Scott Kaufman knew two things. He knew that as a tennis player, he was pretty good--but would never be truly great.

"Growing up on Long Island, it was extremely difficult to compete against kids from Florida or California who could play all year round. But business...business was different. Learning from magazines and books, talking to people...this was something you could do in any season!"

And that was the other thing Scott knew: in business, he could own the court.

From early on, Scott focused his passion for being the best he could into business. Starting his first enterprise at the age of 12, he tried his hand at everything from snow-shoveling businesses to tennis businesses to marketing companies, learning eagerly from both the successes and the failures. By the time he reached college, Scott had people working for him in six states.

He had also realized he had an uncanny knack for spotting trends before they'd fully risen over the horizon.

"People didn't take me seriously. As serious, dedicated and experienced as I was, people would look at me and my 'hobbies' and think it was 'cute.' "
"I was one of the first people in the United States to bring customized prepaid phone cards to market, with clients from Wal-Mart to gas stations to universities."

After college, Scott applied that knack in the restaurant franchising industry, spotting and implementing the trend toward healthier fast food.

Then, in 1997, one of the most unexpected defining events in Scott's life occurred. It began with a phone call from a friend, an editor for Entrepreneur magazine.

"She called me and said, 'Scott, there's a woman you need to meet--she's the spitting image of you as a female.' "

Guru of Her Generation

While Scott was unfurling his entrepreneurial wings as a recent transplant to Los Angeles fresh from the University of Maryland, an energetic young woman named Jennifer Kushell was in Boston, blazing new trails.

"I had started my first business at 13," says Jennifer, "painting tee-shirts. At 15 I was doing gift baskets; at 17, safety seminars for women. I was constantly starting a string of little companies. I was raised by a family of entrepreneurs, so for me, it was second nature."

But what seemed altogether normal to Jennifer was not necessarily normal to the world around her.

"People didn't take me seriously. As serious, dedicated and experienced as I was, people would look at me and my 'hobbies' and think it was 'cute.' "

By the time she hit Boston University, Jennifer had become quite frustrated; in her junior year, she decided to do something about it. In November 1993, Jennifer started an online support network for young entrepreneurs that she ran from her dorm room over CompuServe.

"Back in '93," she recalls, "it was the only thing we really had online." She laughs. "Now I'm dating myself. I say 'CompuServe' to teens these days and they roll their eyes."

The response to Jennifer's fledgling Young Entrepreneurs Network was overwhelming. Practically overnight, she had members in over 70 countries.

"They were all saying the same thing: 'No one takes me seriously! No one believes in my business!' Before I knew it, I'd become a spokesperson for young businesspeople throughout the world. The media picked up on what I was doing and suddenly I was being featured everywhere--Entrepreneur magazine, Success...US News & World Report called me 'the guru of my generation.' "

Discovering an Unknown Continent

Soon Jennifer realized what a vast and hitherto uncharted territory she had discovered.

"We started uncovering stories of how many of the country's big companies were started by people in their teens and twenties. Even the people at the top of the biggest business magazines in the country hadn't recognized how powerful this younger demographic was."

It was as if there were an entire population that had somehow been invisible.

"We started educating the journalists: 'Hey, did you know that Subway was started by a 17-year-old? That Hewlett-Packard was started by two 20-year-olds in their garage? That Pizza Hut was created by a college student--who didn't even know how to make pizza?' "

From the hundreds of stories they were gathering daily, Jennifer's group had better demographics on the young generation than anyone else. But when people started asking her for hard-core statistics, she looked for them--and found they weren't there. Nobody had thought to gather them...so Jennifer did.

"I flew to the office of the National Federation of Independent Businesses in DC, sat down with their head of research for hours and pored through all their current research on small business owners, cross-referencing everything involving the younger demographic; then I repeated the process with a slew of other organizations."

The statistics Jennifer's search revealed were mind-boggling. Statistics like this one:

"Eighty-seven percent of the young generation is reported to want to own their own business," she says, then adds, "in the US, that means over 60 million people. Nobody had ever seen those numbers. People went crazy over them."

An Especially Ground-Breaking Demographic

In 1997, Jennifer conducted the first psychographics study of young business owners under the age of 30. The groundbreaking research was published with fanfare in The Wall Street Journal. The next weekday Jennifer went on CNN, BBC, NPR and Fox News, and legions of journals and networks throughout the world reported on the information.

It was right about this time that Jennifer learned of yet another groundbreaking demographic--in this case, a demographic of two.

"I ran into a friend at a big franchise show in Washington. She told me, 'Jennifer, there's a guy you've got to meet; he's adorable and he's so entrepreneurial...and he reminds me so much of you.' " Jennifer looked at the friend--who happened to be an editor with Entrepreneur magazine--and asked her, "Where does he live?" The reply: "Los Angeles."

