With the way technology has advanced in the past two decades, society is about to start seeing more and more truly young professionals starting to impact the way we think, innovate, and approach business. The phrase "young professionals" tends to carry an associated age of early to mid 20s, but that connotation is shifting.
The millennial generation basically grew up alongside technology– as it was developing, so were we– and through that, we (I'm speaking as a representative of all of the millennials out there) really know how to integrate technology with ease in all that we do. But just like ourselves, it took modern technology about 20 years to truly mature and function in a way that's both impressive and professional to the outside world.
The technological devices I had at age 17 were as follows: a Blackberry flip phone (who remembers PING and BBM?), a 200 lb HP laptop, an iPod, a Canon pocket digital camera, and a TV with a DVD player (hard to believe I'm only 22, huh?). A 17 year old of 2016, however, probably has a brand new iPhone 6, an iPad, a MacBook (yeah, Apple is killing it), some kind of cutting edge camera (if they feel they have the need for something besides their iPhone camera), and maybe even a hoverboard.
So, looking at solely the technological devices that these two generations (millennials and centennials) had or have access to at the time where they're supposed to decide who they are and what they want to be when they "grow up," you can already see that centennials have the clear progressive advantage over millennials, no argument needed.
So what does this mean for us (us being the non-Gen Z demographic)? It means that we have to be expectant to see more and more especially young adults (or as most would say, "teenagers") entering the professional scene with skills or credentials that the rest of us didn't have the opportunity to encounter or develop until much further down the road. It also means that we can't approach these young individuals with closed-minds because of their youth (I really sound old now), we have to approach them with the mindset that they, too, are entrepreneurs, self-employed, and seekers of a trade who also need community, input, and opportunity just as much as we do.
Over the past 4 years of our existence, Common Desk has seen some pretty young individuals come into our coworking space to utilize our community and facility to get things done. Up to this point, most of these individuals have been in college, relatively towards the latter part of their university years, seeking an internship or place to study, or they're straight out of college working on an idea they developed in an entrepreneurial program or other area of education that encourages self-employment or freelancing.
We have not, however, had a fully self-employed, self-taught professional as young as 17 come into our Dallas coworking space seeking membership until a few short months ago when Brennen Bliss walked into our Oak Cliff coworking space for a tour.
I give tours to a lot of people, and there have been plenty of younger college-aged individuals who have come in to check out the space. When Brennen walked in, I honestly didn't think much about his age. He looked young, he was very energetic, intuitive, and determined. He knew what he wanted and what was going to work best for his business. But when he mentioned that he wouldn't be able to sign up for a few months, I inquired as to why. As it turned out, he was on Spring Break and couldn't get a desk until June when his summer break started. Fair enough. No big deal. But then when I asked what school he went to, his reply was a high school.
Whoah. You mean to tell me that a high school student is inquiring to pay for a dedicated desk (the most expensive membership we have) with the money that he's making through his very own business that he is successfully running by himself? I could hardly believe it (and still hardly can).
Brennen is basically a shining trophy of the entire centennial generation. He grew up with incredible technological advances integrated into his day-to-day life, he started his own business at 13, he's been internet famous, and he's now operating his business on a 9-5 basis, making money while planning for his future. Since he officially joined Common Desk and began his first Dallas coworking experience, I've been eager to get inside his head and learn more about how the heck he got to where he is at such a young age and where he plans to take all of his potential in the future.
So who is Brennen Bliss, what exactly IS he excelling at that's so noteworthy, and what can we learn from him? Let's dive into his story together.
Brennen is a Dallas web design and digital marketing master. He does Word Press-based web design, working mostly with front-end design and some back-end design; basically, he's a technological wizard. Embark with me on a little journey through Brennen's past, and prepare to be impressed.
When he was 13, Brennen started his company PixelCutLabs, LLC, which was originally aimed to be an app development and design business. During this time, he developed an app that won the international Lexus Eco Challenge; it was an app that helps you monitor your home's energy uses without anyone's help, and it won first prize. This clearly indicated to Brennen that he was crafty, and he recognized his potential for success. But still, he was 13, and he wanted to pursue entertainment (because what 13 year old isn't intrigued by the shiny world of entertainment?) "I didn't have drive or a clear sense of direction at 13," Brennen noted. (But who actually does?)
Though he realized his capabilities in app development from winning the Lexus Eco Challenge, Brennen soon discovered that his heart wasn't in app development, the process was too tedious, and he didn't care to learn the language of code at that time.
