A kid can run a business. Happens all the time. And here’s something that may be a shocker for you – your kid can probably run a business too. Now you may be saying, “Look, Mike. My kids are busy with school and sports. They’re well taken care of, buddy. I’m not gonna burden them with the task of running a business in addition to everything else. As long as my kid gets into Cal Tech. . .” Uh huh.
Well, think for a minute about the kinds of habits and skills one would have to cultivate in order to run a business. Take problem-solving skills, for example. Good businesses are birthed from good ideas – innovative ways to solve a problem in the market, whether that’s providing refreshing drinks for thirsty travelers along Route 56, cleaning yards for busy two-income families or Smart Phone Demystification Services for empty-nesters. Business owners also have to plan, manage and monetize their time. They have to develop strategies and build relationships to help them get the best sources for their products and provide the best chance of generating positive word of mouth publicity. Business owners must maintain a sense of accountability. They have to produce quality goods and services consistently. No excuses. In order to sell, you need to communicate a certain level of confidence in yourself and your product. So we have problem-solving, planning and management, strategic thinking, relationship management, accountability, communication skills, self-confidence. A kid with that skill set can write her own ticket in life.
Here are a few business ideas for young entrepreneurs.
#1 Computer Repair Service
If you’ve got a young tech genius in your midst, a small computer repair service is simple as pie. Way back in 2010, 81% of American households already had either a laptop, desktop or handheld computer. I can only imagine it is way higher now. So if your child seems to have a knack for all things tech, she may consider repairing computers for extra income. There’s flexibility in providing computer repair services these days. You can help her to expand her business by adding a computer shop that refurbishes used computers for resell online. Have her work remotely to provide people with help troubleshooting computer problems. Or even go old school with it and make house calls.
#2 Handmade Gifts
Young people with a creative streak and an eye for pretty little things can earn extra money making homemade gifts. What’s a homemade gift? Just about anything qualifies. Quilts, tutus for the puppy, fresh-baked cookies, jarred vegan soup mixes, soaps. Handmade gifts are a great way to earn money during the holidays. Know what goes well with handmade gifts? Check out the book Creating Really Awesome Free Things, which when your kid sells them… won’t be free.
#3 Gift Wrapping Services
You know, some people simply have no gift wrapping talent. Then there are those who can wrap gifts so beautifully you hesitate to even tear the paper to get to the actual gift. In case you haven’t noticed, gift wrapping is a marketable skill, nearly indispensable during the holiday season. We’re not just talking foil paper and curly ribbons. Think about hand-painted wrapping paper or gift wrapping that expresses the purpose and theme of the gift itself.
#4 Investments and Passive Income
Sometimes a savings bond just isn’t cutting it. In those cases, if you can teach your kids the value of passive income, by all means, do so. Real estate in particular is one area wherein many parents have already invested their own money and time. Add the kids to the mix by cashing in their bonds and offering them equity in the property. Teach them how to manage the books, collect rent and order repairs. Prepare them for a future in ownership.
#5 Pet Sitting Services
A constant concern for pet owners who travel for business or who are planning a vacation is having a person or organization on-hand to care for their pet while they are away. Kids are great with animals and can, for short periods of time, serve as a fantastic and loving caretaker for pets by providing regular walking, feeding and grooming services right from the travelers home. If you want to get really serious, check out books on pet sitting businesses.
#6 Social Marketing
The world of internet marketing is about knowing what’s hot and telling people about it. Who is better suited to do both than a young entrepreneur? Kids are social media mavens. They engage one another. They inspire older people. Get them behind a cause or product and they will naturally create content that extols the virtues of whatever project grabs them. Like a fish in water. Not only can they draw others to their cause, but they can show others how to get the same results by properly using social media and internet marketing. Both businesses can generate consistent income.
#7 Car Washing
We love our cars, don’t we? We need them, rely on them so we pamper them. We wash them. We clean them. I’ve even seen (and patronized) car spas. The hand car wash is a service that will never fade away.
#8 Cookie Monster
People LOVE cookies. And not just cookies, but cupcakes, zucchini bread, pound cakes and just about anything home-baked. When used as an income source, cookies and baked goods are easy to make, easy to transport and pretty easy to sell. Kids can learn to find the best quality ingredients at the cheapest price and come up with ways to streamline the production process so the business requires minimal time investment. Get a handful of good cookie recipes, some cute, inexpensive packaging (think cellophane, sandwich baggies and ribbons) and start churning out delicious treats that will help line your pockets.
#9 Device Set Up
If you’ve ever accompanied a small kid to the Apple store, you have probably witnessed the magic of watching a small child intuitively master a sophisticated gadget while you sit trying to figure out how you landed on the ESPN page… and how to get off. It’s almost as if they’re born with product manuals already downloaded into their little heads. And that, my friends, is a marketable skill. If you know a kid who seems to be a master at setting things up and getting devices to work, they could easily earn extra money by offering such a service to busy professionals, empty-nesters and other folks who may be tech-challenged.
