Lorna Duncan, an international consultant in electronics sales at 23, finds herself disembarking at airports on four continents to the same reaction: "You can almost hear some executives wondering how the hell can a girl so young be traveling around the world by herself, come to a country she's never visited before, and advise us how to sell?" Easily enough, it turns out. The lissome Londoner increased the new product sales of Britain's Sinclair Equipment International almost 400 percent before she went into business for herself last June. The debutante daughter of a retired tea broker in India, Duncan joined Sinclair at 17 as a secretary and was a sales executive within six months. Then after winning an award from London's Westminster Chamber of Commerce for outstanding services to exports, Lorna decided, "I had learned as much as I could," and besides, she admits, "I basically wanted to be my own boss." Sometimes, over the years, she has found male clients interested in more than her calculators and computer chips, and Lorna reports, "I try to say in a fairly polite manner that activities on a personal basis would only harm our future business relations." Otherwise, says Duncan: "All you need is ambition and luck. I haven't got any academic qualifications—I don't think I could make a circuit drawing—but I know how to sell."
Andy Lipkis, 24, says, "My life is doing a series of impossible things," and, modesty aside, he has a point. The California Conservation Project (CCP), which he founded single-handedly at 15, has potted, planted or given away some 100,000 trees in the Los Angeles area. After hearing an ominous report eight years ago that the trees in the San Bernadino Mountains were being choked to death by smog, Andy found through research that varieties like the sequoia or coulter and sugar pine could resist the city's poisonous fumes. As publicity about his replanting scheme brought in donations from private citizens and corporations, he dropped out of UCLA after his junior year. His nonprofit operation moved I from his family's spare bedroom to 12 acres of canyon wilderness above Beverly Hills, and in the process he built a full-time staff of ten (dubbed "The Tree People") and enlisted 50,000 volunteers. Andy's latest promotion gambit was a 10-kilometer run down West Los Angeles' Marina Freeway—a "bureaucracy-busting" flexing of muscle to kick off a campaign for urban forestry within the city limits. Lipkis pays himself the same as the rest of his Tree People—$12,000 a year—and has settled in a communal household. He doesn't underestimate his parents' role in his accomplishments. "They raised me in a way that when I had a crazy dream, instead of saying to me, 'That's dumb,' they'd ask you, 'How would you do it?' "