Teen Biz Basics
With summer jobs tough to find, your teen might want to launch a business. You can lend a hand.

by Mary Tarkowski

Earning spending money is good for an older child. Instead of harvesting the parental money tree, he learns responsibility and self-discipline.

With part-time and summer jobs hard to come by this year, one solution is for a young person to start his own business. A budding entrepreneur learns to sharpen planning skills, set financial goals and think creatively. Here’s how to help your child get started.

What do you like? A teen can often find a business idea by thinking about her strengths and what she enjoys. Is she athletic, mechanical, artistic? Is she picky about details, or would she rather galumph through a big, messy job? Does she like little kids? Animals? Computers? Does she have a special talent?

Parental assistance. Help your child think through the business details. Would he rather work alone or join up with a friend? Will he need to use family equipment or space? When can he fit work into his schedule?

Your child might also need help in figuring out start-up costs and how much to charge. You can offer assistance designing a flyer listing the services and contact information, and setting safety rules for distributing it. By role-playing as the customer, you can stress the benefits of courteous, professional behavior.

Start Small. A young entrepreneur usually needs to start small, offering one product or service to a limited number of people. By dipping one toe in the water rather than belly-slamming into the lake, he’ll soon know what he’s doing right and what might need fine-tuning. Later, as his business grows, he can make use of more advanced advice.

Mary Tarkowski is a freelance writer.

7 Types of Kid Businesses

1. Teach. Work with younger children to improve their sports skills. Tutor math or other subjects. Teach computer basics to children or adults. Help set up websites.

2. Create a cleaning service. Wash cars. Clean houses to the extent of your ability — vacuum, scrub floors, dust, wash windows, tidy up children’s rooms. Clean garages, basements, closets or attics. Do laundry, washing, drying and neatly folding.

3. Offer pet care
. Exercise pets, or care for them when owners are away. Bathe or brush dogs; clean dog runs or fish tanks.

4. Sit for kids or houses. The American Red Cross (www.redcross.org) offers babysitter training. Or house sit: collect mail and papers, check windows and doors, turn lights on and off.

5. Sell products.
Build bird feeders and hang them. Sell baked goods, giving out free samples, then taking orders. Sell crafts such as personalized birthday presents, painted T-shirts, jewelry or gift baskets. Sell cold lemonade or soda at sports fields, parks or garage sales, always with
permission.

6. Do yard work. Cut grass and edge lawns, weed gardens or dandelions from lawns, trim hedges and shrubs, rake leaves or shovel snow.

7. Be a helper for neighbors
. Run errands, keep tools in order, help carry things. Shop, pick up groceries, or do odd jobs for people who can’t get out.

Click for Help

There’s help online for young people interested in starting or growing their businesses.

For younger children, Hot Shot Business is an award-winning online business simulation game for 9- to 12-year-olds developed by Disney Online. Kids can open and run their own candy factory, pet spa, landscaping service, skateboard factory or comic shop. www.disney.go.com/hotshot/hsb.html

The U.S. Small Business Administration offers a Teen Business Link with ideas and advice at www.sba.gov/teens

YoungBiz is loaded with articles, success stories, and advice for business kids. It even helps kids build and launch their own free websites. A business exploration tool, “YoungBiz Net,” consists of 10 stages in entrepreneurship, including fun lessons in Identifying Customers, Market Research and Managing Resources. www.youngbiz.com