#10 Fill a Need
The key to business is to find a need, fill it and monetize the service. Offer yard-cleaning services to people who don’t have the time or desire to do work outdoors, or online consulting services to help first-time eBay users navigate the auction site with confidence. Offer to do the dishes for a busy single mom who is working full time and going to school full time. If you can meet a need, you can earn an income.
#11 Jewelry Design
Kids who have an eye for fashion or a love for creative endeavors can find jewelry making a rewarding and profitable business. It doesn’t have to be complex pieces with semi-precious stones. Wooden beads, painted glass and hemp bracelets are hot sellers. Designed pieces may be sold online or at local trade shows and church bazaars.
In addition to jewelry and handcrafted soaps, young artists can sell a variety of creative pieces, from canvassed art work to hand-designed greeting cards. And don’t limit thinking to B2C goods and services. Think B2B as well. Logo design, brochure layouts and web design are all great ways for young people to leverage their creativity.
#13 Personnel Service
What if all the neighborhood kids were grouped according to ability and will? The mastermind behind such an organization could earn a pretty penny scouting and contracting out various small jobs. The neighborhood kids earn money doing quick jobs without having to go out and search for the work and the organizer earns a piece of the action.
#14 Greeting Cards
Leverage the talents of several young people by letting them produce and sell hand-made greeting cards. Greeting cards generally employ several creative and technical skills – poetry, prose, visual art and layout. Whether one kid does it all or several kids work together to deliver the goods, a greeting card business in these days of e-cards, text and emails will be especially valuable around the holidays.
#15 Poop Handler
Yes, you read that right. Families with pets will often have poop in their yards. A smart kid with a Pooper Scooper and a compost heap can help turn messy yards into hard-earned cash by servicing pet owners with yard cleaning services.
# 16 Corner Store
Whether it’s a lemonade stand, fresh flowers, baked goods or snacks, the traditional ‘lemonade stand business model’ is proven to produce extra income so long as the products being vended are good enough to generate repeat business. There’s plenty of versatility and you can actually find pre-made lemonade stands online and at the local toy store.
#17 Gift Baskets
Assembling and designing gift baskets are a great way for kids to express their creative side while sharpening their ability to identify what the market wants and finding innovative ways to provide. The contents of a gift basket are as varied as the people who order them. Whether a child sells pre-made baskets or accepts orders for custom baskets, the business comes with natural busy seasons (Easter, Mother’s Day, Christmas) that coincide with school breaks. Bonus!
Teach kids social entrepreneurship by letting them either repurpose found items or sell them to someone like an artist or other re-purposing professional (computer repair, upholstery shop, antique shop) who can reuse or refurbish them. Another idea is to start a neighborhood recycling center that can be run on the weekends from a local park or right from the family garage.
#19 Out with the Old
One thing about kids is they tend to grow quickly. Monetize that growth by selling off all used clothes, old bikes, toys and electronics that are no longer in use. Consider taking clothes to a consignment shop and selling old toys, electronics, furniture, etc. on craigslist.org or using online auction sites. As long as kids are growing and trends come and go, they will always have inventory to sell.
#20 Use the Allowance as Seed Money
In teaching kids to develop an entrepreneurial mindset, you can start by helping them to think of their allowance as seed money. All businesses need startup capital. Making it a habit to save some, spend some and invest some of their money is a great way to get them thinking of different ways to grow their income – whether through buying and selling on Ebay, investing in high-yield stock or using the money to buy inventory and supplies for business endeavors.
#21 Become an Online Personality
These days, we receive a significant portion of our daily information by blog. For kids who are social savvy and good communicators, maintaining a blog is a way to publish information, express individuality and even earn money by selling blog-related products and endorsing products that appeal to the blog’s readership.
#22 Writing Coach
IM speak has taken over the world. It’s good to be fluent in both American Standard English and text-talk. Throw in a little slang (the Urban Dictionary folks were all over that one) and you’ve got a winner. Kids who have advanced written communication skills can provide guidance to peers to help them conquer those academic papers without the use of text-talk. If you don’t know what IM is… you need a writing coach. (It means Instant Message).
#23 Party Animal
Or planner, or clown, or musician, or juggler, or entertainer – whatever floats your boat. Older kids remember what it was like to be a younger kid and are usually in tune enough to still know what makes little kids laugh. Party planning and entertainment is a huge responsibility, but for the right imaginative kid, parties amount to fun work. Going into the party entertainment business can help teach kids accountability, market research, planning and time management plus earn them a nice fee for their services.
