Never Too Young to Be an Entrepreneur

Caifu Magazine | by Catherine Skrzypinski

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Tina Wells, CEO and founder of Buzz Marketing Group, an agency geared toward teens and millennials based in Philadelphia, began her charting her own career course when she was 16 years old. She initially wanted to become a fashion editor when she grew up, but discovered a new calling while pursuing a writing career as a “teenpreneur.”

“I started writing product reviews for a newspaper geared toward girls my age,” said Wells at the Vancouver Youth Entrepreneurship conference on Friday, September 22, 2017. “Companies started sending me products and asking for my opinion. It wasn’t long before I realized I had a business opportunity.”

Before the explosion of the internet as an e-commerce platform, and the term viral marketing came into vogue, Wells proved to be a pioneer in this space. Wells said her company’s mission is to side with the consumer, advising teens on products she thought they would like.

After she amassed 40 clients – including Microsoft, Sony Music and Johnson & Johnson – she hired who she termed “buzzSpotters” to spot fashion trends, and influence those styles among their peers. The young influencers test, share and endorse products on social media. “They post on Facebook, and when their friends see they have this cool job, they want to be a part of it,” she added.

“Looking back, I feel my strength as a young entrepreneur was the fact that I was young and inexperienced,” she said. “I dove in headfirst.”

As Wells climbed up the career ladder, the business world took notice. Her honors include Essence‘s 40 Under 40, Billboard’s 30 Under 30, Fast Company’s 100 Most Creative People in Business, and Inc’s 30 Under 30.

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Educating the Next Generation

After spending more than half her life as an entrepreneur, now she is eager to share her wisdom with aspiring entrepreneurs. “I grew up in the business,” Wells said. “How can I help the next generation of entrepreneurs?”

Wells has guest lectured at universities across the United States for the past decade, engaging with students about entrepreneurship, social media and market research. Some of the courses she has lectured at prominent U.S. universities include:

• Harvard University – Basics of Marketing to Millennials

• New York University (NYU) – Marketing and the Music Business

• Columbia University – Trends and Marketing to Millennials

• Tulane University, New Orleans, Louisiana – Marketing to Women

• University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School – Viral and Buzz Marketing 101

• Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) – Trends and Marketing to Millennials

• Stanford University – Entrepreneurship

Wells currently serves as academic director of Wharton’s Leadership in the Business World (LBW), a four-week program that offers high school seniors an opportunity to hone their leadership, teamwork and communications skills. Sponsored by the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business, the program gives students with an interest in the business world opportunities to learn about the inner workings of corporate America in the 21st century.

“The course is designed like a Shark Tank competition,” noted Wells, referencing the popular American reality television where budding entrepreneurs approach business titans with their business proposals for a shot at fame and fortune. “Around 160 students work in teams to design and present an original business plan, evaluated by a panel of venture capitalists and business professionals.”

Each summer, LBW students attend lectures with Wharton professors and guest speakers, and engage in classroom discussions about entrepreneurship and leadership. They also visit companies in the Greater Philadelphia Area, and speak with successful leaders across the industries of finance, entertainment, real estate and retail. In addition, students take part in team-building activities from upper-level Wharton business undergraduates, and participate in weekend and evening cultural and social activities.

Since its inception in 1999, LBW has brought students from six continents and nearly every American state to the Wharton School. “[LBW] have a geographically diverse student body,” Wells told CAIFU Friday, September 22, 2017. “We’ve had many students from China.”

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Advice for Aspiring Entrepreneurs

Wells cited Madam C.J. Walker as her entrepreneurial hero, as she is one of the first American women to become a self-made millionaire as a cosmetic entrepreneur. According to her biographical website, Walker invented a line of African-American hair care products in the early 1900s after suffering from a scalp ailment that resulted in her own hair loss.

Walker succeeded because she was able to solve a problem that no one else could, Wells explained. “As entrepreneurs, if we can't get ourselves into a place where we can innovate or problem solve, then this is a problem,” she expressed.
Wells confided that while becoming a “teenpreneur” is tough, there are many benefits. Here are her tips for “teenpreneurs” curious about starting their own business:

  1. Go to boring lectures. Go see that boring speaker you have no interest in seeing. You never know what they can do for you. Whether you’re in high school or college, you need to take advantage of networking with people your school brings in for special programs.
    2. Get business cards. It’s never too early to start branding yourself.
    3. Take advantage of resources. Make sure you keep a pen and notebook (or smartphone) with you at all times to jot down ideas as they come. Tap into your network on the internet and social media.
    4. Build a support network. Pursue building relationships instead of focusing on networking. Hire your friends to help you promote your business.
    5. Hang out with your friends. Life should never be all about work. There are definitely times when you’ll have to make a major investment into your business, and that investment will be your time. Success comes with hard work. There is no way around it.
    Lastly, she advised teens thinking about launching a new product or service to “just do it.” “There is literally nothing holding you back,” she concluded. “You will fail, but the best time to become an entrepreneur is right now.”
    Looking for more entrepreneurial tips? Reach out to Tina on Twitter @tinacwells.

How to Apply to Wharton’s Leadership in the Business World 
High school students thinking about an undergrad program in business should consider applying to Wharton’s Leadership in the Business World (LBW) pre-collegiate program.

The Wharton LBW summer program is highly selective. Only around 160 students are accepted each July. In 2014, the program received 700 applications and accepted around 20 percent.

The program costs $7,500 USD and includes tuition, most meals, activities, weekend trips and housing as of 2017.

Prospective students need to submit a high school transcript and two letters of recommendation from their teachers. They also need to write an essay about their leadership skills and experiences.

Apply online through the Wharton School’s Leadership in the Business World application.

For more information about LBW, call 1-610-265-9401, or contact the program at

Leadership in the Business World
610 S. Henderson Road
King of Prussia, PA 19406 USA