Kids have always worked. They’ve raked leaves, washed cars, and sold lemonade. There’s only one problem: While these typical kid jobs do result in a bit of pocket cash, they do very little to teach kids the all-important principles of entrepreneurial wealth building.
Directly trading your time for money is very limiting. This is especially true in a global economy characterized by skyrocketing prices and a shortage of ‘good’ jobs.
The good news is that your kids can put an entrepreneurial twist on these classic childhood jobs—or at least take their earning potential to a higher level. Here are ten ideas to help you get started:
The Lucrative Lemonade Stand. This classic childhood business can teach many valuable lessons if kids do it right. They can learn about profit by buying their own ingredients and doing their own marketing. They can shop around for better pricing, learn the benefits of buying in bulk, or negotiate with a local grocer for a better deal on repeat business. They can differentiate themselves by selling fresh squeezed lemonade when everyone else is selling pre-mixed or by holding “buy two glasses get one free” sales.
Want to kick it up a notch? Let’s say there’s more than one hot spot in the neighborhood for set-up. You can guide your child through “franchising” by forming a partnership with other neighborhood kids. He can provide the supplies and set-up, and they get paid for managing the table.
There may come a time when your child finds out that franchisees aren’t doing what they are supposed to do (giving away free lemonade to friends, or leaving their stand unattended, for example). This is a chance to walk him through the tough conversation he must have. You might even brainstorm ways to stop the problem—say, by giving kids a cut of the profits instead of paying a flat salary.
The Dog Days of Entrepreneurship (Dog Walking). Taking Fido for a walk every day is a good way for kids to make a little extra money. Add two or three more to the mix and it becomes a great learning experience in multitasking and client management.
Help your child set up a client database to keep track of client contact information, schedules, payments due and received, and any special requests or needs. Help her learn to gauge her own limits. Once she feels she’s at the outer edge of her ability to serve clients well, it’s time to stop accepting new clients or to bring on a partner or employee.
Taking this business to the next level can be easy and fun. Your child might offer every tenth walk free. Or, she might throw in a free dog washing with every new contract. Likewise, there are good opportunities to “spoke off” a whole new service: If she does a great job as a dog walker, she might offer her clients pet sitting services.
The Savvy House Sitter. Being given the keys to someone’s house, and perhaps the temporary custody of a beloved pet, is an honor. Explain to kids just how much trust clients are placing in them—and explain that if they go “above and beyond” they can shore up the relationship in a big way (not to mention generate enthusiastic referrals).
For sure, kids need to clean up any pet messes or spills, water the plants, check the mail, and take out the trash on trash day. That’s just basic good service. But they might also offer to tackle other projects for a small extra fee: scrubbing bathrooms, washing cars, mowing the yard, or organizing photos.
The Babysitting Broker (and Tutoring, Too). Plenty of kids are qualified for babysitting and tutoring. Rather than being just another service provider in a crowded market, why not suggest that your child be the front person? She might create a database of qualified locals and book appointments for her subcontractors. She can charge $10/hour for the services, and pay each of her contractors $8/hour.
This is great management experience and really illustrates the magic of passive income. On any given Saturday night she might be earning money from four or five or even more babysitting jobs. Meanwhile, she can be enjoying a night out with her friends or perhaps earning even more money by working a babysitting job of her own.
The Smart Car Wash or Brainy Bake Sale. These events are classic fundraisers but they tend to be indistinguishable from one another. Encourage your child to think differently about the one he oversees. Teach him about the value of pricing goods and services competitively: Just because he’s charging more doesn’t mean he’ll make good money—especially when a less expensive car wash is happening in another part of town.
You might help your child conduct market research by visiting other area sales. See what others are doing in the way of advertising. Help him devise a marketing strategy (using social media where age appropriate), draw up a flier, visit local businesses and ask to advertise, and so forth.
The Next-Level Landscaper. Your child might offer “free samples” of his work around the neighborhood in an effort to expand his business. He might work up a flier that offers a free service: for one free mowing, weed pulling, or yard trimming (even better if you make the bonus something you’ve noticed a particular yard really needs).
Does he own a lot of equipment? He might rent it out when he’s on vacation or away at camp. He can arrange for a friend to keep up with yards while he’s away: This will keep customers happy and give the friend an opportunity to earn a little extra money on the side.
