2020 has drained everyone, by way of a pandemic, political upheaval, and a shaky economy. Somehow, despite all of this, Gen Z has maintained the energy and focus to create a better state of being in the United States.
Generation Z is made up of everyone born after 1996, and studies show that this generation leans into their civic duty. Whether through inspiration or service projects, here are five youth-run businesses that are striving to make a difference during this unpredictable year.
Trinity Jagdeo, We Can't 2 We Can
Trinity Jagdeo is striving for inclusivity for disabled children. Inspired by her childhood friend's battle with Spinal Muscular Atrophy Type 2, Jagdeo saw the need for representation and was determined to close the gap. Her comic book series We Can't 2 We Can gives disabled children powers and makes them superheroes.
She also has started a non-profit of the same name, Trinity explains the mission, "We offer many services to the special needs community; hosting inclusive events is one of them. This year, in celebration of our second anniversary, we planned to host a fashion show called, 'I Love Me and My Disability.' Unfortunately, due to the current events going on with the world, we have had to postpone our show." She was still able to fundraise online, and the proceeds have gone to the many families she works with.
Trinity started her charity at 17, and now 19, her business has grown. She is now a public speaker and gives talks about entrepreneurship and goal-setting at high schools and colleges. How does she measure her success? "I will know I've made it when I get invited on the Kelly Clarkson show."
Stand Up, Fight Back
Andreya, Isabelle, Piper, Lee, and Noelani, Stand Up, Fight Back, Tucson
Stand Up, Fight Back (SUFB) is the brainchild of five teens, ranging in age from 15 to 19, who all met at Tucson protests for George Floyd. Since its inception, the teens have held events, calling for justice for victims of police brutality and relocation of police funding into the community, like housing and school initiatives. "We all grew up seeing how unjust this country really is. We had very similar ideas and morals; so we easily adopted a connection. Because of this strong connection, we all agreed to join together and find a way that we could make a difference in this country, big or small."
"In our city, three people have died in police custody in the last few months. Our goal is to be a part of the change in history, and to do whatever we can to help move this revolution forward. We are trying to make this earth a good place for all of us to live, not just a select few."
The teens believe that the best way to support their organization is to support their causes. "Black lives matter, as well as immigrants, LGBTQA+, and civil rights. Whether that means working with your local official donating, sharing, protesting, signing petitions. Do whatever you can do to eradicate the injustice in the system." The group always needs extra supplies for their efforts, and they have attached a Venmo donation link to their social pages.
Carrie and Sophia Fox
Sophia Fox, Adventures in Kindness
The idea for Adventures in Kindness was born one year ago when Sophia (then nine) asked her mother a tough question. "I asked my mom one night why there is so much mean in the world. She didn't have an answer, so we tried to answer it together. We decided to replace the word mean with kind." The pair sat down and created a list of age-appropriate activities. That list became the book Adventures in Kindness.
Carrie explains, "The book is written primarily for children between the ages of seven and 12, and it is designed to be a practical resource for them and their families, where they could open the book and literally have everything they need at their fingers to go create positive change."
The book, as well as the website, have become a platform for kind kids. For members of the Kind Kids Club, there are rewards for completing a certain number of activities. Their slogan is "Kind is cool, so wear it proud."
The book is available on Amazon and their website, and if purchased through the site, at least 10% of the profit will go to one of the charities featured in the book. For July, the donations went to the Southern Poverty Law Center. Carrie says they were chosen "because of their work with a platform called Teaching Tolerance. In the book, we talk about the importance of empathy and learning about cultures different from your own." To purchase books, kits, or apparel, visit their website.
Ventura Website Builders
Deive Mece, Evan Robert, Yash Rondla, Ventura Website Builders
Three 17-year-olds saw their community hurting in the wake of COVID19, and they felt compelled to take action. Evan explained, "We noticed that a lot of small businesses in our area—many run by older folks—were struggling. Nobody was visiting their businesses, and we realized that they had no online presence at all." The three noticed that without customers able to walk through stores, and they started what they called a "community service project" to help their local businesses stay afloat.
With the downtime they had while sheltering in place, the teens taught themselves how to build websites. According to Deive, "We're all interested in computers and coding. So we all pretty much learned how to build the websites over the past couple of months. We just looked up like tutorials and YouTube videos, and figured it out like that."
The boys are excited to continue helping businesses in need, and since they all want to major in business in college, Evan says that they are loving the early lesson in entrepreneurship. "Deive is interested in maybe minoring in software engineering, so we are all getting valuable experience." The three would like to expand their business outside of their Simi Valley area. If you know a business that has been impacted by COVID and can't afford web design, visit their website to request a consultation.
Aniyah Ayres, Aniyah's Mission
Since Aniyah was six, she's had the desire to give back. That is why she founded Aniyah's Mission. Her organization has been tending to the needy in West Philadelphia by feeding the homeless, as well as back to school supply drives and scholarship giveaways. At six, she started with a water ice stand, and now, at fourteen, she is an entrepreneur, philanthropist, community activist, motivational speaker, and author.
COVID-19 changed the dynamics of Aniyah's mission, but with her mother's help, she's still able to make a difference. "My mom went to the store for families and took their groceries to their houses, and we started supplying lunches for hospital workers."
Aniyah, who is now 14 and starting high school, hopes that her next steps are writing a second book. She wrote her first, which teaches children how to grieve after a loss, inspired by losing her own father really young. "There weren't any resources to help me cope with my anger or grief. So I wrote a book, hoping to help others process their grief. I definitely see myself and another book, and having more of a global impact."
Aniyah recognizes the advantages she has had with starting a nonprofit, but she wants to encourage others who may not have as many resources to still give back. She offers this advice: "You have to make sure it's something you really want to do, because it can get tiring. Then make sure you have the mindset to get started. Start out small, you can hand out bags of food in your neighborhood, or you can take part in a community cleanup day. From there, gather more people. Learn how to fundraise, and make sure you have a strong supporting family and friends behind you."
2020 has taught us many tough lessons, but one worth carrying into 2021 and beyond is that you're never too young to make a difference.
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