Seventeen-year-old Ashley Qualls has built the 349th most popular website in the world (out of more than 20 million) without the help of rich relatives, professional mentors or even a high school diploma. Ashley’s site, http://WhateverLife.com, attracts millions of girls between the ages of 12 and 19 each month with a steady offering of free MySpace and Web page layouts created by Ashley and a team of her employee-friends. Her business philosophy – “give girls what they want” – is targeted to a demographic group with an estimated $87 billion in buying power. She has already earned more than $1 million, part of which she used to purchase a home for her family, which doubles as her creative studio and office.
While Ashley’s only revenue so far comes from ads placed on her site through Google AdSense, she plans to begin selling custom cell phone screen backgrounds this fall. Fast Company calls her a reminder that “ingenuity is ageless.” Sept. 1, http://www.fastcompany.com.