Updated on 01.26.16

Four Businesses Kids Can Start Themselves

Kid shoveling snow

With a shovel and some ambition, almost any kid can start and grow a snow removal business. Photo: WoodleyWonderworks

The Internet was buzzing recently about a 15-year-old New Yorker who rakes in $300,000 a year with her babysitting agency, Nannies by Noa. Noa Mintz saw a need for matching parents with suitable babysitters. She now oversees 25 nannies and 50 babysitters, and she receives 15% of their initial gross salary.

While a nanny service might not be quite as lucrative in, say, Duluth as it is in Manhattan, Mintz’s industrious nature proves that any kid with ambition and a healthy dose of business sense can create a job niche for themselves.

Rather than jumping right into a business venture, though, children should fully develop their vision and devise a coherent plan for success. To do so, they can follow guidelines from “grown-up” startups.

Joel Libava, owner of The Franchise King, a Cleveland-based business that helps entrepreneurs looking for franchise opportunities, says research is the first step toward starting a kid business.

“It doesn’t matter what type of business they want to start, deciding if there is a market for their services or products is crucial,” he explains. Mintz, for example, saw a need for a nanny-finding service; she understood her clients and her market, and she blazed ahead with her idea.

Next, Libava suggests working out a sensible budget. Are there startup expenses for this type of job? For example, if it’s a snow-shoveling business, will your children have to buy shovels and salt? Will a parental loan be needed?

Finally, a kid business should have a set goal. “That goal can be a realistic one or an entrepreneurial, crazy-high one,” says Libava. The goal of Nannies by Noa likely falls into the latter category.

Any number of jobs are kid-friendly, but here are four examples of businesses your kids can start on their own:

Babysitting

As the development of Nannies by Noa reveals, a simple sitter job can turn into an awesome occupation with some ingenuity. First, have children research the neighborhood to see if there’s a strong need for new sitter services. If not, “advertising” their skills at places like a day care center, the local library, or the gym is a good way to branch out.

Once they’ve got one or two babysitting jobs under their belts, it’s time to market. They should get the word out about the great job they’re doing and ask current customers for referral clients to help build the business.

Snow Shoveling & Yardwork

With so many snowplow services and snow blowers in use today, snow shovelers might seem antiquated. On the contrary, they have a special niche that driveway plows can’t help with: clearing walkways and sidewalks.

You’d be surprised how much an ambitious kid with a shovel can make these days. Depending on where you live, a homeowner may be willing to pay $15 to $30 just for clearing their sidewalks, steps, and walkways.

Children should stay in touch with their winter clients as the seasons change, letting them know they are available for weeding, leaf collecting, lawn mowing, and other seasonal yardwork. This is a great way to turn a seasonal customer into a year-round customer. And as with babysitting, kids running a yardwork business should not be shy about asking for referral clients from current customers.

Office Assistance

Do you have a friend who owns a small business and is always complaining about the tedious tasks that stand in the way of doing real work? Your child could solve that problem.

Working in an office setting is a great experience for young people. They get a sense of all that’s involved in making a business run, including seemingly mundane tasks like filing papers, organizing materials, and opening mail.

Online Business

While parents sometimes worry their kids are overusing technology, it can actually work in their favor when creating a business. (It goes without saying that strict parental supervision will be needed to ensure your children’s safety online.)

Some examples of kid-friendly online businesses include selling crafts on eBay or Etsy (check age requirements; you may need to represent your children on some of these sites), starting a blog or writing blog posts for a teen-focused publication, or developing a YouTube channel.

My 11-year-old daughter watches a YouTube channel called “Cute Girls Hairstyles,” in which twin teenage girls and their mother do nothing but illustrate how to create different hairstyles. The channel became so popular and financially successful, the dad quit his job to become the show’s producer.

No matter the business, children should give themselves time to make it work. “It’s important for a kid who wants to start a business to not give up too fast if things aren’t going as planned,” Libava advises. And if it turns out the business isn’t as lucrative or rewarding as they had hoped, they shouldn’t despair. “It’s a tough decision to close a business down,” Libava says, “but doing so increases the chance of their next business startup doing better.”

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