Then there are those lesser-known preternatural wealth-builders who manage to cobble million-dollar enterprisesbefore they graduate from college by age 22--and some who did it much earlier than that.
Cracking the million-dollar mark is no mean feat for any entrepreneur, let alone one who may not be old enough to legally saddle up to a bar in the U.S.
Forbes interviewed 15 of these super-strivers. (For a gallery of their photos and short profiles, click here.) Here the million-dollar measure refers to either the annual revenue generated by their businesses (as opposed to total profit) or the value of the enterprises built as implied by the companies' financing arrangements. Example: If an investor paid $100,000 for a 10% equity stake in a young company, the enterprise is said to be worth $1 million (assuming it carries no debt).
In Pictures: 15 Wunderkinds Who Made $1 Million Before Graduation--And The Ideas That Got Them There
How did these whippersnappers pull it off? Some of them identified problems and created companies to solve them, while others turned their hobbies into money-making ventures. Some teamed up with friends, parents and mentors; others plowed ahead on their own.
Here's a look at a few:
In the summer of 2008, after his high school graduation, Jason Brian started working in the marketing department of a South Florida car dealership. He knew the future of marketing was on the Web. "With half of the money, I found that I could double the results," buying online ads and using search engine optimization techniques, he recalls. Three years later, at age 21, Brian spent "less than $10,000" of his savings to build a website that would help consumers look for cars.
Autocricket.com made money by selling customers' information to dealers and manufacturers, which could market to customers directly. Six months after launch the site attracted the attention of two entrepreneurs in Naples, Fla., who invested $250,000. The site generated $1.2 million in revenue in 2009, when Brian was 22. In 2010 it did $6 million.
In 2005, when he was 18, Joshua Dziabiak sold his first company--a Web hosting firm called Mediacatch--for north of $1 million. He bought a Mercedes (in cash) and a flat-screen TV, and used the rest to invest in other companies, including Showclix, his current venture, a website that lets performing arts centers, colleges, live music venues and other outlets sell tickets online, over the phone and at their box offices. In 2009 he raised nearly $1 million, which valued the company at $2.75 million. Showclix collects services fees (usually paid by the ticket buyer) of 7% to 15% of ticket sales. Those fees brought in $9 million last year.
Twenty-year-old Daniel Gómez Iñiguez launched Solben, a company that designs and manufactures a press that extracts oil from plants to produce diesel fuel. Iñiguez began his R&D in high school. He sold to his first client for $150,000--$75,000 up front to help build the product, followed by $75,000 upon delivery. The Monterrey, Mexico, company brought in "a little over $1 million" in revenue during its first year of business. Today it employs 15 full-time staff; Iñiguez is entering his junior year of college.
Watch List: Tartufi Unlimited
Three years ago, at age 15, Ian Purkayastha started importing truffles and selling them, for up to $5,000 a pound, to restaurants and fine food shops from his home in Fayetteville, Ark. Purkayastha grew up in Houston, where as a young boy he foraged for wild mushrooms in the forests near his parents' home. Importing truffles is tricky work, involving four different federal agencies and a race against time: Truffles have a shelf life of only seven days. Purkayastha is opening a truffle orchard in Arkansas--the first in the U.S.--and has "close to $1 million in sales."
Honorable Mention: Astor and Black
When Daniel Schottenstein graduated from Oholei Torah Rabbinical Seminary at age 20, he hadn't yet made his first million--but he was well on his way. In 2004, at age 21, Schottenstein started a custom suit company at his home in Columbus, Ohio. With $75,000 he had pocketed day-trading in high school, he went to Hong Kong and lined up factories to manufacture custom "Zegna-quality" suits, listed at a fraction of competitors' prices and sold by haberdashers door-to-door. During its first full year of business Astor and Black generated $562,000 in sales. Last year it did $20.5 million.