"Well," says Jennifer, "I was in Boston, and he was in LA, so I figured, that's not going to work." A week later she got a phone call from Scott Kaufman.

"The first thing he said to me was not, 'Hello, how are you?' but, 'I hear you're the female version of me!' "

They talked that night for two hours. The next day Scott called his mother and said, "Mom, I just met my wife." The two spent the next six weeks talking for hours every night on the phone. They finally met face to face when Jennifer flew out to spend two days in LA. As Scott puts it, "It was fast and furious." In a matter of weeks, Scott moved to Boston; a few years later, they became Mr. and Mrs. Young and Successful.

A Canceled Vacation Fast forward to the year 2000.

Jennifer had some dot-com irons in the fire that were due to yield several million dollars; Scott had some pending deals in the restaurant franchise industry that were also tied to some dot-com money. April 2000 arrived, the dot-com boom imploded, and that was the end of that. The financing went away.

The newlyweds went on a much-needed vacation to Belize, sat on a dock together and said, "Okay, the world is our oyster...but what do we want to do now?"

They brainstormed for hours and eventually arrived at this thought: entrepreneurial young people throughout the world, from law school grads to enterprising inner-city kids, all lacked a comprehensive, real-world support mechanism to help them follow their chosen paths wisely and achieve their dreams.

"We looked at all the big gurus out there," explains Jennifer, "Stephen Covey, Anthony Robbins, Wayne Dyer, Robert Kiyosaki; we saw that these guys were building tremendous businesses giving people this kind of support..."

"But they were targeting mainly people in their 40s and 50s," chimes in Scott, "many of whom are having their midlife crisis...and--"

"And we said," continues Jennifer, "what if we could make this information available and relevant to younger people when they're making critical decisions for the first time?"

"Decisions," Scott elaborates, "on personal financial management, on how to network and build relationships, where to live, and on and on...." And back goes the baton to Jennifer:

"How much happier could they be? How much more leverage and credibility could they have? And how much more satisfied could they be, not only now, but throughout their lives? And so..."

"So that's what we set out to do," Scott finishes the thought. They both beam. The editor from Entrepreneur was right: it's like listening to one intensely passionate, delightedly on-purpose voice, pausing occasionally only to alternate octaves.

The young couple had reservations to go on from Belize to Costa Rica--but their dreams overruled their itinerary.

"I remember making the decision not to go to Costa Rica," says Jennifer. "I stared at a hammock and thought, 'I can't sit in that hammock and read Cosmo all week with this idea brewing in my head that could change the world!' "

They flew back to Los Angeles.

A Young and Successful Enterprise

For the next three weeks, the two poured themselves into research to see if their idea was as solid as they thought.

"We decided it was," says Scott. "We put together a book proposal as a sort of platform piece and pitched it to Simon and Schuster, Stephen Covey's publisher, as 'a younger version of Covey.' They liked it."

A few years later Secrets of the Young and Successful came out; before the publication date arrived it had already hit the New York Times bestseller list. The book was soon number three at Barnes and Noble nationwide--"Just behind Harry Potter," Scott points out. "At one point we were the number one business book."

With the book articulating its purpose and philosophy, a new enterprise was born. The Young and Successful Media Corporation, says their web site (www.youngandsuccessful.com), is "an education/entertainment/media company that finally addresses the professional needs of 18-to-34-year-olds on a global scale." This they do through a broad range of services and projects, including home study courses, live networking events and an online relationship-building universe where young people come together and support each other.

YSMC also has an international corporate consulting division.

"We work with corporations who want to reach the younger audience," explains Scott. "One of our bigger clients right now is Visa."

Finally, they have an education division that works with schools and non-profits to help support young people--clearly a hot button for Kushell, whose passion about both the unmet needs and the possibility of meeting them are palpable.

"The concepts entrepreneurs learn through the process of building companies are skills that ought to be taught in schools, right along with reading, writing, math and the rest. How to manage your finances, how to network and meet people, how to position yourself, to sell, to do research, to find a job...how can kids be graduating without knowing these things? It drives me crazy!"

And because Jennifer is Jennifer, it also drives her to action.

"We said, what if you could build a curriculum on real-world skills that would help young people catapult to the top of their industries, or start organizations, or do whatever they wanted to do?" In fact, Jennifer had already designed the first advanced entrepreneurship curriculum for Boston Public School. "With no experience!" she adds with a laugh.

"Schools all over the world are already adopting the book right now. We're also working with some very high-level people in government and corporations on a program that will put millions of copies of this material into the hands of graduating high school and college students."

