The following article, 20 businesses run by people in their 20s, appeared in Entrepreneur.

Call it the entrepreneurial generation. Those born in 1977 and thereafter–many of whom are in their 20s–are more interested in starting their own businesses, and at younger ages, than any previous generation.
University programs in entrepreneufialism were rare years ago, but today more than 350 colleges and universities have such programs… Even more surprising, between 40 percent and 50 percent of students who take those classes already have a profitable business under way, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration.
“Very few young people today haven’t been touched by a relative or someone close to them losing a job,” said Hank Kopcial, executive director of the entrepreneurial foundation at the National Federation of Independent Business. “Starting your own business is a way to ensure that you will have the decision-making capacity and not be laid off.”
The NFIB began a scholarship program of young entrepreneurs in 2001. The first year, there were 300 applicants. Last year there were 3,400.
This special section looks at 20 businesses in Los Angeles County that were started and are now run, or substantially run, by people in their 20s.
While several started Web-based or high-tech businesses, others started the kinds of businesses that their parents or grandparents may have. One works in garages, two publish magazines and another provides funding for companies. There is a nail salon, a tutoring company and a cookie company.
Some just can’t help themselves. They are serial entrepreneurs. For example, Mikayel Israyelyan started a business when he was 14, ran an import-export business when he was in law school in Armenia and more recently has opened a string of restaurants and a night club on the Westside, not to mention a bottled water company, a casino in Russia, a limousine service in Los Angeles and several other companies.
“Sometimes I lose track of all the things I’ve done,” said Israyelyan, who is 29.
For some, entrepreneurship seems to be in the genes. Andrew and Michael Ritter, twin brothers, started separate businesses–Michael Ritter a magazine and Andrew Ritter a dietary supplement company. They are 24.
It’s not always simple being a young entrepreneur. It’s can be difficult to get seasoned employees and especially difficult to get funding.
“The less track record you have, the harder it’s going to be,” said Holly Schick, deputy director of business and community initiatives at the Small Business Administration.
As a result, many of these businesses rely on young employees (one has no employee older than 25) and many got started with their parents’ money or did it the old fashioned way–they bootstrapped themselves by using saved money or by working out of home. Or out of their dorm room.
However, the drive to raise money can be less of a problem for today’s young entrepreneurs. That’s because the ability to do business online has made starting a business much less expensive than it used to be. Many entrepreneurs start with an online storefront and add employees and office space as revenues make it possible.
Still, Schick warns, an earlier start doesn’t just mean the entrepreneur starts making money sooner. “These days you can start a business faster, but that means you can also make mistakes faster,” she said. “We encourage young people to learn the basics first,”

Business boom
University programs in entrepreneurship focus on such concepts as writing a business plan, financing your business or buying a franchise.
“These are things that didn’t exist when I was in business school years ago,” Kopcial said. As a result, he added that young entrepreneurs are better educated than they have been in the past.
Entrepreneurial programs took off about 10 years ago, but the number has grown dramatically in recent years because of alumni gifts. Successful business owners are giving back to their alma maters by funding courses on business principles that have made them wealthy, Kopcial said.
And while business owners in their 20s may sound young, some entrepreneurs do it in their teens.
Ajaya Williams, 19, of Bellflower, was homeless for most of her teens. Williams and her mother moved between friends’ houses for four years, often doing laundry in the bathroom sink at McDonald’s.
“My mom and I didn’t have a lot of money so I didn’t have new clothes like everyone else did,” Ajaya Williams said. “I found my old clothes and decided to enhance them and I started to add things like paint and glitter.”
In 2005, Williams was starting the 11th grade and her friends started asking her to make clothes for them. Soon, she said, her mother, Debra Edwards, was encouraging her to start her own business, and even helped her get her paperwork in order. AJ Kustomz, a T-shirt business was born.
These days, Williams is looking for investors. With funding, she said, she plans to get a rep to sell her clothes to L.A.-area stores. They’re now sold in Las Vegas boutiques, but she believes her wares are more suited to the L.A. market.
“I’m a small business, but I’m growing,” she said. “I know I can do it and I have a lot of people on my side.”
Staff Reporter

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