How do entrepreneurs get their start? Sure, Henry Ford left home at 16 to work in machine shops. Walt Disney came back from World War I to partner up with his brother Roy, and create one of the most iconic industries known to date. But although we, as the upcoming generation, should take the advice from past entrepreneurs, we must also realize that the world of business is drastically different today than it was in Ford and Disney’s time. Moreover, we are the “upcoming” generation for a reason. That means we’re still learning, observing and discovering. However, some of us get earlier starts than others, especially when it comes to the world of entrepreneurship and big business. These few are the quick-learners and the self-starters of our generation who are not afraid to delve into the world of big business. They fill the gap between our generation and the generation before us, making our aspirations seem even more tangible. I’d like you to meet one of the very unique few.
There is no better way to describe my dear friend Gerald (Jerry) Rehill other than persistent. He, along with two other students, founded a chapter of a very prestigious club that connected hundreds of high schools to our own, in his sophomore year. In his senior year, he ran and became president of the National Honor Society, headlined a mission to Cuba to help relieve its citizens of financial burden, was granted the extra-curricular participant of the year award and graduated third in our class. Upon leaving our beloved high school, he has moved on to attend college at the Wharton School of Business, while allowing the possibility of concentrating in finance and management with a specialization in entrepreneurship. So when I found out that my very close friend Jerry had started his own company and it was fully up and running by the time he informed me about it, I couldn’t help but laugh. I’d expect nothing less than that from him.
Before I share with you any pieces of advice Jerry has on how to go about starting your own business, I want to give you a taste of Jerry’s story, one that perfectly parallels that of the story of a young woman once named Annie Moore.
Jerry’s business, Annie Moore Tours, was not founded simply because Jerry wanted to start a company.
“It’s a funny story. I actually was trying to become a tour guide because I saw how fun the job was and how good the compensation was," he said. "However I was 17, and in New York City, you need a tour guide license and the minimum age to take the license test is 18. What I discovered though, was that while you had to be 18 to give tours, you could start a company, hire tour guides and attract customers at only 17. Bureaucracy at its finest.”
To me, this is a perfect example of Jerry being his truest self; if he is told he can’t do something, he’ll find a way to do it anyway. Nothing short of persistent.
We talked more and I asked Jerry to explain to me the mission and vision of Annie Moore Tours.
“Annie Moore Tours is a tour operator with a focus on student-led tours of Liberty and Ellis Islands. We employ local, high-achieving college students to provide quality tours at competitive costs," he said. "What does that mean? Our tours do much more than any other ordinary tour. We take the ferry operated by Statue Cruises and provide a guided tour of Liberty Island that includes the ability to climb inside of the pedestal of the Statue and get an experience that people on the boat going around the island couldn’t imagine. We then head to Ellis Island where we follow the path of Annie Moore through the immigration process in the restored Ellis Island immigration museum.”
Something many find unique about Jerry’s company is that it looks to employ only “high-achieving” college students as its tour guides. While most believe it’s because Jerry is a college student himself, his reasoning goes far deeper than that.
“New York City is a very expensive place to live,” he said. “It’s often tough for students to afford and to actually experience the city. I wanted to do what I could to alleviate that for some students. Our tour guides make more than they would working typical college jobs, like baristas, and certainly more per hour than they would working through their college’s work-study programs. Plus, the work is fun. You get to meet new people all of the time and show them around the Statue of Liberty.”
At this point, I was dying to know who Annie Moore was. It was then that Jerry shared with me the identity behind the name of his company.
“Annie Moore was a teenage girl that was the first immigrant to be processed at Ellis Island in 1892. She came with her two younger brothers from County Cork, Ireland to meet her parents who had migrated more than a year earlier. This inspiring journey is something we seek to recreate on our tours.”
For those of you who are college students just like Jerry and are on the road to entrepreneurship but worry there’s something you’re missing or don’t exactly know where to start, I asked him some questions in hopes that his answers might help you find your own way.
Below are just some of the best pieces of advice and personal experience he has to share.
Q: How did you go about starting your company?
A: “It took a lot of planning. I started to put together business plans from templates I found online in March of my senior year in high school and began to consult with an administrator at my high school who served as a mentor through the whole process. By June I was filing the paperwork to get a Tax ID and LLC and all of those other boring acronyms. It wasn't until mid-July after my graduation that the first tour set sail.”
Q: What advice do you have for college students who are looking to start a company of their own?
A: “Go for it. I won’t say that you have nothing to lose but it is very little. In fact, there is less risk in starting a business now than at any other point in your life. Annie Moore Tours was my project and now feels like my baby. I get to do what I enjoy while making money and gaining plenty of business knowledge. And I get to do it all on my own time.”
Q: What can college students learn from your own success story in particular?
A: “Students should find a niche that they know better than anything else. I was asked in an interview at college, ‘What do you know better than any of us, and explain it in 30 seconds.’ Simply put, I talked about the Statue of Liberty. So, I leave you with this: if someone asked you that same question, what would you say? Whatever your answer was is your niche. Now, find a way to make a project out of it, plan it very well and make sure you do it right. You’ll bring yourself compensation and joy... sometimes more of one than the other.”
Like Jerry said, Annie Moore was the first teenager to be processed through Ellis Island. Jerry is the first teenager to start his own tour guide company right out of New York City. I believe their stories run parallel to each other– a parallel that defeats any standard of time. Their ages should not be overlooked when discussing their stories simply because initiative, persistence and success have no age requirement. With that said, Jerry and I both hope you find your niche.
If you’d like to learn more about Jerry’s story and how his niche turned into the company it is today or would like to book a tour, you can find his website here.
Lead Image Credit: Unsplash