How Inner-City-Kid Farrah Gray Became A Millionaire By 14

14 year old millionaireFarrah Gray got his start selling hand-painted rocks. Growing up in inner-city Chicago in the 1980s, Gray grew accustomed to days "when the only thing in our refrigerator was the light that came on when you opened the door," he writes in his book, "Reallionaire."

It was also an event worth recording when a month would pass without anyone being shot in his housing project, he writes. So he was determined from a young age to become self-sufficient. He told AOL Jobs that he credits the poverty of his childhood as the great motivating factor.

And not only did Gray become very rich, but he did so starting at a very young age. At 6 years old, he looked around his block in search of something that could be converted into a salable product, and settled on rocks.

"There's no idea dumb enough you can't get at least a billion people to buy into," he says about his first $50 profit. He began by painting and refashioning the rocks to make them into bookends and doorstops.

"It's the spirit of the Third World entrepreneur," he says. "You have to create your own job. You can't wait to rely on Exxon or Wal-Mart to hire you. And that's the spirit I try to teach to young entrepreneurs."

Following his stint as the rock-salesman, Gray moved on to homemade body lotions and eventually his bigger enterprises, which included prepaid phone cards. Along the way, he became a media figure, with his own radio show, "Youth AM/FM," on which he opined about issues related to youth entrepreneurship. He also wrote a series of books, starting with "Reallionaire," published in 2005. He also launched the Farrah Gray Foundation, which promotes youth entrepreneurship among inner-city youth.

Of course, for every Farrah Gray, there's the countless number of failed young entrepreneurs. The multimillionaire himself was forced to confront challenges beyond just getting the financing for an idea. As a black man, Gray says that he is regularly discriminated against. Just recently, when a book of his was published in Russia, his picture was taken off the cover. "I was OK with it, knowing it was a marketing decision, and that the information would still get out."

Nevertheless, Gray has become the millennial generation's poster child and a leading cheerleader for striking it on your own, at as early an age as you'd like. Among his high-profile backers is Bill Clinton. And according to research compiled by the Kauffmann Foundation, which is a partner of the Farrah Gray Foundation, Gray's story is indicative of a generational entrepreneurial drive. From 2007 to 2010, roughly 40 percent of those aged 18 to 24 have expressed a desire to start their own business, if they haven't already done so. The most recent data set for 2010 came from polling over 5,000 young adults, with help from Harris Interactive Polls.



Leading commentators on the subject view the trend as being a response to the instability caused by the recession. Carol Sanford, CEO of InterOctave, has pioneered the use of the term, "NextGenNow" leaders, in tribute to what she describes as the generation's lack of patience regarding their time to lead.

In June, Sanford wrote an article for the Stanford Social Innovation Review, entitled, "Now What? Young Leaders Are Changing the World By Working for Themselves."

Among the people she profiles was Chris Guillebeau, who has imported coffee from Jamaica and opened a small publishing company in West Africa while he worked there as a medical volunteer from 2002-06.

Writing for Social Innovation, Sanford discussed a similar profile.

"NextGenNow leaders open themselves up to inventing what is needed in each new situation and as opportunities reveal themselves. They never look back to borrow from past practices or look sideways to borrow from others," she writes, having conducted hundreds of interviews and profiles of entrepreneurs in the young age bracket. "NextGenNow leaders are not social entrepreneurs because they don't start with social or environmental problems, and build businesses around them. They start with and stay with their own drive and a unique vision."

With no new American Century and a promise of endless job security on the horizon, educators across the country have begun preparing their students for a professional environment in which they'll have to rely on themselves.

Among the states looked at as having the most dynamic statewide entrepreneurial training programs are Kentucky, North Dakota and North Carolina. North Carolina's "Hop on the Bus!" program allows students to compete for the top business plan, while North Dakota's "Marketplace for Kids" provides a simulation of running a business while also providing instruction.

"These programs are growing," says Cathy Ashmore, the executive director of the Consortium for Entrepreneurship Education (CEE) "You grow up thinking how to get the job," she told AOL Jobs. "But people should think how they should make the job. And that's what's now being taught."

The CEE was formed in 1981 in response to a challenge posed by Ronald Reagan's first education secretary, Terrell Bell, to have all the nation's vocational programs include entrepreneurial training. Thirty years into its existence, the CEE is now joined by countless peer organizations promoting youth-run business, and has even extended the push into earlier stages of youth, well before the choice is made to enter vocational programs.

While every program has its own set of lists and goals for the aspiring entrepreneur, many of them echo Gray's advice:

  1. Focus on your area of excellence, and find something that's easy for you but harder for someone else.
  2. Find a niche market.
  3. Ask yourself if you have a passion, because it's not just about supply and demand.

In its publication, Future CEO Starts, the CEE promotes its success stories. From its most recent issue, 11-year old Hunter Romanko spoke of his business plan which won a schoolwide competition at New Jersey's Cedar Grove Middle School.

Romanko is profiled for coming up with a video game business, called A.R. Games, which offers games that he created on CDs. Romanko was able to turn a profit of nearly $104 for the 100 CDs he created, which featured games inspired by Pac-Man and Fruit Thief.

In his essay, "Gaming, It's My Business," published in Future CEO Starts, Romanko alluded to his initial struggle in coming up with a business plan worth acting upon "I couldn't seem to come up with a business that I could get really excited about," he writes.



