There are endless facets of learning through starting a business. To begin with, this is project-based leaning. Our favorite kind of learning.
The best way to help kids be entrepreneurial is to help them find a good platform for selling their products, this way they can see results fast. A good start is to sign up for a children’s business fair, a local market, a weekend outdoor event, or a yard sale. There are many parts of the business kids will discover along the way. It is a good idea to prepare 1 – 2 months in advance. There will be challenges, but at the end it is a fun and rewarding experience.
It takes commitment, work hours, perceiving the product not only from their experience but from the customer’s perspective. It takes learning some math skills to figure out for example what are their expenses and how much they would need to make profit or to break even. Lessons about economy can be weaved in. The younger ones practice learning about basic arithmetic, writing the numbers, and giving change. They learn estimation. And all kids benefit from learning about marketing, presenting their product, and answering questions about one thing they know inside and out because they thought it through and made it all themselves. In other words they own it.
Here are 15 Ways to Help Kids Kick-off a Business:
Help them make commitments and set up milestone. Help them if they absolutely need help. But it is better they do a business that they can really own every part of.
Even if the sign is not pretty or the logo looks messy, that’s okay, as long as they did it by themselves. If the numbers on the prices are backwards, that’s also okay, as long as they wrote the prices themselves.
It would help if the product they chose to make is not so complicated that they find themselves over their head. But even so, this might lead them to learning to delegate. Our daughter once decided to make bat wings to sell at a Business Fair. She cut them out but soon realized that with her sewing skills it would take her FOREVER! to sew four wings. She offered to give mom $10 if she could just quickly sew them for her. Mom agreed.
1. Find an outlet for selling their product
If there is an event, fair, Children’s market, or communal yard sale where your child could set up a stand tell them about this opportunity.
2. What will the business be?
Once there is an outlet for selling their product, it is easier to wrap their head around what they want to sell. Help them brainstorm, or simply suggest something they have been interested in lately, or perhaps they have already been working on a project.
3. Make a to do list
If they are old enough, have them write down everything they can think of that they need to do before the day of the sale. Having a goal and establishing small milestones will make the process more enjoyable and establish a vision for how things will unfold.
I that is too much and just can’t wrap their head around what all needs to be done, ask them to write the First thing that needs to get done, the Second and the Third. Whatever these are, they can figure out what other tasks they need to complete in between these three they identified.
4. Make a budget
Every part may have a cost associated with it. Help them add up all the costs so they know how much their business and product will cost to kick off. Then decide if they will borrow this sum or if they will tap into their piggy bank…
5. How much will it sell for?
They will need to know how much they will be selling each item for and ask people if they would pay that much for that product. This is very important. They may need to tweak things in order to make the numbers work.
6. Agree and Commit
Ask them to make one or two of the items they want to sell. If they are making them themselves one by one, you should be able to gauge the level of commitment at that point. And immediately propose that they will need to make X amount in so many days in order to have enough product and make a profit. At this point they need to agree to this commitment.
7. Parents are just guides
Make sure your involvement is mostly coaching, managing expectations, help them gather their supplies, and enabling. Not making their product, making their sings, or meeting deadlines for them.
8. Business name
They will need to make their logo, sign or banner. You may need to help them by making electronic files and taking them to the printer for example. Alternatively a handmade banner always looks great.
Remind them that presentation is important. Have them think about what image they want their business to have.
10. Last minute check-list
Help them be prepared for the sale or event. Have a checklist with: signs, presentation, a box to put supplies and the product they’re selling, money for change (remember these dollars should be subtracted from the profits at the end of the sale). And of course bring a snack, plenty of water, and seating.
Have your child make samples of the product if applicable. So customers can test a sample before buying.
12. The Pitch
Have them practice their pitch. Ask them to practice talking about their product with family members and friends. Ask them what is so special about their product, how is it different from other similar products? And why is it better?
13. Step back and watch
Once they are at the event, try to stay out of it. After they’ve done so much work and put so much thought into their business, they can handle answering any question and leading sales. Encourage your your child to stand and make eye intact with people walking by, or offering to sample the product vs. seating behind their table waiting for customers to come to them.
And finally, help them market it by letting people know. Be sure to let everyone know if you belong to any local groups, Nextdoor.com, and Facebook.
Once it’s all over talk to them about the experience. What was their favorite part of the experience? How much money did they make? Remind them to give back money borrowed from you or anyone else. And talk about what they would do different next time. What will they do with the profits?