#24 Candy Man
A quick trip to a discount wholesale club can turn any kid into a walking Sweet Shoppe. Let your kids test out there entrepreneurial legs by allowing them to sell snack-sized candies to their peers between classes or during recess at school. Be careful though. Some schools are very strict about such “enterprises.” Be sure to check first.
For kids who love to be behind the camera, photography may be a great way to earn some extra money. Budding photographers can license their work online by setting up accounts with iStock, Getty Images, Flickr, Dreamstime and other photo-sharing platforms. Or, they can make prints of pictures and use them on greeting cards, posters or note cards along with an engaging story, poem or other bit of prose to go along with the image.
#26 Pimp my Ride
In this case, a “ride” is probably going to be a skateboard, pair of rollerblades or dirt bike, but the [niche] market still exists. A child with artistic abilities can leverage that imagination in a number of ways. Marketing and charging a fee for providing everything from doodles to full-blown inked illustrations on skateboards, skates and other personal property.
#27 Doggie Treats
If a kid doesn’t want to go the traditional chocolate chip cookie route, have him consider a doggie treat business. There are plenty of recipes available right online for dog bones, doggie cookies and other treats, along with the supplies needed to make a doggie treat business profitable and professional.
#28 Non-profit Work
Part of the beauty of childhood is its idealism. When you’re young, you are fully convinced you can take on the whole world. Teach your child to tap into that fire by encouraging her to get involved in a cause that she is passionate about. Most non-profits are run based on donations. Kids can learn fund raising resource allocation by working closely with a nonprofit… or even by starting their own.
#29 Problem Solving
For every problem there is a solution waiting to be found. The ability to identify problems and provide solutions to those problems is the core of marketability, whether in the job market or as an entrepreneur. Work with your kids to develop the habit of identifying problems. Together you can brainstorm ideas to find the best way to solve a problem. Once a solution is identified, figure out ways that solution can meet other needs and voids in a range of different markets. Good solutions are entrepreneurial opportunities.
#30 Online Store
With a web presence and a Paypal account, just about anyone can open an online store. Kids can find easy ways to set up websites and use social media to market comic books, clothes, pet toys, doggie treats, or whatever else can be bought and sold.
#31 How-To Videos
How-To videos are fun to watch and usually pretty engaging. When a child has a particular talent, hobby or passion, it’s actually fun for them to show others how to do it. Build a website that focuses on a particular activity and provide the how-to video for free to subscribers who opt-in to mailing lists. By promoting similar quality products (affiliate products), kids can earn extra income by talking about and doing what they love and probably would spend their time doing anyway for free.
#32 Garage Sales
We talked earlier about found items. There are probably enough items around the house that aren’t being used to have regularly-scheduled weekend garage sales. Kids don’t have to go far and they can acquire their inventory from deals they find at the local thrift store or even at other garage sales. As the kid gets the knack of running garage sales, he or she can extend their garage sale service to neighbors in the area and take a percentage of the total sales.
#33 Invent Something
Whether it’s a retractable stick to turn off the bedroom light at night after reading, or a contraption that keeps Lucky in the bathtub when it’s time for his weekly bath, kids are masters of invention. They imagine and re-imagine all kinds of household items. Help them to cultivate that creativity. Later, when they stumble onto something good, it may be time to look at patenting, mass producing and selling the invention.
#34 Out of the Mouths of Babes
Despite their relative inexperience with life, kids have a way of getting to the meat of an issue and offering their spin of simple wisdom that can both inspire and enrich life. Help them to turn their marvelous insights into cash by starting line of products – coffee mugs, t-shirts, note cards, etc. – that contain inspirational quotes.
#35 The Art Collector
Kids can collect art work from siblings, friends, cousins and even a few pieces they created themselves. Frame every piece and sell them locally at art shows, festivals, open air markets, garage sales and even online. Pay the original artist for their hard work and they will be inspired to produce more great work to sell.
#36 Clothing Swap
Have a well-connected teen rally the teen community and start a clothing swap where group members can come to exchange clothes with other members of the group. Charge a membership fee or a service fee per swapping session.
#37 Cleaning Service
Getting kids – especially younger kids – to clean their rooms to the satisfaction of mom and dad can be a challenge. But the process tends to go a lot faster when they have help. For a small fee, your kid may want to consider providing other families with a cleaning service that essentially assists household members with straightening up the house. They can market full cleaning services or just to stand in as an extra hand to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the customer to assist in cleaning. Either way can be quite profitable.
It’s never too early to groom a child to be an entrepreneur. The new economy is ripe with new business owners and first-time freelancers who have discovered the best way to increase their income is to fill voids in the market by leveraging hidden talents. Kids have talents as well. Whether you’re bringing up a toddler or [are being brought up by] a teenager, entrepreneurship is becoming an increasingly valuable skill to have.