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The CEO Under 30: Degreed or Not Degreed?

By Destiny Diggs
Staff Writer

A young generation often given grief for being lazy, overindulgent in its love of iPhones and social media, and dedication to pop culture is often also crowned as being motivated risk takers. Entrepreneurs under the age of 30 start businesses faster than the baby boom generation, according to a 2016 BNP Paribas Global Entrepreneur Report. Many young CEOs starting businesses in their 20’s are not afraid to dive into a sea of sharks. Success stories like that of Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, and Bill Gates, former CEO of the Microsoft Corporation, give support to the argument that a college degree may not be required to have a thriving business. However, having a degree does have a lot to do with the success of a startup business.

CEO of Billboard Bound Boutique, Jade Futch

In the United States, the average college graduate is between 25 to 34 years old. Thirty six percent of those living in metropolitan areas are college graduates compared to 51 percent of rural residents who have no college degrees.

Tracy Walker, 27 year old CEO of Lash Diggs, LLC., who lives in the suburbs of South Jersey, attended college but did not complete all of the courses to graduate. “I was attending school to finish a BA in Science for computer science. Like many other students, I ran out of funding and could not afford to finish my senior year,” Walker said. When Walker decided that beauty was more than a pastime and was her passion, she pursued a cosmetology license. “Prior to secondary education I received my cosmetology license in 2009 and I have been able to use it to create my business,” Walker said.

Walker is a full-time entrepreneur and mother who uses her time to market Lash Diggs, LLC., in a way that is compelling to 25 to 35 year olds. With the help of social media and her company website,  Walker serves over 50 lash clients from both lash extensions and strip lashes. “We pride ourselves on a chic, classy aesthetic. Our mission is to give women a level of confidence that will allow our clients to attack their goals head on. When you look and feel better you often do better,” Walker said.

Walker uses social media for her company, but also makes house calls and has loyal clients who visit her home for lash extension services beginning at $125. “I just stay true to myself and to my brand. As a result, my company has prospered,” Walker said. Lash Diggs, LLC., has been in operation since May 6, 2017 and will soon be available for sale on Amazon. “My plan for longevity is to keep going. I write down my goals every morning and night and I check them off if accomplished. If I continue to stay grounded in my faith and remain positive while on this journey I will be successful and resilient against time,” Walker said.

Licensed traveling massage therapist Sharee McFadden started her business, Anointed Touch, at the age of 27. Located in Woodbury, New Jersey, she serves the Delaware Valley with the techniques of hot stone prenatal, therapeutic, swedish, deep tissue, scrub, and reflexology. “As a young girl I always massaged my grandmother and she told me that I was effective in the area of massaging. As I got older I found massaging was my passion and made a career out of it,” McFadden said. McFadden attended a specialized trade school, Harris School of Business, but did not graduate from college. “At school I was taught how to make my career into a business but I am figuring things out as I go,” McFadden said. “I have a 3 year old to take care of and I work retail and am a hairstylist. I was also recently hired at Hand and Stone Massage and Facial Spa,” McFadden said. McFadden administers massages starting at $40, making an estimate of $125 a day. On Facebook and Instagram, she posts flyers with sales information for her committed and potential customers. “My goal is to one day have my own therapeutic spa called, Anointed Touch,” McFadden said. The new CEO has been in business for six months and clientele continuously grows each month.

Billboard Bound, LLC., a women’s boutique, can be found on 4924 West field Avenue in Pennsauken, New Jersey. Jade Futch, owner of Billboard Bound, found the location by happenstance. “I was riding down the street and saw a for rent sign. I called the owner and she gave it to me. It’s the perfect location due to the surrounding businesses there is a lot of foot traffic,” Futch said.

Futch started the business at the age of 22 in July 2014. After attending several semesters at Temple University, she decided school was no longer something she wanted to pursue. “I’m a college drop out. I was very good at school but decided it wasn’t for me. The funny thing is I’m doing everything I wanted to do since I graduated high school,” Futch said. The boutique owner not only spends time making women feel like the best versions of themselves, but also splits her time working at Camden county police department.

Billboard Bound allows women ages 18 to 35 years old to “dress like they are already famous.” Futch sells everything wholesale, from clothing, accessories, to hair extensions. “Billboard Bound is not only a clothing store but a one stop shop. We have a makeup and lash studio on site and sell virgin hair extensions,” Futch said.

Opening a boutique was natural for Futch because of her love for fashion as well as her love for helping people find the right outfit for every occasion. “It comes easy to me. I love to shop and help others get ready for their special events, now I get to do it for a living,” Futch said.

The CEO plans to open a makeup and lash studio in a separate location called, Billboard Bound Beauty Bar.

Tanesha Hamilton, owner of Unforgettable Creations Catering and Neats Sweet Treats, lives in Lexington, North Carolina. She graduated from North Carolina State University with B.A. in Communications and a focus in Public and Interpersonal Communication. Hamilton also has an A.A.S. in Culinary Arts from Johnson and Wales University. She puts both degrees to work as a high foods and nutrition teacher as well as a part-time chef.

