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While Gen Z entrepreneurs are creating new and innovative businesses — voice-messaging companies, restaurants, jewelry brands — they’re taking advice from the heavyweights who came before.
Memoirs and personal-development books, like those by the Blackstone cofounder Stephen Schwarzman and the journalist Malcolm Gladwell, guide those looking to create sturdy foundations for their startups while developing entrepreneurial habits.
In addition to advice, reading provides access to top-tier leaders, especially for people who face a dearth of mentorship opportunities. Insider spoke with 12 Gen Z founders from around the world to learn which books they recommend for aspiring entrepreneurs.
Erifili Gounari, 21, is the founder and CEO of the social-media marketing agency The Z Link. Her clients include Deloitte and Hearst Publishing.
She calls Carol Dweck’s “Mindset” a “must read” for those serious about personal growth. Additionally, entrepreneurs should read it to learn how to develop a healthy work-life balance, she said.
“We all have parts of our mindset that often set us back,” she said. “This book helps you recognize them and move toward a healthier, more efficient mindset across all areas of life.”
The luxury fashion designer Hogoè Kpessou, 22, says “The Tipping Point” by Malcolm Gladwell guides readers on building an innovative and standout business model. Kpessou launched her company last October and is already on track to net seven figures in revenue by next year, she said.
Additionally, the book can teach entrepreneurs how to create products that help represent a cultural shift, she added.
“When you can make a small change that tips the balance of a system of what is being presented, it can bring about a large change,” she told Insider.
The digital consultant Zack Ahmed, 22, recommends “Can’t Hurt Me” by David Goggins. Ahmed earns six figures a year helping developing strategies for companies like Sony and Adidas.
“It can help you transcend toward your true potential,” he said, adding that it also helps entrepreneurs understand self-imposed mental and physical limitations.
One lesson he learned from the book is to “never let people who choose the path of least resistance steer you away from your chosen path of most resistance.”
The fashion designer Marina Raphael, 23, called “The Hard Thing About Hard Things” by Ben Horowitz “the most accurate cautionary tale of how hard it is to be an entrepreneur.”
The book taught her that creating a positive work environment is vital to employee satisfaction and that there are no rules in entrepreneurialism, which leaves space for innovation.
“It also highlighted the importance of never giving up,” she said. “It comforted me in times of great struggle and provided me with the motivation to persevere.”
Raphael, who counts the queen of the Netherlands as a customer, saw sales skyrocket last year and estimated a 420% increase in sales this year.
Jenny Wang, 23, says “Algorithms to Live By” by Brian Christian and Tom Griffiths is a favorite of hers to reread.
Wang is known for cohosting a tech-focused podcast sponsored by Karlie Kloss’ nonprofit Kode with Klossy. Wang, alongside the soccer stars Megan Rapinoe and Meghan Klingenberg, also helped create the lifestyle brand Re-inc.
Wang says this book taught her how to apply game theory and computer algorithms to everyday life and revealed the similarities between computers and humans. Additionally, she believes entrepreneurs who read this book can learn to take every moment as is and not fret if a certain idea yields bad results.
“If you followed the best possible process, then you’ve done all you can,” she said. “And you shouldn’t blame yourself if things didn’t go your way.”
The art-gallery cofounder Alexis de Bernede says “Democracy in America” by Alexis de Tocqueville taught him a great deal about entrepreneurship. So far, de Bernede has sold more than six figures’ worth of art this year.
The best entrepreneurs are the ones who have the ability to take a step back to understand and get the bigger picture of the industries, situations, and problems they are trying to solve, de Bernede said.
Alex Masmej, the 24-year-old cofounder of the digital art gallery Showtime, said “Steve Jobs” by Walter Isaacson is among his favorite books. Masmej helps run an art gallery focused on exhibiting nonfungible tokens and recently raised $7.6 million for his venture.
Masmej counts the Apple cofounder as one of his main inspirations, he told Insider in a previous interview. Additionally, the book inspired him to be highly ambitious in his goals by seeking continuous self-improvement.
The jewelry designer Shilpa Yarlagadda, 24, counts “What It Takes” by Stephen Schwarzman among her favorite books. An important takeaway was realizing that easy tasks can be just as challenging as difficult ones, but it’s often worth trying to complete the harder work.
“For example, raising $1 billion and $10 million,” she said, adding that one might as well aim for raising $1 billion even if it will be difficult.
Additionally, the book taught her not to be afraid of ambition, she said. “Entrepreneurship is about innovating and creating a future that doesn’t yet exist, one that’s better than the present,” she said.
Yarlagadda has a history of swinging big: Meghan Markle was just spotted wearing one of Yarlagadda’s designs on her Time cover. Additionally, Yarlagadda‘s company partnered with When We All Vote — an organization cochaired by Michelle Obama — for a limited-edition earring last year.
The 24-year-old restaurant marketer Sherane Chen reads one business or personal-development book a week and said “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen Covey was a standout. She also balances working as a marketing manager for a business-consulting agency and makes six figures a year from both jobs.
“As a young entrepreneur you have to learn how to listen more than you talk,” she said. “The best thing about this book is that they aren’t temporary solutions. These principles last a lifetime.”
From the book, Chen learned to always start with a clear goal. Additionally, she learned the importance of understanding the targeted audience and client, the same way you would wish for them to understand your business.
Jordan Walker, 25, the cofounder of voice-messaging app Yac, also called this book a classic. “It sets the tone for how people should think about life and want they want out of it,” he said.
Celeste Durve, the 25-year-old cofounder of nightlight-hospitality agency Viper, said “The Practice” by Seth Godin is essential for creative professionals.
The book highlights the stories of successful creatives, and Durve reads it when she is looking for inspiration. When she and her cofounder launched her business in 2016, they were inexperienced when it came to the creator economy.
Godin “talks about risk and fear and how it’s all part of the process that we should embrace,” she said. “It makes you want to get to work as soon as possible.”
She’s worked with brands such as the National Football League, Google, , and celebrities like Beyoncé and Drake.
The Yac cofounder Hunter McKinley, 25, is a big fan of “How to Win Friends & Influence People ” by Dale Carnegie. The book taught him to keep a list of attainable tasks to hold him accountable throughout the day. Additionally it offers advice on helping entrepreneurs became great listeners, a key element to building a business, he said.
“Specifically I love that it gives you a list of things to work on and actionable steps for keeping yourself accountable,” he said.
McKinley helps run the voice-messaging app Yac, which secured a $7.5 million Series A earlier this year.
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