New Generation of Teen Entrepreneurs Driven By Social Concerns

Winners of Google Science Prize (All 16-Years Old) With Experiment To Increase Crop Yields

Winners of Google Science Prize (All 16-Years Old) With Experiment To Increase Crop Yields

13-Year-Old Owner of Freetoes, Inc.  Who Takes Her Philanthropic Activities Seriously. 

13-Year-Old Owner of Freetoes, Inc.  Who Takes Her Philanthropic Activities Seriously. 

Teen entrepreneurs and innovators are increasingly motivated by social concerns. This dramatically contradicts the stereotype of selfish youth.

“30 years ago, the primary motivation for teen-led businesses was often solely to make money. Now most of the teen entrepreneurs and inventors we encounter are also motivated by the desire to help solve societal problems, in their own way,” said Emmanuel Modu, co-author of TeenVestor: The Practical Investment Guide for Teens and Their Parents and The Lemonade Stand: A Guide To Encouraging The Entrepreneur In Your Child.

Theories abound about the reasons for the increased number of socially conscious teen entrepreneurs and innovators. Is it because the internet has made information about social issues more accessible? Is it due to the Great Recession of 2008, which may have negatively impacted young teens’ lives and spurred them to improve the lives of others? Regardless of the reason, the trend is real.

Here are a few examples of socially conscious young entrepreneurs and inventors recently featured by TeenBusiness.com – a news portal that reports on the activities of a diverse range of young entrepreneurs, investors, inventors, and other innovators around the world:

  • A trio of 16-year-old girls —Ciara Judge, Émer Hickey and Sophie Healy-Thow— from Cork County (Ireland) won the Google Science Fair Prize for proposing the use of a naturally growing strain of bacteria to increase crop yield by 30%.

  • Concerned about mass shootings in his home state, Kai Kloepfer, a high school student from Boulder, Colorado (US), invented a smart gun that unlocks with fingerprint authentication.

  • A group of teen siblings —Ima, Caleb, and Asha Christian— from Decatur, Georgia (US), helped create a "Yelp For Cops" to rate both positive and negative police interactions with citizens.

  • 13-year-old Katelyn Lohr from Vancouver, British Columbia (Canada) is owner of Freetoes Brand, Inc., which sells toe-less socks in major consumer outlets such as Toys “R” Us; she is very committed to her philanthropic outreach.

  • 18-year-old Tom Osborne from Nairobi (Kenya), upon seeing what deforestation has done to his community, embarked on a clean energy project to produce smokeless charcoal briquettes and distribute cook-clean stoves throughout Kenya. 

  • 15-year-old Kenneth Shinozuka, of Irvine, California (US), invented a device implanted in socks that alerts caregivers when Alzheimer’s patients wander off unaccompanied.

  • Teen Myla Swallow, from Sydney (Australia), and founder of the Clean Water Initiative, designed an inexpensive system to sterilize stainless steel baby bottles using a billy can and a simple pump-filter to produce steam.

These teen entrepreneurs and innovators are not just giving lip-service to charitable commitments. Asked in an interview by Forbes contributor Devin Thorpe why she is so passionate about charitable giving, Katelyn Lohr said that “helping people is always something I wanted to do and with the fame that Freetoes has given me, I have had lots of opportunities to give. And Project Aftershock (a Haitian Relief charity) is one of them.”

For many of these teen entrepreneurs and innovators, the idea of making money and doing good can co-exist. As stated by Google Science Fair Prize winner, Émer Hickey, in a FastCompany interview about her group’s use of bacteria to increase crop yields, “We want to change the world. We want to commercialize this.”