Millennials, huh? Those avocado-toast-loving, Instagram-influencering, selfie-taking young’uns. They’re always too busy disrupting industries to get to the business of making themselves a proper career.
Just kidding. You’re safe here in the knowledge that I, too, am planted firmly within the age range that defines me as a Millennial. And personally, I think we’re great.
And as for traditional careers, who needs ‘em?
Today, more and more Millennials are rejecting traditional career paths and stepping out on their own, and entrepreneurship has always been an appealing alternative. According to a study by the Kaufmann Foundation, 54% of Millennials want to start their own business or have already started one. With the promise of setting your own hours, not having to call anyone boss, and the satisfaction of watching something grow from the ground up, it’s easy to see why Millennials are drawn to the idea of starting their own businesses.
Jenny Lei is proof that despite their age, Millennial entrepreneurs are ready to play in the big leagues. With no formal business training and a single internship on her resume, this self-taught entrepreneur has grown her ecommerce business to an enviable success. Her business, which sells handbags and accessories, has recently passed the $600,000 revenue mark despite launching less a year ago.
I called her up at her apartment/office/temporary warehouse in New York City to talk to her about finding her feet as an entrepreneur, her biggest mistakes, and the little details that have made all the difference to her success.
The First Steps as a Millennial Entrepreneur
Jenny Lei is 22 years old, and brimming with energy and enthusiasm. She’s a self-described optimist, a trait she thinks is crucial to her success as an entrepreneur.
“I’m very positive person, I think that helps. You have to be optimistic when doing this, because a lot of things are going to go wrong,” she says.
Then after graduating college early in December 2017, she found herself out in the real world with the prospect of her entire career spanning before her.
“This past year I was trying to figure out what I want to do with my life, and how I’m going to make money, so I was interviewing a lot.” she says. “But I realized that the jobs I was interviewing for, I wasn’t really interested in.”
Unsatisfied with the idea of falling into an office job, she started to look for projects she could pick up to make some money to support herself.
So in April 2018, in between interviews and job applications, she started dabbling in her ecommerce businesses.
She’d tried running an ecommerce business before in college, selling avocado slicers to her Instagram followers. Her followers (all 800,000 of them) were part of a healthy recipe page she’d spent most of her high school years building. “I was thinking, I have a recipe Instagram page, and people love avocados! Let’s do this,” she says.
In the end the store made a few sales, but didn’t take off in the way she’d hoped.
But this time around, she went for a different approach.
First came the clothing store. Then the jewelry store. Then the bangle store. Then the luggage cases.
“My original goal was to start one store a month,” she says.
While she had some success, most of the businesses didn’t amount to much.
“I don’t remember how I stumbled on the idea of selling bags,” she says. “But it appealed to me, I collect handbags, so I thought it would be a good idea.”
She quickly launched her store with Shopify, and used Oberlo to source the product suppliers and help fulfil the orders. She chose to dropship the products from her supplier in China so that she wouldn’t have to buy inventory upfront. Then, once a customer had placed an order from her store her supplier would take care of delivery of the items directly to her customers.
In May 2018, she launched her handbag store. And her success was quick. After advertising a couple of the bags on her Instagram page, she scored her first sales. And once they started, they flooded in – she made $1,000 in sales in the first 24 hours.