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Young New Yorkers' million-dollar ideas

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amny Photo Credit: Alexa von Tobel founded LearnVest

Not all young New Yorkers are struggling to get by.

From a Harvard Business School dropout to a couple that took entrepreneurship to the extreme, these twenty-something New Yorkers transformed college frustrations, money woes and Craigslist ads into million-dollar businesses.

Some told amNewYork their quick successes were unexpected.

"I thought maybe I'd write novels, but instead I run a company," said Jordan Goldman, 29, of Unigo, an online college guide whose office is in midtown.

These entrepreneurs may differ in how they came upon prosperity, but they agree on one thing: Success stems from passion.

"It has to come from your heart," said Jonathan Koon, 28, of Tykoon Brand Holdings, whose showroom overlooks Times Square.

Here's a look at some of Gotham's brightest young entrepreneurs - whose financial success has been publicly documented - that have hit on innovative ideas that helped their businesses reach the million-dollar mark before the age of 30.

(With Christine DiStasio)

Alexa von Tobel, 28
LearnVest

Fresh out of Harvard, Alexa von Tobel joined the proprietary trading desk at Morgan Stanley. That’s when von Tobel realized she had no idea how to deal with her own finances.

Her frustration led to the creation of LearnVest in December 2009 — a free financial site geared toward women that helps its users organize and keep track of their finances. The site also features daily newsletters and “boot camps” that “kick your butt on the topic of finance,” von Tobel said.

For those looking for alittle extra help, users can pay for access to certified financial planners. “I like to think of it as the money Genius Bar. You can pay to talk to our geniuses,” von Tobel adds.

The company recently exceeded 100,000 users and raised just under $25 million in the past two years.

Jordan Goldman, 29
Unigo

Jordan Goldman didn’t expect that his frustration with college applications would turn into a multimillion-dollar idea.
After finding that several college guides already on the market didn’t have the information he was looking for, the Staten Island native put together his own, using thousands of student-generated reviews.

“I’ve never taken a business course,” Goldman said.

Penguin published his five guidebooks, and then he took the project online in 2008, making more than $1million annually.

Education giant McGraw-Hill recently invested $1.6 million in the company, and the Kauffman Foundation named Goldman one of the top 100 entrepreneurs in America.
“It’s nice when something you really believe in allows you to be successful,” he said.

Jonathan Koon, 28
Tykoon Brand Holdings

By age 16, Jonathan Koon had already struck it rich.

The Queens-born entrepreneur made his first million tricking out cars with Japanese auto parts and accessories under the name Extreme Motor Sports.

Knockoffs emerged, however, and the company went bust. But the setback didn’t stop Koon, who simply found a different project to work on. And then another. And another.
Today, his conglomeration of companies, Tykoon Brand Holdings, is valued at around $80 million, according to Businessweek, and Koon mostly concentrates on fashion these days.

His most recent venture, Private Stock Denim, is a merger of European, American and Asian street and high fashion. He’s rolling out a line of clothes early this year.

Michael Simmons, 29; Sheena Lindahl, 28
Extreme Entrepreneurship Tour

Michael Simmons and Sheena Lindahl not only made their million as entrepreneurs— they made their million creating them.

The married NYU grads founded the Extreme Entrepreneurship Tour in 2006, sharing stories and advice from other young entrepreneurs.

"There’s such a big need [for entrepreneurs],” Simmons said. “Small businesses account for over two-thirds of new jobs. They’re vital.”

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