If building a company and growing it into a huge success is on your To Do list, you’d better get it done before puberty sets in! It’s a thought that might make you chuckle, but it’s certainly true that young entrepreneurial success is being achieved more frequently — and applauded more forcefully — these days.
Twenty-something Twice entrepreneurs Noah Ready-Campbell and Calvin Young are some of the latest celebrated start-ups on the scene. Pursuitist caught up with the über-busy businessmen to talk a little shop and a lot about their developing skills and entrepreneurial seasoning. Read on for some secrets to their young success and thoughts on where this green generation is going.
Recently named to Forbes’ “30 Under 30” list, Twice! co-founders Ready-Campbell and Young are perhaps your quintessential modern start-up story. After studying at top schools (Ready-Campbell holds a Business degree from Wharton, and Young studied Business and Computer Science at the University of North Carolina), they duo met during their only short stint working for a boss. Ready-Campbell laughs, “I think between the two of us we worked at Google for almost a year total.”
Despite being “surrounded by the smartest people I’ve ever met in my life,” according to Young, the pair both had the itch to start a company. Any company. And they’d meet up during work breaks to bounce ideas before finding a mutual frustration… and using that idea to finally (a term we use lightly) take the plunge to go off on their own.
Twice “really grew out of a frustration with Ebay,” Ready-Campbell explained. This sort of ‘everyday exasperation’ led them to build their own hybrid marketplace — somewhere between a traditional retailer and a peer-to-peer exchange — where they could “take the work off the plates of sellers and do it internally.”
In short, it goes something like this: Request a free shipping bag. Send your stuff in to Twice. Twice sorts through to decide what is sellable… and gives you cash upfront for those items. Everything else will be sent back. Sounds easy, right? That’s just what the start-up savants were going for. But, as with most forays into the fashion world, it was Ladies, first.
“I always wanted to do Men’s. It was actually our initial idea,” says Ready-Campbell. But they needed to wait until a statistical analysis suggested focusing here… and they could get the publicity to make a big market push.
That’s where society’s “little bit of unhealthy obsession on youth” (Young’s words) came in handy. The Forbes’ piece not only put Twice on some new VC radars and helped the company get more media attention, but “when we launched Men’s [last week], I was able to make the announcement in an interview with Fox Business,” Ready-Campbell told us. “People [/Media] tend to focus on youth because it’s where the clicks are.”
A combination of their generationally appropriate fresh idea and media’s youth fandom gets them added attention, for sure, but its undoubtedly the pair’s natural business acumen that rewarded Twice’s latest take — at least on day one — with what they deem a huge success. “On the first day, we sold 20% of our [Men’s] inventory. I’d say that’s rare.”
So how much credit should their recent accolade get for the week’s accomplishments? “We push ourselves more than anyone else,” said Young. “[The Forbes’ list] doesn’t change the course of anything. We’re proud of our accomplishments so far and know there are more challenges ahead. We just do the best we can.”
And Ready-Campbell reminds us that “it’s not exclusively people in their twenties” that are creating such delightfully disruptive business change. He points to What’sApp co-founders Brian Acton and Jan Koum’s success — they sold the app they created in their late 30s to Facebook to become billionaires at around age 40 — and gives an almost naive nod to the founders’ famous return to ‘the Fruit,’ saying “The 2nd act of Steve Jobs at Apple was far more impressive.”
“Scary, but thrilling,” is the way these young entrepreneurs are describing their salad days. Responsible for a workforce nearing 300 people, the blooming businessmen agree that dealing with risk — and similar interesting challenges — are one of the more adventurous aspects of being an entrepreneur. And having such little experience in the general workforce doesn’t always help.
“We’re making it up as we go along a little bit,” Calvin admitted, “but we have a network of fantastic mentors.” Some notable names that graced earlier iterations of the Forbes’ list — like Milo’s Jack Abraham and Thrillist’s Ben Lerer — were among those they spouted off as supplementing their own exceptionally short work experience with wisdom and inspiration.
“I’ve known since High School [that I wanted to be an entrepreneur]. And I think I’m just getting started,” insisted Ready-Campbell. He makes entrepreneurship sound as easy as sending his castoff clothes to be sold on a website.
Good thing he and Young have a few more years to make appearances on those label ‘lists.’ With a business almost prophetically named Twice and so much time left to create a legacy, something tells us that not even reaching 30 could cause these two relentless resellers to slow down… or focus less on building their business.