The success of the entrepreneurs behind Digg, YouTube, and Facebook will undoubtedly inspire a growing breed of the young, energetic, and self-reliant who are more than willing to gamble that their startups will fly. But it's not just about role models. The idea that entrepreneurship is a viable career path is ingrained across the U.S., and the number of resources for startups continues to swell. So when we set out to find the latest batch of fresh faces and examine what makes their businesses tick, it wasn't surprising to see their ages skewing younger and their ideas getting smarter. In August, BusinessWeek.com kicked off its second annual search for the best young entrepreneurs in the U.S. by asking readers to nominate promising entrepreneurs age 25 or under. The results were impressive, with more than 300 people nominating their favorites, which we whittled down to 25 businesses with real potential. www.money.com
Adnan Aziz, First Flavor Philadelphia, Age 24 Talk about experiential advertising. Aziz, a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania with a double major in bioengineering and political science, was watching Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory and was struck by the scene where the kids licked wallpaper that tasted like fruit. "I thought maybe you could actually do that," says Aziz. Turns out you can. His company, First Flavor, developed the technology to manufacture small soluble flavor strips and filed a patent in 2005. Advertisers will soon be able to offer prospective customers sample sachets for products like flavored vodka, soda, and candy. Aziz's concept is similar to perfume ads in magazines but his strips can also reach consumers via direct mail and point-of-sale dispensers. Also, Aziz expects some manufacturers to affix Peel 'n Taste™ packets directly to their packaging to cross-promote products and brands. First Flavor is in talks with a number of consumer products companies and the first wave of strips could hit the market by January, 2007.
Elliott Breece, Joshua Boltuch, Elias Roman Amie Street Providence, R.I., 22 Another way to market and sell independent music? Amie Street, an online music retail site for independent content, uses a unique rating system where all songs are available for free at first. Then, depending on how popular a song is within a market, it goes up in price. The site tries to engage users by giving them a set number of recommendations and rewards them with a set amount of free music they can download when their recommendations do well. "We try to turn every user into a talent scout," says Elliott Breece, co-founder. The Amie Street guys keep 30% of each sale, giving 70% back to the artists.
Chuck Branding MyCarScout Chicago, Age: 25 After graduating from Ohio State University, Chuck Branding received an intriguing business proposition from one of his father's friends: Find him a good lease on a red limited-edition Jeep Liberty and put half the amount he saved in his pocket. Not only did Branding deliver, he enjoyed the car hunt so much that he made it his business. Through Business Network International, a referral organization, he met branding guru Bob Killian, who helped him come up with the name MyCarScout, a logo, and other advice for consulting fees of around $10,000. Branding charges customers either a flat fee of $450 or half the amount saved from each car he tracks down. He says the majority of clients are business professionals who don't want to spend time searching for a specific car, but a good 15% of business comes from single women who are intimidated by car dealers. While MyCarScout is limited to him in Chicago and two employees in Miami and Denver—and 2005 revenues totaled only about $25,000—Branding says he may acquire venture capital and expand into new metropolitan markets such as New York City, Washington, Los Angeles, and Seattle, though no firm plans are in place.