The Music Moneymaker. If you have a child who is musical, perhaps a skilled pianist or budding violinist, he might offer his talents at weddings, birthday parties, anniversary celebrations, and the like. Help him get his business off the ground by developing business cards and fliers or perhaps a simple website that includes a video or audio sample of his work. Above all, tell him to make sure he is never, ever less than 100 percent professional and accommodating—people’s special events are precious to them and most will not hire anyone without a glowing referral. Be referable!
Once your child has a handful of successful weddings and parties under his belt, he might move on to offering his talents at corporate functions. While this may seem a daunting prospect, it will give him a valuable look at how the business world operates. (Many business professionals will appreciate the courage and initiative he shows by asking and may very well give him a chance!)
The Birthday Party Business. Putting together a great party is a lot of work for busy parents, between buying supplies, sending out invites, and managing activities during the party itself. By offering to help execute all the exhausting details (from following up with non-RSVPers to dishing out the ice cream), your child can free up frenzied parents to just enjoy the big day with their child and 20 of his or her closest friends.
To get the business rolling, she might call neighbors and family friends who have small children and explain her services to them. (Yes, it’s daunting, but it will be a great lesson for your child in the value of picking up the phone.) She can offer a discount or free trial for the first customer or two and let referrals and word of mouth take it from there.
When your child is ready to take the business to the next level, she can offer to paint faces, make balloon animals, or do the pedicures and manicures at the sleepover. And as the business grows in popularity (or the parties grow in size), she can start putting together her own power team and learn to manage others.
The Gumball Machine Maestro. This is a great way to teach kids about passive income as well as help them polish other critical business skills. Setting up a gumball machine requires developing a nose for a great location and knowing the demands of a particular demographic. (Obviously, a gumball machine at a high-end restaurant won’t do as well as one placed in the lobby of a kid-friendly diner!) It also will require diligent maintenance: refilling the machine, keeping it clean, making sure the mechanism works, and best of all, collecting the money.
The hardest part may be convincing the owner of the property to let him put his gumball machine there. (It would be a tough task for most adults!) He may need to experiment with different tactics: Offer the store owner a flat fee? Offer her a percentage of the profits? Promise a cut to the owner’s favorite charity? He’ll quickly find his stride and start to develop serious negotiation skills that will serve him well in the future.
The Bead Business Wizard. Designing and creating bracelets and necklaces to sell teaches kids to manage inventory and pay attention to the trends so that their product can stay new and interesting. Are more bracelets selling than necklaces? Are bright colors selling better than pastels? Is there an unmet market niche selling jewelry to boys, and might your child be able to come up with some cool designs that appeal to them?
This might also be a chance to learn about business philanthropy. Help kids devise a campaign for selling the jewelry so that part of the proceeds goes to a charity of their choice. Perhaps the bracelet designs could coordinate with the colors of a particular charity. If the business really takes off, your kids might hire others to make the bracelets and expand their operation.
Gregory S. Downing, author of “Entrepreneur Unleashed: Wealth to Stand the Test of Time” (Legacy Unleashed Press, 2012, ISBN: 978-1-938047-06-0, $29.95, www.GregoryDowning.com) has dedicated his life to teaching his students that every family can truly control its financial future and create a generational legacy with profound, yet straightforward advice and guidance. As a nationally and highly respected author, speaker, family expert, and organizational consultant, his advice has been sought and put into practice by thousands of people from all walks of life. With over 20 years of experience in management, leadership, training, and business ownership, he has proven that his principles of legacy parenting, business promotion, entrepreneurship, and real estate investing both work and create bonds of relationship that go beyond the ordinary.
Prior to his writing and public speaking career, he served for 12 years as the general manager of four Chevrolet and Dodge Chrysler dealerships, managing over 130 employees and increasing production and sales without sacrificing quality and customer service while there. It was during his tenure in this position that he became increasingly aware that his gifts and talents were in motivating and leading others to achieve their goals and dreams. He made the transition to motivational and investment training so he could touch more lives and influence others to build wealth and prosperity for themselves and for their families.
To learn more, please visit www.GregoryDowning.com.