"In a few months," says Scott, "we'll release a fabulous Young and Successful Fast-Track system(TM) that in as little as a month or two takes people completely through how to architect their life, their dreams, their goals in a very substantive way, with everything from proper financial management to goal-setting to networking."

"I'm the bleeding heart for the world," explains Jennifer, "and Scott comes up with all sorts of practical ways to monetize our work that I could never have dreamed of."

Network Marketing for the Young and Successful

One of those ways may soon involve addressing the unique needs of network marketers.

"Young people in droves are getting interested in network marketing," says Scott, "and we've been bombarded by so many network marketers asking us so many questions, we're now considering forming another division to meet those needs."

Early in his career, Scott himself was involved with a big network marketing company, and says he's motivated in part by a desire to "give back to this industry."

"There's no question that it had an impact on my success. I've always read a lot, but after getting involved with direct sales and attending some of the big conferences, I became a voracious reader. I remember spending hours and hours in my car, listening to the audio programs. It was both motivational and educational--I loved it."

Like Robert (Rich Dad Poor Dad) Kiyosaki, Scott identifies the value of the real-world education you get in network marketing, regardless of the financial benefits, as one of its prime benefits.

"I can't think of anything else I've done that's given me better exposure to the skill sets it takes to be successful in the real world. That alone is worth the price of admission."

One of the other prime assets Scott sees network marketing as offering young people is the support network.

"And not just a support network, but a support network of people who actually want you to succeed. It's such a competitive world today, so full of downsizing and backstabbing; it's absolutely amazing to have an environment where people are vested in you and your success."

We ask Scott, where does this profession need most to grow up, learn and change? Scott pauses for a moment to consider the question, then answers thoughtfully:

"Honesty in message. That's the key thing.

"This generation is bombarded with messages; everybody wants a piece of them, and they've become very smart. If you blow smoke at them you alienate them. Don't say, 'Hey, this is the easiest thing in the world.' Be frank. Tell them, 'If you work hard, if you're willing to get off your ass and make something happen, this is a great vehicle to do it.' Young people appreciate the frankness--and there are a lot of them who are up for the challenge.

"Be up front and frank, and you'll recruit tons of young people."

Welcome to Your Ideal Life

What is it like, we wonder, to see their dream company successfully scale such ambitious heights? Jennifer laughs.

"Sometimes when I see governors and billionaires and top-level CEOs listening to us, I just have to chuckle. I remember trying desperately to get $1000 consulting fees years ago, and now we're getting six-figure deals from people like Visa...."

Scott takes the baton again: "We recently became the PR and marketing agency for Junior Chamber International, the world's largest young professional group. They have a network of young professionals with 6000 chapters in 110 countries; we have access now to the most powerful network to reach young businesspeople in the world."

And hands it back to Jennifer: "This September, Junior Chamber International holds their annual world congress in Japan. Stephen Covey is the first keynote, speaking to 12,000 people--and I'm the second! I remember reading Seven Habits at the age of 15; the idea of meeting him has always been a dream, but this is terrifying!" Then she laughs, and we're hard put to hear even a trace of terror in that laugh. "I think it's going to be the most amazing experience in my life."

We ask Scott and Jennifer, what do people in their 40s and up have to learn from the entrepreneurial youth of today? Scott answers without hesitation:

"Open yourself up to the question, what do I really dream for, what do I really want? Younger people often feel freer to dream because they have fewer responsibilities, restrictions and obligations. But people can get themselves out of their rut at any age--perhaps especially when they're older. There's a chapter in our book titled, 'Welcome to Your Ideal Life.' Asking and answering that question's not a matter of being young in age. it's a matter of being young at heart."

And of having the youthful tenacity to stay the course.

"This has been a tough road," admits Jennifer. "It's been by no means easy. There've been many times I've wanted to bury myself under the covers and not go anywhere for days, times when I just didn't know how I could keep on functioning at this level. But I've never once questioned what we're doing.

"I went through so many years of not having a voice of my own, dealing with the common peer pressures and cliques in school, hiding what I thought and felt. When I got out of high school and stepped out into the world, I realized that I had a voice, I had some valuable things to say. I've never looked back.

"Now, I couldn't imagine doing anything more interesting, significant or fulfilling. And the idea that I could do it with my husband, surrounded with unbelievable people whom I adore and who motivate me and inspire me every single day, and the fact that the things we do have an impact on people in countries I've never even heard of on a regular basis...it's the most incredible thing I could ever have hoped to achieve in my life."

Scott echoes the sentiment.

"We're building a global company, traveling all over the world, making a lot of money doing it, and affecting the lives of millions of people. And we're doing it together.

"Network marketers know how powerful and rewarding it can be to work together as a couple. If you're the right complements, you support each other properly, if you can put ego aside and learn and grow together, I think there's nothing better in the world."