So for the next four years, Brennen took a completely different direction and pursued entertainment. Brennen said the entertainment world was great, but he realized after a while that it wasn't where his heart really was, and financially it didn't make sense. If you Google "Brennen Bliss" you'll notice that he once had a strong presence on social media. Brennen was YouTube famous for a while, but once he spent a few weeks away from making content, he soon realized that the people online aren't real, and that kind of career isn't real. This seems to be something that a lot of Centennials don't realize, because so much of their lives have been lived online through the technology they've grown up with. But the upside of this experience for Brennen was learning how to make content, which is clearly important in the world of digital marketing, and he now uses this skill daily with Pixelcut.
As Emily Dickinson says, "I'm nobody, who are you." This poetic line really struck a chord with Brennen, and it made him re-evaluate his entire path.
When he was 15, he went to an entrepreneurial camp in Boulder, Colorado, which is a city nationally recognized for its healthy startup ecosystem. This camp in particular gave Brennen the knowledge that he need to learn how to start his own business, collaborate with a business partner, and work and learn alongside people #irl.
"My generation is a mess, but we're very progressive socially. When you're living solely online, you don't realize how heartfelt people are in the real world. When I took time to step offline, I realized how much we all need people."
So now that we've been through the backstory, let's talk more about the soon-to-be 18 year old Brennen of today, who's successfully running and managing his own business while navigating high school and dreaming up opportunities to seek out in his future.
Brennen has a unique eye for design, and he implements that skill in everything he does with his Dallas web design and digital marketing company. To Brennen, the best part about running his own business is getting to work with people who are excited about their business. He works predominantly with small businesses who have been around for at least 3 years, and he loves seeing their enthusiasm for what they do while interweaving that enthusiasm into the website and content he creates for them.
His clientele is expanding quickly– more quickly than he expected, which is really exciting– but finding a way to manage that is always his goal. He requires his clients to have at least three years of operation and a significant marketing budget that they're spending in the wrong way.
As you could imagine, at 17, it's extremely difficult to find clients you can trust and clients who trust you. Brennen expressed how difficult it is to get a deal that isn't going to rip him off– it's easy for people to think that because of his age, Brennen might not know what he's doing or that he could be a cheap avenue for getting a high-quality website. Of course there are still things Brennen doesn't know how to do, but when it comes down to it, Brennen says that he isn't going to work 450 hours on a project just to receive $2000; he's still a human, and he's still a professional.
Brennen still doesn't know if web design and digital marketing are exactly the occupation he wants to continue into as he explores college majors and future career options. Brennen wants to be in Austin for college, and his biggest goal is to be a brain surgeon. The web design deal is great for the time-being, as he enjoys being financially stable at 17. But when it comes down to it, Brennen's always been intrigued by the brain. "We know nothing about the brain. It's a computer, just a very complex one, and I want to be a part of the next 50 years of learning about it."
Brennen told me a little more about his thoughts on being 17, creating a business so young, and working from Common Desk:
"It's a different world trying to balance this. I'm 17, and getting people to sign a contract with not even just me, but with my parent co-signing, is incredibly difficult. I've had a lot of time to work on getting my business branded and presentable, but now just finding people is the task."
"My thoughts on being able to create a business when you're this age? It's the most incredible thing and dichotomously the most terrible thing, because you could easily be going down the exact wrong path on the internet, and your parents would have no idea. Fortunately my parents have been there to help me from the beginning, especially in getting started with my LLC. Basically, you can't do it on your own, whether you're 17 or if you're 50. You can't do it on your own."
"When I came to Common Desk, I was beyond excited, and I knew I wanted to join. I was made aware that I wouldn't be able to join because I was under 21. But in a matter of hours, while I was here working with a day pass, it had been worked out because the staff are so passionate about people. That's where I see the drive– I hope that I'm driven so much by what I do one day that I won't let instructions get in the way of helping people."
So what's the moral of this story? To sum it all up, we need to open our minds to the future of professionalism. Businesses would be ignorant to not accept the fact that we're about to start seeing younger and younger professionals coming into our doors seeking our services. Brennen Bliss is the forerunner of this generation of innovative youth, and it's a beautiful thing when you realize that your business or service could play a pivotal role in helping someone so young receive what they need to reach their dreams.
And if you're needing an awesome Dallas web design or digital marketing master, call us– We know a guy :)