acquisition. In August 2009, Branchr bought Atomplan, the SaaS collaboration suite, in a cash and equity deal. Atomplan's CEO Mark Bao (another young whippersnapper - Bao is only 18) is now CTO of Branchr.

Owens has ambitious plans for the future to boot. "I won't leave Branchr until it has reached £100million," he told The Daily Mail.

Twitter fans will doubtless have heard of 17-year-old James Cunningham. The young entrepreneur  caused a furore last Tuesday with his Twifficiency service. Twifficiency spread through the Twitterverse like wildfire, spamming users pages with their "Twitter efficiency" scores and becoming a trending topic on Twitter and Google. Bless him, young Cunningham was completely bewildered by the viral success of his site: "It wasnt [sic] meant to be spam," he announced on Twitter. "it wasn't mean [sic] to be used by this many people. Nothing I ever do catches on so it wasnt [sic] a concern".

Twitter suspended the app for breaking the cardinal rule of "auto-tweeting" results. Cunningham told angry Tweeters: "Twifficiency shouldn't tweet your score automatically :/ Error on my behalf, I was just learning to use oAuth :(" Cunningham fixed the glitch within 24 hours and the service was reinstated. Has Cunningham made any money from this service? Not a penny. But you can't buy the kind of publicity and kudos this kid has generated in a few days.

Connor Pickering has got a cracking CV too - and he's only eight years old. The kiddie entrepreneur launched a tuck shop at his primary school to raise money for the Warwickshire & Northamptonshire Air Ambulance paramedic crew. Pickering earned himself the moniker "Alan Sugar Jnr" for firing two of his employees after they failed to meet sales targets. The young entrepeneur used the Apprentice star's famous catchphrase "You're fired" when his two friends failed to shift enough cupcakes during break times.

Pickering raised a total of £150 for charity through his fledgling venture and has announced intentions to follow in Lord Sugar's footsteps by buying an ice-cream van when he grows up - surely every eight-year-old's dream job.

Suralan, who joined Twitter last week, paid tribute to his little protégée, writing:  "What a fantastic young man. I wasn't that entrepreneurial until I was 11 at least!" And Sugar wasn't short of praise for another of our young businessmen: "Just read about Christian Owens," he tweeted last Monday. "16 years old and made his first million - now that beat me. Well done young man."

But not all young entrepreneurs are lucky enough to receive such support. In his guest blog for Smarta, 18-year-old Jamie Dunn, founder of the Jamie Dunn Academy, announces his intention to be a millionaire within two years. Dunn attended Peter Jones' National Enterprise Academy and makes no bones about his desire to succeed. "I have found that a lot of people say that I am boastful but I believe that the things I have done so far have not touched upon what I can achieve in the future." Comments on his blog include: "Passion is impressive but what do you actually do? Teach others about business when you haven't had a substantial business yourself?" and "Ah, the naivete and arrogance of youth." Harsh words for a young man who has overcome a number of obstacles to succeed: "I didn't do very well in school," Dunn admits.

Despite the criticism levelled at Dunn, there's no denying that the UK is a land of opportunity for young entrepreneurs. And, as these success stories prove, no matter your age or experience, a great idea can take you far.


By Rebecca Burn-Callander

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