How the digital world has put 'teenpreneurs' on the map
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How the digital world has put ‘teenpreneurs’ on the map

How the digital world has put ‘teenpreneurs’ on the map

Driven by their creativity and diverse perspectives, teenage entrepreneurs often find unconventional solutions to problems while challenging traditional norms

Gulf Business

It doesn’t take a genius to work out that ‘teenpreneur’ is the combination of two words: teenager and entrepreneur. But is it that straightforward? Is it simply an entrepreneur who hasn’t reached their twenties yet? Or is there something specific about these young innovators – the types of businesses they start, their approach and mindset, and how they navigate success?

The significance of teenpreneurs in today’s world cannot be overstated. In any economy that emphasises innovation and thinking outside the box – Dubai being the gold-star example – the disruptive ideas that teenpreneurs bring can spark revolutionary changes. Driven by their creativity, spirit, and diverse perspectives, they often find unconventional solutions to problems while challenging traditional norms.

There are two clear types of teen business. The first is teenfluencers, which include people like Hala al Turk, a Syrian Bahraini singer and actress backed by six million Instagram followers; and Dubai-based Saudi YouTuber Dyler, whose seven million followers have helped build his career as an all-round entertainer. The problem with the ‘teenfluencer’ model is that it’s akin to becoming a Hollywood star – it’s personality-based, and there is no clear, replicable path. In addition, it’s rarely sustainable over the long term.

The second type of business – and the one we’ll focus on – concerns teens who are looking at existing business models and disrupting them, or creating entirely new models.

These are young entrepreneurs whose approach is replicable, where there is a process to follow, and whom the next generation can look to for inspiration to create disruptive business ideas that are sustainable for the long term.

So how did we get here? In the past, career paths typically followed a trajectory starting with education, moving on to entry-level positions, and gradually advancing up the ladder. For teenagers today, with the wide range of resources, tools, and platforms at their disposal, this route is no longer set in stone. Many are starting their entrepreneurial journeys while still in high school.

But the qualities they possess remain the same as an entrepreneur of any age – passion, problem-solving, creative thinking, savvy financial management, and leadership. So, let’s meet some of those who are leading the way and the opportunities that exist for the next generation.

Disrupting the event management sector – Dubai

At the age of 16, Niousha Ehsan opted for homeschooling to accelerate her education, unaware that three years later, she would be co-founding one of the top 50 event companies worldwide. Juggling work at an advertising agency in Dubai while still a teenager, Niousha also pursued a part-time bachelor’s degree in Business Management at Middlesex University.

Her 19th birthday marked a significant milestone as she became the co-founder of LINKVIVA Events. In its early days, the company worked out of a modest office space with a single desk, but over time Niousha expanded operations, establishing a second office in London and firming up Dubai as the company’s HQ. Today, she oversees global operations with a team of 50 employees.

The company has worked on everything from mall activations to mega festivals, servicing some of the world’s largest brands, and received many accolades.

LINKVIVA often uses the word ‘reimagined’ to talk about their offerings, and future teenpreneurs should keep that in mind when looking at what’s currently on offer and figuring out fresh new ways of approaching it. What existing service can be completely reimagined from the ground up?

Bringing back old favourites in the Netherlands

From the perspective of a digital-native teenager, greeting cards are a thing of the past. But in the case of Fabiënne Overbeek, they were something she wanted to revive for her generation.

So, the 19-year-old visionary from the Netherlands decided to launch Grow A Wish in 2018, offering customers the opportunity to purchase and send bespoke greeting cards fashioned from recycled paper. What’s more, once you have enjoyed the card, you can plant it in the ground (it contains seeds) and watch it grow.

It’s a clever twist on an old favourite, and it’s a good way for teens to think about their big ideas. Is there something from the past that you can bring while adding a little twist?

When asked to summarise her company in three words, Overbeek chose ‘sustainable, entrepreneurial, social’, which is as good a motto as any for this new generation of innovators. Because it’s not just about coming up with a new idea, it’s ensuring it’s tailored to your market and lives up to the values your customers hold. GCC-based teenpreneurs are at an advantage here and can scour the globe for ideas to tailor to regional markets.

South Africa teenpreneurs – a new approach to beauty

When Rabia Ghoor was 14, she launched an online beauty emporium, focusing on makeup and skincare. By 16, she had left school and put all her energy into her business.

Rabia’s journey began in a tiny corner of her bedroom, watching international makeup channels and noticing that representation from the South African beauty community was sparse. This drove her to start researching and thinking about how she might design, manufacture, and package her products. She wanted to start a beauty brand that not only offered affordability but also delivered products that resonated with real-life needs – items that were as effective as they claimed to be.

In short, she wanted an accessible, locally produced alternative that South Africans could take pride in purchasing.

So, it’s important to look around at your immediate environment and ask yourself what goods you purchase and whether they’re coming from your country or outside. Teenpreneurs in the GCC might pinpoint a saturated market in the US that hasn’t yet found its feet locally. Pitching products locally made and designed specifically for people of that region is a way of making your products feel personal to your customers and helps you build long-term customer relationships.

Making maths fun – in Estonia

What’s one thing many teens struggle with? Mathematics. It’s often perceived as one of the toughest subjects for students – although for Estonia-born teenpreneur Timo Timmi, this was simply down to the boring way it is usually presented.

In response, this young entrepreneur co-founded 99math in 2018, a platform combining eSports with mathematical problem-solving tasks, providing students with an engaging and interactive way to learn maths.

By integrating games and competitions among peers, 99math helps pique students’ interest and foster a deeper understanding of mathematical concepts. After all, knowing the pivotal role of mathematics and analytical thinking in popular fields like software engineering, 99math aims to contribute to a future with a greater number of skilled engineers, scientists, and astronauts.

Their efforts have not gone unnoticed, as evidenced by their recent achievement of raising EUR454,000 from investors.

It sometimes takes youth to challenge the status quo. Making maths fun might seem like a tall order, but given its importance to so many in-demand jobs in today’s world, 99math serves as a gateway for those who struggle with the subject but know they need it to achieve their career goals. It’s a good lesson – to look at something people don’t particularly enjoy but need, and then find new ways of presenting it.

Karl Hougaard shares the top businesses to star in the UAE in 2023Unlocking the potential of teenpreneurs

The rise of teenpreneurs reflects a dynamic shift in the entrepreneurial landscape. These young innovators exemplify resilience, creativity and determination, harnessing technology and social media to transform their ideas into successful ventures. Their endeavours not only contribute to economic growth but also inspire a new generation of aspiring entrepreneurs.

By fostering an ecosystem that nurtures young talent and facilitates entrepreneurial journeys, Dubai and the wider GCC region can unlock the full potential of its youth and cultivate a vibrant culture of innovation for years to come.

Karl Hougaard, founder and managing partner of Trade License Zone.

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