June 21, 2010 -- Teens looking for a summer job and facing stiff competition from adults for seasonal roles may find their best option is entrepreneurship. And as a parent, you may be the best asset to your teen's success.
WHAT CAN I SELL? Most entrepreneurs begin with a skill, talent or passion of their own. Talk to your son or daughter about what he or she can do best or enjoys most.
To help make the connection between a particular skill or talent and how to make money from it, connect your teen with successful business owners who can share their early-day experiences.
CampCEO is a one-day summer program at Southern Illinois University that connects teens with a wide range of local businesses started by entrepreneurs. The kids have a chance to ask how the entrepreneurs got going and what it takes to make money. Parents can easily create a similar experience for their kids locally.
Robyn Laur Russell, host of CampCEO, suggests that young people ask, "When did you know you wanted to be an entrepreneur and how did you prepare yourself for this big step?" and "Who inspired you to explore owning your own business?"
Once they see an entrepreneur else in action, teen can determine what they can emulate, says Russell.
Teen is Event Singer
After years in school musicals, Minnesota teen Courtney Paaverud knew she could sing. As she prepares to enter her senior year of high school, she decided that it was time to turn her talent into some cash.
She reached out to choral directors and other singers – entrepreneurs in her field – for advice on how to find work.
It paid off. She's volunteering her time and talent in church performances for experience and exposure, and she's lining up gigs singing at weddings, parties and other events where she'll ask for $50 to $100 per performance.
For Teen Entrepreneurs, Brownies Mean Big Bucks
WHO WILL I SELL IT TO? Without customers, there's no business. Before your teen starts printing business cards and flyers, he or she must first find out if anyone wants to buy what's being offered.
The Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship, which provides educational programming to young people from low income communities, suggests talking with friends and neighbors to get feedback on the potential product or service before assuming it's a great idea that everyone will love.
That's exactly what Boy Scout Judge Swann in Georgia did with dog owners in his neighborhood. He presented an idea, and found out instantly that dog owners wanted it. He then moved on to creating promotional materials announcing his business: "Scout with a Scoop." Once a week, for just $10, he'll scoop the poop that your dog has left in the yard.
(While she's rooting for Judge to make great money, Swann's mother is also hoping it'll dissuade her son from wanting his own dog!)
HOW CAN I MAKE IT WORK? This is where parents can really help their budding business owners. Junior Achievement advocates the importance of creating a simple business plan with your kids. (Their free downloadable, easy-to-use business plan template can be found here.)
This may seem kind of crazy for such a small business, but I know from experience how valuable it can be to look at the numbers and to focus on pricing and profit.
This is something I worked on with my own kids. Jake and Emma love having summer bake sales on our block selling cookies and brownies. They realized that making cookies or brownies were the same effort and the same cost, but they could charge more for brownies. So they stopped baking and selling cookies altogether -- and their profits soared. They made $1,000 one summer.
Teen Biz Ideas Look Great on College Applications
When I was a kid in Miami Beach, I sold grapefruit from a tree in my backyard to cars that drove by. When a friend saw how much I could make, she wished she had a fruit tree in her yard. I realized that my tree produced more fruit than I could sell alone, so I made a deal to sell her grapefruit at half price as long as she agreed not to undercut me on price to her customers. I sold during morning drive time on my block and she took afternoons on her block. Not only did I make more money this way, I also learned how to expand my business.
This is another opportunity for parents to help. Sit down at the dining room table and map out a plan, playing with the numbers to see what kind of scenario will not only make money right now, but will also plant the seeds of valuable lessons in business. It'll look great on college applications, too.