Next: Sixteen-Year-Old Entrepreneur Strides to Success With Red-Soled Stickers



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Dan Fastenberg

Dan Fastenberg

Associate Editor

Dan Fastenberg was most recently a reporter with TIME Magazine. Previously, he was a writer for the Thomson Reuters news service's Latin America desk. He was also a reporter and associate editor for the Buenos Aires Herald while living in South America.

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p7000j

this guy is the son of the deceased Dr KHALID MUHAMMAD.. the companies he's associated w/ surely have his dad rolling over in his grave.. CAPITALIST INDIVIDUALISM HUH?? WOW

July 26 2013 at 3:01 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
bangaly94

Earn rewards and free stuff by searching and shopping online, answering surveys, and more at http://bit.ly/9bwxpc

November 30 2011 at 7:53 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Stephanie Christine

Get my 2 Books Mu-Sicks Poisonous Venom & Celibate But Still Masturbating on my site www.chingchongpub.com Stephanie Christine formerly Chyna Whyte.. Oh..This is an awesome story. why am i just hearing about him???

November 25 2011 at 7:49 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
wealthy77

This is really Powerful im Glad I was Fortunate to Attract this Site.
198k per year bizz at http://www.100kbizz.com

p.s Everything we want is on the other side of fear.
Farrah Gray,

October 09 2011 at 5:24 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Rebecca Smith

White leftists must hate this man

September 09 2011 at 4:16 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
zekolama

More evidence proving the BLACK LIE WRONG!

The Black Lie is that "we can't get ahead because the White Man is holding us down". Which is their excuse and justification for crime, stealing and selling drugs.

Success is available to all people of color who are willing to apply themselves and work for it.

The part they don't like is that it isn't easy and their are no shortcuts!

September 09 2011 at 2:11 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Chris Jones

Notice he did all that without help from Washington DC, Al Sharpton, or Big Labor.

September 09 2011 at 1:30 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
Shomara Cruz

What I'm getting at is that we MUST make room for really small business. Whereas everyone talks about burdensome regulations on business - THEY ARE NOT TALKING ABOUT SMALL BUSINESS LIKE THIS.

http://www.hotelprismacusco.com/

September 09 2011 at 12:56 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Shomara Cruz's comment
Ragnar

I think that this proves that we don't need to mess with the market. After all, every business starts small and it ends up as survival of the fittest. The best product at the cheapest price made by a well run company will flourish and the others will fall to the wayside. Grey proves that markets can find their own way through supply and demand. Of course, the alternative is to limit the production of other company's through some sort of law. I know what we could call it, the Equalization of Opportunity Bill! Wait, that one is already taken. Oh well, I suppose Ayn Rand can keep it.

July 21 2013 at 10:36 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
blondetwit

This is great - But! There's always that "but"...
I've done precisely the same as he has, and I've been tremendously successful. The problem is, in TODAY'S environment especially, the kid would have been fined for no business license, insurance, harvesting rocks that didn't belong to him...etc.
What I'm getting at is that we MUST make room for really small business. Whereas everyone talks about burdensome regulations on business - THEY ARE NOT TALKING ABOUT SMALL BUSINESS LIKE THIS.
In my city, the minimum business license fee would be $100. And there's the matter of registering with the state, etc. Just to start a rock painting/selling business here, it would have cost him AT LEAST $1500 before he painted his first rock.
I have proposed, and am constantly overlooks, a 3 year window for ANY new business that is a sole prop/limited partnership with less than 5 employees.
Anyone can start a business on the side without risking PRECIOUS assets if they could do this. What would THIS add to our economy? But if you have to put any and all capital into gov't fees just to sell lemonade, how could you every get to the point of making any money?
How about eliminating any licensing fees or make it cheap, like $10 for a 3 yr city license, if you're just trying to add a couple hundred bucks a month to your household? That could make a huge difference too.
We need to actually pay attention to TINY, not "SMALL" business. THEY keep trying to confuse the playing field, saying THEY are paying attention to small business, but I argue, THEY are not. NO ONE PAYS ATTENTION TO MOM AND POP'S...let along Junior starting a rock painting business.
Rock on!

September 09 2011 at 12:12 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
evodevo

I'm still waiting to see the details how he ACTUALLY made his millions. A REALLY innovative product/development? Don't see any here. You don't make a million dollars selling rocks to neighbors/relatives. I suspect it involved a lot more than hand lotion or phone cards. Most of the people I know like this that made it that fast made it off pyramid sales schemes in which you don't make your money selling product, but off suckering in increasing numbers of subordinate sales people who pay him. The essential idea is that Mr. X, makes only one payment. To start earning, Mr. X has to recruit others like him who will also make one payment each. Mr. X gets paid out of receipts from those new recruits. They then go on to recruit others. As each new recruit makes a payment, Mr. X gets a cut. He is thus promised exponential benefits as the "business" expands. Those who originate the scheme make thousands/millions. The last suckers in make nothing.
Really inspiring.

September 09 2011 at 9:55 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to evodevo's comment
leonard k

true.also feel the same abt "details how he ACTUALLY made his millions".my take is that its been financed by U.S government funds through foundations ,i.e "AMONG HIS HIGH-PROFILE BACKERS IS BILL CLINTON. AND ACCORDING TO RESEARCH COMPILED BY THE KAUFFMANN FOUNDATION, WHICH IS A PARTNER OF THE FARRAH GRAY FOUNDATION,

September 09 2011 at 2:22 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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