Friday, August 5, 2005

Palo Alto Weekly Online - The 18-year-old CEO Many students starting own businesses

The 18-year-old CEO Many students starting own businesses
by Alexandria Rocha

In the early 1970s, a fresh high school graduate was having trouble finding a part-time job to pay his way through college. With a bit of creativity and an old pick-up truck, the student, started the Starving Students, Inc. moving company, now a successful business known nationally for its entrepreneurial beginnings.

Teenagers in Palo Alto must have a little starving student in their bones. While high school students have been mowing their neighbors' lawns and baby sitting their toddlers to earn extra cash for decades, the new wave of young, business-savvy teens are launching Web sites and full-scale service companies.

Call it the era of the 18-year-old CEO.

"Entrepreneurial ship at this age amazes me. It teaches excellent responsibility," said Meri Gyves, director of Gunn and Palo Alto high schools' joint work experience program. "This is not a group of slackers. If anything they need to learn how to relax. This is the generation that will need the cabin up in Wisconsin where you can't get a phone."

Gyves is onto something. The two recent high school grads featured below have dedicated countless hours toward their business creations. For Len Kozhukh, 18 -- whose peer and partner Kayvan Farzaneh could not be reached -- it's a Web site called JobSherpa, which aims to link high school students and employers. For Allon Jacobs, an '04 Gunn alumni, it's a local house painting business.

Last summer, Kozhukh, who graduated from Paly in June and is headed to UC Berkeley this fall, was casually talking to friends about job hunting. They all concurred it was not the easiest task to do in the Silicon Valley.

"You either get (a job) by word of mouth or by walking around seeing help wanted signs, or through parents," said Kozhukh, during a phone interview this week.

Kozhukh and Farzaneh wanted to make it easier for their peers. They decided to create a Web site similar to, which allows job seekers and employers to search for each other. They called it JobSherpa, and it's different from the model in that it's only for high school and college students. It's also local.

"We were high school students so we had lots of friends looking for jobs, college friends as well. There is a clear need of such a service to make it much easier for students to find full-time and part-time jobs," Kozhukh said. "We decided we would at once try to fill this need and possibly make a little money on the side."

JobSherpa was launched in January and it currently has about 15 businesses advertising positions. Kozhukh said the site gets hits every day, but there is no way to measure how many students have obtained jobs through its services.

The partners are now trying to link up with major corporations interested in posting open positions across the country and internationally on a continuous basis.

Jacobs' position is similar in that he is solely responsible for operating his painting business. His work, however, is linked to a national company called College Works, which helps dozens of college students across the country set up their own house painting businesses by providing them managerial training and the funds to get off the ground.

Jacobs, 19, who will start his sophomore year at UC Davis this fall, interviewed with College Works and was hired as a branch manager, along with his brother Eadon. The boys are triplets with their sister Leore.

Working across the Peninsula, the brothers have so far done about two dozen painting jobs each. They don't do any actual painting, but are responsible for hiring experienced workers, supervising them and buying the supplies. They also advertise for jobs and give estimates.
"The real world isn't something that can be taught in the classroom, that's why we wanted to do this," said Allon Jacobs, who is leaning toward pre-med at UC Davis.

Allon said his hard-working parents have also been a big source of inspiration. The triplets' dad is a doctor at Kaiser Permanente who also runs his own start-up in the medical field. Their mom is currently starting her own business in online retail.

"We understand that being an entrepreneur grants you a lot of freedoms that are otherwise hard to achieve," Allon said. "We wanted to get a head start."

To read the full article, visit

Starving Students Moving Company
Corporate Office: 1850 Sawtelle Blvd., Suite 300 Los Angeles, CA 90025
Phone: (800) 506-0366