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Gen Y Grads More likely to Launch Start-ups By Rebecca Walker, USA TODAY 5/8/2012 Take an unpredictable job market, an overwhelming variety of possible careers, and a generation that thinks differently about the workplace, and you wind up with college graduates who are taking matters into their own hands. "Generation Y is the most entrepreneurial generation ever," said Jeff Cornwall, director of the Center for Entrepreneurship at Belmont University in Nashville. "Parents raised their children to be independent," Cornwall said. He added, "This generation feels a general sense of distrust for large organizations and government." These two factors seem to have led Generation Y to follow their entrepreneurial pursuits. When Cornwall wanted to start an entrepreneurial program at Belmont in the 1980s, "There were only about a dozen universities with this type of program — now, there are over 2,000," he said. Belmont University touts a success rate of having 36.8% of entrepreneur majors and minors operating their own businesses post-graduation. According to a 2012 report by the Kauffman Foundation, the largest entrepreneurial foundation in the U.S., 29.4% of entrepreneurs were 20 to 34 years old, and roughly 160,000 start-ups a month were led by Millennials in 2011. Even though 40% of 8- to 24-year-olds Kauffman polled say they would like to start a business, "There is a gap between aspirations and actually starting one," said Nick Seguin, the foundation's manager for entrepreneurship. "The best way to become a successful entrepreneur is to find ways to expose yourself to the lifestyle before you do it. Intern or apprentice at a small start-up," he said. Cromwell shared similar advice: "Find a mentor, someone with experience to learn from." Here are three stories of young entrepreneurs, all under the age of 30, whose businesses have reached the two-year hurdle, a milestone for any start-up. Chris Genualdi, University of Richmond Chris Genualdi, 25, did more than find a mentor — he found a partner. He and University of Richmond roommate Dan Brunt learned about essential oils during semesters abroad in India and Thailand, respectively. They later entered an undergraduate business-pitch competition. After they won $2,000, Aromago became a reality. Aromago produces on-the-go oil aromatherapy in a convenient form — think a lip-balm-size tube with ventilation slits to release scented oils. The buyer unscrews the top to release the oils and inhales. The two blends are called Revive and Relax. They sell for $7 online or in health-related stores on the East Coast. The biggest initial hurdle was getting exposure. People hadn't heard of their company and weren't familiar with the product. "You want exposure, so you work on building a community," said Genualdi. His plan was to to grow through word-of-mouth. So far, it has worked — he says revenue has grown 300% in two years. To further expand, the company uses social media to share information with customers. New blends are set to be launched later this year. Lauren Berger, University of Central Florida Not all young entrepreneurs have an academic business background. Lauren Berger, 27, who calls herself the "Intern Queen," launched the foundation for her start-up while she was a communications major at the University of Central Florida. Lauren Berger shares her extensive internship expertise through her start-up. "I originally struggled to find resources about internships," Berger said, so she established InternQueen.com, a website designed to help students in similar situations. After completing 15 — yes, 15 — internships as an undergraduate, Berger has a wealth of information to share. Those looking for internships will find not only job postings, but lessons and advice as well. Also, she recently published a book, All Work, No Pay. And she does motivational speeches targeted at young adults around the country. Though she won't disclose her sales, three years later she is making enough to not have to work another job. Her advice to those looking to start their own business? "You don't have to be a millionaire to be successful. You just have to be doing what you love." Adrian Reif, Vanderbilt University Adrian Reif, 27, knows all about doing what he loves. He left the banking world within two years of graduating from Vanderbilt University in 2007 to pursue what matters to him. "My passions are making a difference, while creating simple wholesome food, and perpetuating happiness, creativity and fun. What more can I ask for?" Reif said. He created Yumbutter, a company that says it makes "the world's yummiest, healthiest nut butters." Reif produces a variety of nut butters, all of them peanut-based. He sold more than 3,000 pounds of nut butters in 2010, primarily at farmers' markets. A year later, when he expanded to local stores in Chicago, Milwaukee and Madison, Wis., Reif sold more than 8,000 pounds. You can also buy the products on his website, www.yumbutter.com, for $7.99 to $8.99. When others ask him for advice about starting a company, he asks them to reflect. "Are you motivated by infatuation or passion? If the answer is not the latter, don't do it. Starting your own business is not about starting a career, it is about making a life."
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