Hamilton turned her love of cooking into a business in October 2009 at the age of 23 years old, two months prior to her graduating from North Carolina State University. “My pastor challenged us to start something we enjoy doing but never saw ourselves making something out of it. It was then that I began to position myself upon college graduation to pursue a culinary degree,” Hamilton said. The chef explained that she always knew how to cook but it wasn’t until her senior year at North Carolina State University that she learned it was her passion. Upon graduating, Hamilton discovered her desire to bake. “I said throughout culinary school that I hated baking until someone asked me to bake a dessert; the rest is history,” Hamilton said.

Originally from a small town in Davidson County, North Carolina, Hamilton services the surrounding cities including Greensboro, Charlotte, and Winston-Salem. “I do not have a brick and mortar yet but I am able to bake out of my home. I rent a commercial kitchen for larger events,” Hamilton said. Unforgettable Creations Catering and Neats Sweet Treats is marketed at local events with vendors in North Carolina. Hamilton also takes food samples to businesses and passes out her food at her town’s mall along with business cards. “I’m currently a foods and nutrition teacher at a high school, so I make food for the office staff and other teachers and they pay me on holidays and special occasions to make their treats,” Hamilton said. She promotes her business mostly on the social media sites; Facebook and Instagram and posts flyers with business specials.

Even though Hamilton enjoys teaching, her ultimate goal is to cater and to bake full-time. “The kids love me, I like to give back and try to encourage them. I teach at a low performing low budget school. I love
to inspire my students and have had two students from my first year go to culinary school,” Hamilton said. She also teaches cooking classes at Williams Sonoma, a kitchen supply store in the malls of Winston Salem, Charlotte, and Greensboro, North Carolina.

LeJuan Samuel, CEO and Founder of Roc Da Block Entertainment, LLC. was the tender age of 17 years old when he founded the record company, but he officially started the business at 18 after receiving his fictitious business name. “I knew it was worth starting because I saw multi-million production deals happening before my eyes,” Samuel said.

“Coming from a home with a mother who is an educator, I did not have the option to fail,” Samuel said. In 1999, Samuel attended the University of Houston, where he studied Audio Engineering Programming and received his full Audio Production Certification. Samuel resides in the rural region of Woodlands, Texas.

Roc Da Block Entertainment is a production company that not only concentrates on music production but makes artist development. “I knew music was my passion because I thought of it every second of the day, it consumed my thoughts and my finances. I followed every magazine on music and read as many books as possible,” Samuel said. The record producer has worked with artists such as Vincent Herbert, Brandy, Scarface, Jodeci, Kim Burrell, John P. Kee, and Zacardi Cortez.

The record label owner strongly believes that the music business is in a great state, especially for producers. “Budgets are not the same as they use to be, however, a lot of labels and artists do not use their budgets properly,” Samuel said. He also thinks it is easier to establish a career due to easy internet access. “An artist does not really need a label to release material due to streaming services and online retail stores. This is definitely the era of the independent artist,” Samuel said. On the other hand, the majority of large record sales come from major labels. “It is always a good time to be in the music business if that’s the career you desire and are willing to work extremely hard to achieve your dreams and goals. If you plan on being in this business, you must do it for the love of music while having an abundance of knowledge to be successful,” Samuel said.

Financial expert Jamie Williams has nearly 20 years of experience and has worked for some of the nation’s largest nancial institutions, including Merrill Lynch, J.P. Morgan, Lehman Brothers, and Deutsche Bank. Williams obtained his FINRA 7, 24, 63 licenses and has a Bachelor’s Degree from Temple University.

According to Williams, small businesses are good for the economy and account for the majority of new jobs. “While companies listed on the Dow Jones and S&P 500 indices tend to be the most popular indicators of how well the economy is doing, small business success, I believe, are the true authentic economic barometer,” Williams said.

The finance guru supports individuals under 30 years old who start their own businesses, especially college students. “It’s one thing to sit through lectures, read books, write papers, take exams, graduate, and land a job with a company, but it’s been my experience that leaders and innovators generally are unfulfilled with the aforementioned path.” In 2018, you can “start a business with a computer and a great idea,” Williams said.

To start a successful business, you need a business model and a plan with capital to sustain the business during the infancy period. “Keep in mind that you don’t know everything; find a mentor. A qualified mentor can minimize exposure to the inevitable pitfalls of business,” Williams said. He also argues that to maintain a business, a CEO must be exible and must be open to altering the business model. “Be in tune with your consumer, understand their needs and above all make sure the product is meeting their needs. Know what you do well and identify your competitive advance,” Williams said.

A degree is not required to start a business. However, a degree does not hurt. A solid education can give a business owner the tools needed to have a long lasting, successful company, Williams said. “A good education can be the foundation and provide the building blocks and tools you need to be successful,” Williams said. Age does not determine success; maturity and experience do.

There is no denying it; many millennials today are taking a chance and opening both online and physical businesses.

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