I first heard of Jaylen Bledsoe back in 2013 when news quickly spread that the then 15-year-old built a $1.5 million tech company with more than 150 contractors. Back then, folks were sharing his story across social media and praising Jaylen for his huge accomplishment. I even got into the mix, writing an article about Jaylen for Clutch, and trying to interview him for JET. Unfortunately, he was so overwhelmed by media requests at the time he decided to step back from the spotlight. While people seemed obsessed with his impressive business revenues, the whole thing made Jaylen uncomfortable.
“I was getting calls from Arsenio Hall, [and] The View. Everybody was calling because of that story. When I would tell them I am not talking about money on the show they would pull out,” he says. “For me, I don’t do what I do to publicize the money. I do it to change lives.”
Although Jaylen doesn’t like talking about money, what he does love to discuss is business. In addition to The Jaylen D. Bledsoe Global Group, his investment and holdings company, Jaylen is an in-demand speaker, and community activist. Recently, BrownBoyGenius caught up with the 17-year-old entrepreneur to chat about school, business, and how he manages to have a normal life. Oh yeah, and girls.
Check it out.
BBG: Why did you want to start a business when you were so young?
Jaylen: I was introduced to computers at a very young age. I started in third or fourth grade. I was doing video production, music editing, and a program called Galactic in my school district. It’s for gifted education students, and basically for a few years after that, I really understood my interest in computers. The summer after sixth grade I was in Miami visiting my grandma, and we got a bunch of books, and taught myself how to program, then started doing website projects for family and friends.
I started doing it for free, and then it was like $2 or $3 an hour. Then it kept going up; every month I was making more money.
BBG: Where does your business sense come from?
Jaylen: A lot of it is natural. It’s kind of one of those things God has left me with. It’s kind of an understanding of how to succeed in this world. Secondly, I would say my parents, of course, keeping me humble and keeping me where I need to be.
Thirdly, when I was younger, I was around my godparents a lot. They were investors in real estate, typical rag to riches story. They’re from Kinloch, Missouri, the first Black community in the state. My godmother went from pharmaceutical drug salesmen to having rental properties before she was 35. So, I saw what can be done as an entrepreneur.
I also look up to people such as Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg. I see what they’ve done and what they did to get to where they are, which kind of set my mindset for the business.
BBG: You speak to a lot of young people and to other young entrepreneurs. What is the question they always ask most?
Jaylen: The number one question is, “How much do you make and how much are you worth?” That’s one of the questions I get asked the most.
My answer to that is after that whole situation happened two years ago, and it immediately blew up because of numbers, I went back to my team and we basically tore up the entire company and did a full rebranding to get rid of that entity.
I live by the mantra kind of followed by Zuckerberg and Bill Gates. If I focus on changing lives now, and do that because I love it, then the money will come. But I’m not worried about that.
My true net worth is the number of lives I’ve changed not the financial aspects of my life.
BBG: How did you deal with the media attention when the story was going around about your net worth? Did it change how you interacted with your peers?
Jaylen: I go to a public high school so everything that happens in the media they hear about it. They come to me asking me about it. I was in an AT&T commercial that aired. It’s been airing since January, but it aired on the last four episodes of Empire. So every kid in my school saw it.
BBG: Do you have a regular teenage life, or do you work all the time?
Jaylen: The first interview I ever did was with a guy named Tim Ezell. He asked, “What are your friends doing while you’re here?” I said, “Usually I’m working and they’re outside riding their bikes.”
That was my life getting to this point. I actually met with my mentor, who is the CEO of Schnucks Markets back in the Midwest, and he asked me if I had friends. I’m like yeah, of course. He asked, “Do you have a girlfriend?” I’m like no, I don’t have one.
He gave me four tickets to a Cardinals game, second row seat behind home plate. He said, “Take a friend; have him bring a girlfriend. You find a female friend to take with you.” He said, “You’ll learn as an entrepreneur in order to succeed especially in corporate America, you have to be well-rounded. You have to have friends who are there for you.”
BBG: You’re already doing grownup things like running a business and having to manage your time so that you can still be successful in school. Now, you’re trying to fit in a social life. How do you balance it all?
Jaylen: Let’s say that I am dating now. That’s the big thing. I wasn’t doing that because I didn’t have time, but I was also afraid of people. The interview went out, and people want to get with you for the wrong reasons.
It’s also amazing that even though I’m doing what school prepares you for, you would be surprised about how many letters I get in the mail that they’re sending me to family court because I’m missing so much school. It’s an interesting transition. It’s interesting kind of dance between what I should be doing and what they want me to do.
BBG: You’ll be a senior in the fall, and people go to college to learn how to start a business, but you’ve done that. You have a 4.0 GPA, so do you still plan on attending college?
Jaylen: I actually want to go to Stanford. Until last summer, I was always a Harvard guy. But I went [the Stanford], and I fell in love with the campus; fell in love with the community there and the whole vibe on the campus. I do plan on going to college. If everything works out how I want it to, I will be going to Stanford.
BBG: When I was 17 I wasn’t nearly as together as you are. It’s amazing.
Jaylen: A lot of my friends have regular jobs, and they’re working part time, or working for minimum wage. It’s just crazy like looking at it. I could imagine working for someone else, but I couldn’t work ffor McDonald’s or something like that.
I like to get out and do things in an innovative way, and I can’t really innovate making burgers.
Shout out to Jaylen for taking time out of his busy schedule to speak with me. He also shared TONS of wisdom for young entrepreneurs, so we’ll be sharing it in an upcoming post. Stay tuned!