Should you encourage your children to start a business? Are there good business ideas for teens and kids? With police routinely shutting down kids’ lemonade stands for being “unlicensed businesses,” you might wonder if they should just put their entrepreneurial urges on hold until they get older.
But there are good reasons to let young people make some money on their own, and to let them start early. Billionaire CEO of Berkshire Hathaway Warren Buffett says:
There was a study many years ago questioning how to predict business success later in life. The answer to the study was the age you started your first business impacted how successful you were later in life. Teaching kids sound financial habits at an early age gives all kids the opportunity to be successful when they are an adult. [emphasis added]
Buffett’s own childhood was full of investments and businesses. At age 11, he bought his first stock. By the age of 14, he used $1,200 he earned from paper routes to purchase 40 acres of land, which he then leased out to farmers. In high school, he and a friend bought a used pinball machine for $25 and set it up in a barber shop. They later put machines in other locations and eventually sold the business.
Of course, your child doesn’t have to be the next Warren Buffett to benefit from a small venture or two. Here are some of the best business ideas for kids.
1. Dog Walking
Busy people need help keeping their dogs fit, and this is a job most kids can handle — and enjoy. Dog walkers charge either for a set fee or an hourly rate, and the kids can even expand their business to include dog washing and pet sitting.
Kids can approach neighbors to offer their services (you may want to tag along if they’re young) or advertise their business online. Care.com says their dog walkers average almost $10 per hour, and it’s free to open a basic account. Care.com’s policy for teens requires adult-supervised accounts (parents receive email notifications of all activity), and the kids have to be at least 14 to sign up.
Many kids are more Internet savvy than their parents, so it makes sense to consider online businesses, including various types of websites. It costs very little to register a domain name and buy web hosting, and by relying on easy advertising revenue (like Google AdSense), kids don’t even have to sell anything.
For example, Forbes reports that Ashley Qualls started Whateverlife.com at age 14 “as a personal portfolio with pictures and graphics she created.” Later, she added tutorials on creating graphics and other content for teens. Before long she needed a dedicated server, and she added Google AdSense to the site to monetize the traffic.
Now, her website brings in “as much as $70,000 a month,” according to Fast Company. Qualls bought a $250,000 home with her profits while still a teenager, and turned down a $1.5 million offer for her business.
3. Paper Routes
Paper routes helped Warren Buffett get his start in business, and although most newspapers now rely on adults with cars for delivery, there are still a few places where kids deliver papers on foot or by bicycle. In Carroll, Iowa, for example, The Daily Times Herald still has 80% of its papers delivered by kids aged 9 to 17, according to NPR.
One of the best things about modern paper delivery is that the kids no longer have to knock on doors to collect for subscriptions — that’s all done by credit card billing.
4. Crafts and Jewelry
If your kids are creatively inclined, they can make crafts and jewelry to sell online. There’s no need to set up a website for this. Platforms like Etsy provide a great way to keep it simple. Vendors pay 20 cents to list a product and then a commission of 3.5% on each sale. The policy for kids is that the Etsy Shop must be managed by a parent or legal guardian.
How much could your child earn on Etsy? By the time he was 11 years old, Mo Bridges had brought in more than $30,000 selling bow ties through his Etsy shop.
Other Businesses for Kids
Don’t underestimate the potential for big success from small starts. Fraser Doherty started making and selling jam from home at age 14 and before long had over $1 million in annual sales. At age 10, Juliette Brindak drew pictures of “Cool Girls,” and, at age 16, used those characters to launch a social networking site called “Miss O and Friends.” The site is valued at $15 million today.
The types of businesses started by some kids might surprise you too. Who would have thought that BizChair.com, started by Sean Belnicks at age 14, would be selling $24 million in office chairs by the time its founder was 20? Or that 17-year-old Nick D’Aloisio would sell his news-aggregator app, called “Summly,” for $30 million?
Any kind of business activity teaches kids valuable lessons. As a child, Tyler Dikman had lemonade stands, mowed lawns and did magic shows. He parlayed that business experience into launching CoolTronics, “a comprehensive computer sales and service solution,” when he was just 15. The company went on to make millions of dollars.
What else can kids or teens do to make money? Here are a few more possibilities:
- Help companies with social media marketing
- Help seniors set up and use computers
- Wash cars
- Do garden maintenance
- Have garage sales
- Make greeting cards
- Recycle soda cans
- Tutor younger kids
- Shovel snow
Your Turn: Do you encourage your children’s entrepreneurial plans? What good business ideas could you add to the list?