At the end of the day the experience should be positive for kids to learn anything from it and feel like they have succeeded. And success comes in different ways for everyone.
How young should a child be to start a business?
A great age to start is 7 years old. I have seen kids as young as 6 but they require a lot of help to the point that most of the work is done by parents.
At the beginning starting a business is playful and feels new and exciting. But young kids have a hard time once it sinks in all the work that must be completed, all the different parts to take into account and the deadlines.
It can be a great experience if they follow through to the end, but not recommended to register the business unless the child is old enough to commit to growing the business.
Is it legal for a kid to start a business?
It is legal for kids to register a business and are subject to the same taxes and regulations as if the business was owned by an adult. However, helping kids be entrepreneurial can mean anything from selling slime on their driveway to having an ongoing business. If your child just wants to have a yard sale, or be part of a weekend market the learning experience is still very valuable and doesn’t require licenses.
An Afternoon Slime Business Case Study
One day I overhead a conversation between my daughter and her friend during one of the many dozen slime making sessions. Aside from hearing the word “satisfying” uttered repeatedly, I heard the statement “it is more fun to make it than to play with it”. At which point they decided that they make ten types of slime each. But since it was so much slime, they would keep some for themselves and sell the rest.
It was decided that they were going to start a slime stand, and they prepared their little business on the driveway. But since it was early afternoon and we live in a quiet neighborhood, after an hour waiting for customers they suggested I take them to the park where there were sure to be kids.
Luckily, we got there shortly after the school across the way had got out so there were plenty of kids at the park. The two kids set up shop and decided they would sell each slime bag for $1.
Extra credit learning:
The “Bullshit detector” skill
Kid walks up and shows she only has .70 cents. The girls said that’s OK. Kid comes back 30 minutes latter and this time says she only has .1 cent, and the kids give her another slime bag, but this time they realized they made a mistake.
A grandfather with his grand kids gets the girls to “sell” his grand kids some slime, and instead of paying for it he goes to the car for the cash. But he takes so long that the girls continue on to other prospects, and when the grandpa eventually gets back, he does not offer the money to the girls. As a parent you just have to point out the opportunists, and for the kids, well, hopefully they now have a strategy for how to spot the bullshitters.
They became good at figuring out that their main purpose was to sell all the slime they had with them, so it was in some cases a good idea to make kids a deal. Such as the price is $1 each but if you buy 3 bags it’s $2.
Eventually, there was a sentence the two girls concluded was the best way to pitch their slime. After trying a few different variations, there was one that seemed to work best for them.
Yes, hustling…Sadly, I watched my soon to be 7 year old daughter and her friend happily going around the park chasing kids to tell them about the unique opportunity to buy slime from them on that day, for $1. But, hey, that’s life and if you can’t handle hustling you will always be put-off or intimidated by anything involving marketing and sales.
The best part for them was splitting the gains and going back home to PLAY WITH THE SLIME THEY HAD SAVED FOR THEMSELVES.
Why should kids learn entrepreneurship?
I have seen businesses started by siblings, and parents report what a wonderful experience it was for their kids to work on different parts of the project. Seeing them go through the process of brainstorming while respecting each others ideas, politely offering constructive criticism. I have seen kids that just wanted to sell their creations, and made a huge commitment to produce enough product to sell at a farmer’s market or trade show.
Now let’s talk about the money making aspect of the business. Incidentally, this is the least important part at the end of the day for a kid, but a very rewarding one. Yes, they need to understand and they do understand that the whole point is to make a profit when it comes to business, but if you asked a kid at the end of our local Children’s Business Fair if they prefer to make more money and not get a medal or make less money and get a medal, most say they were happier getting their medal. However making a profit is very empowering for kids as it gives them an outlet to make decisions as to what to do with their money. They can chose to open a kid savings account, they can keep it and spend on whatever they want, they can donate some of it, they can reinvest in their business, etc.
Kids learn about the fun in starting a business and being entrepreneurs when their parents can be supportive, not push them too hard, and not doing the work and the thinking for them. We don’t need to send the message that unless they earn money themselves their parents will not get them the things they want or need.
Kids should be grounded in the understanding that their parents do have some kind of budget for them. Even if it is a very modest one.
When I was researching this article I came across some advice online and I hope there are not enough parents that follow the advice to encourage entrepreneurship by “teaching them to make sacrifices”, “to be competitive” or learning the “value of hard work by doing work for you”.
True Jedis wholeheartedly disagrees with tough love when it comes to encouraging kids to develop a love for something.