Meet the millennial and Gen Z founders dressing Jill Biden, opening NFT art galleries, and raising millions in funding

"Star, Rising" with the world map behind it on a blue background with faint glowing stars scattered around.
“Star, Rising” is a series highlighting early entrepreneurs and businesses.

  • Insider’s series Star, Rising highlights early-stage entrepreneurs and companies who are gaining popularity.
  • So far, Insider has profiled founders all over the world who are innovating their respective industries.
  • Here are the 15 burgeoning business owners in Insider’s Star, Rising series.

The pandemic spurred a new wave of entrepreneurship, prompting people to start their own companies, and that doesn’t seem to be slowing down.

The US saw 4.3 million new business applications in 2020-a 24.3% increase from 2019-and 3.8 million so far this year, according to the US Census Bureau. That’s in addition to the rise in hustle culture, as the gig economy grows and social media paves way for more virtual shops and accessible marketplaces. In particular, many millennials and Gen Zers are disrupting the industries they work in as they find their place in the protean landscape of entrepreneurship.

With so much change, it can often be hard to track the new innovators seeking to redefine the world around them. That’s why Insider has started profiling them in its series Star, Rising, which explores how these entrepreneurs built their businesses, who they call mentors, and what advice they would give others looking to follow in their footsteps.

So far, the series has introduced Oladosu Teyibo, who is sourcing African talent for his software company to increase representation in tech, and. Sharmadean Reid, who launched a female-centric financial news publication to educate the rising crop of entrepreneurs. Here are the 13 other burgeoning founders in Insider’s Star, Rising series.

Sharmadean Reid’s new business aims to empower entrepreneurial women.

Sharmadean Reid
Sharmadean Reid

Reid is the founder of The Stack World, a female-centric financial publication that aims to be the stepping stone between Cosmopolitan and The Financial Times. Based in London, the outlet is on track to hit 10,000 subscribers by next year and has more than 420,000 followers on Instagram.

In 2019, Reid raised nearly £4 million ($5.5 million) in a funding round led by Index Ventures for BeautyStack and has since rebranded and expanded the platform into The Stack World’s marketplace. That milestone made her one of 10 Black female entrepreneurs in the UK who’s raised venture capital between 2009 and 2019.

Two Gen Zers turned a $2,000 investment into an art gallery that sells $600K pieces. They want to usher in a new generation of art collectors.

Alexis de Bernede (L) and Marius Jacob (R)
Alexis de Bernede (R) and Marius Jacob (L))

Based in France, Alexis de Bernede and Marius Jacob are the founders of Darmo Art gallery. This summer, their two shows netted six figures each, and they are now planning future exhibitions in Paris, the French Riviera, and at the Grand Hotel Heiligendamm, an exclusive report in Germany.

The millennial founder of a software company on track to net seven figures this year is fostering Africa’s rising tech stars.

Oladosu Teyibo stands wearing a black shirt in the middle of the street smiling
Oladosu Teyibo

Oladosu Teyibo is the founder of Analog Teams, a software development company focused on hiring talent from underrepresented communities. The company is on track to net seven figures in revenue this year and has already expanded into six African countries, including Kenya, Ghana, and Nigeria.

Hogoè Kpessou worked as an Uber Eats driver before she launched her handbag brand last year. Now she’s on track to net seven figures.

photo of Hogoè Kpessou
Hogoè Kpessou

Luxury designer Hogoè Kpessou is best known for her backpacks emblazoned with a gold bumblebee. Before starting her eponymous company, she held weekend shifts at a local restaurant and delivered food for Uber Eats. Now she expects to hit seven figures in revenue by the beginning of next year.

The 24-year-old cofounder of an NFT art gallery raised $7.6 million in funds on his quest to create the ‘Instagram for NFTs’.

Alex Masmej headshot
Alex Masmej

Alex Masmej made headlines last year after turning himself into a token on crypto-platform Ethereum. Now, he’s working on his next venture, called Showtime, which is an art gallery that focuses on highlighting non-fungible tokens. In April, he raised $7.6 million in venture capital and hopes to make Showtime one of the biggest NFT art galleries in the world.

Three millennial cofounders created a job platform that looks like TikTok and works with Panda Express, H&M, and Everlane.

Three men sit in a grocery store looking at the camera smiling
(L-R) Tristan Petit, Adrien Dewulf and Cyriac Lefort

Tristan Petit, Adrien Dewulf, and Cyriac Lefort are the cofounders of the job platform Heroes, which allows individuals to submit video job applications and lets employers share day-in-the-life videos of workers. The platform seeks to help Gen Z workers get jobs at retailers such as Panda Express and H&M. What’s more, last year it closed a $6 million seed round, led by Greg McAdoo of venture capital firm Bolt.

Entrepreneur Anne Onyeneho turned a cookbook into a meal-prepping business and soon a restaurant.

Anne Onyeneho standing in her kitchen posing
Anne Onyeneho

Last November, Anne Onyeneho authored a cookbook full of plant-based recipes called PlantBaed to help people prepare their own healthy dishes at home. Four months later, she launched a meal prepping service, named after the cookbook, so customers could buy healthy dishes directly from her. She’s on track to net six figures in revenue by the end of this year and looking to open a restaurant.

Millennial fashion designer Alexandra O’Neill is seeing cocktail dress sales skyrocket as customers prepare for the new Roaring 20s

Markarian designer Alexandra O'Neill sits in front of clothes

Alexandra O’Neill is the founder of luxury brand Markarian and made headlines this year after First Lady Jill Biden wore a custom Markarian piece for Inauguration. Since then, the company has seen sales skyrocket. What’s more, O’Neill held her first New York Fashion Week presentation in September, showing off a collection inspired by Lauren Bacall in the movie “How to Marry a Millionaire.”

3 Gen Zers created a competition to connect young creatives with cash and careers amid the pandemic.

(L-R) Harry Beard, Alexandre Daillance, Adam Flanagan
(L-R) Harry Beard, Alexandre Daillance, Adam Flanagan

Harry Beard, Alexandre Daillance, Adam Flanagan launched the competition Prospect 100 last year to help young creatives showcase their work as the pandemic shuttered the arts industry. Since last May, it’s held six competitions with more than 15,000 participants from 82 countries. Additionally, past judges include Apple cofounder Steve Wozniak and Yeezy design director Steven Smith.

Brittni Popp’s 6-figure side hustle is making custom cakes for celebrities like Paris Hilton and Khloe Kardashian.

Brittni Popp

Brittni Popp likes to help people commemorate their important life moments, whether that’s a bridal party, divorce, or even an expunged DUI. Her business, Betchin Cakes, sells customized baked goods that come adorned with decorations like Barbie dolls or empty nips. In the two years since she launched her side hustle, she’s landed high-profile customers like Paris Hilton and Khloe Kardashian, and is on track to make six figures in revenue this year.

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