As parents, we want to help our kids build a life they can enjoy and be proud of later on. We want to help them get a quality education, become responsible for their actions, become contributing members of society, and, most of all, find happiness with their families and themselves.
But much of today’s news has left many of us wondering if the “normal” path to success is still the best way. With average student loan debt at $39,400 for 2017 college graduates and professional jobs growing harder to come by, it’s reasonable to steer your kids towards a trade or a two-year degree — or to dream up another scenario altogether.
One way to secure a stable future for your child is by helping them start a business while they’re young. Believe it or not, there are oodles of children running their own companies today — with the help of adults, of course. And your child could be one of them if they have the creativity and the drive to come up with an innovative product or service to sell.
Businesses Kids Can Start When They’re Young
If you’re looking for inspiration, you won’t have to dig very long to find childhood entrepreneur success stories. Some examples include:
- Bernadette and Grace Samanns started their own clothing company, GiGi & Bettes, in 2010 when Bernadette was just 14 years old. The pair has found tremendous success selling their unique style of women’s apparel and accessories.
- Mikaila Ulmer, who is now a teenager, started Me & The Bees Lemonade in 2009. Her lemonade, which is sweetened with natural honey, helped her become a successful business owner and score a spot on Shark Tank.
If you’re hoping to help your kids start their own business, there are endless paths to consider. Here are some of the potential businesses kids can start while they’re in school:
#1: Blogger or YouTuber
There are dozens of children making big money with their YouTube videos. Whether they talk about toys, video games, or teenage angst, they’re making bank. Blogging is a little less lucrative for kids over all, but there are still plenty of kids and teenagers sharing their thoughts on fashion, toys, and even politics and earning some money in the process.
While making money as a blogger or YouTuber isn’t as easy as some make it look, it’s still possible to launch an online persona with these platforms. You can also make money with either, although how much you’ll make (and if you make any at all) will vary widely depending on skill, popularity, and luck.
- Related: How to Start a Blog: A Tutorial
#2: Retail Arbitrage
Retail arbitrage is a money-making strategy anyone can try, and that includes kids. The concept behind this endeavor is this: Buy popular items at discounted prices from retail stores, then resell those items through other avenues for a higher price.
Some people conduct retail arbitrage on small household items while others focus on larger electronics or tools. They may buy the discounted items on sale at a department store like Target or Walmart then resell them at a higher price online via eBay.com or even Craiglist. One of the most popular retail arbitrage strategies involves buying items that sell easily on Amazon.com at a discount and reselling them via the Amazon FBA program.
Whatever strategy you choose, this is an easy hustle for kids to try and understand. They can learn to “buy low and sell high” and to look for deals that could be profitable. You never know how profitable this business idea could become if you find the right niche. A 28-year-old profiled by CNBC recently claimed he was making millions buying products at Walmart and reselling on Amazon.com.
#3: Lawn Mowing Service
Mowing lawns for money is a solid business idea that kids have successfully executed for decades. It’s also an inexpensive business to start provided kids have access to a lawn mower — either yours or their client’s.
The problem with mowing lawns and other type of yard work is that it may be seasonal depending on where you live. But, kids can always supplement in the winter months by shoveling driveways and doing other outdoor work.
#4: Invent a Product
Kids invent products all the time, from bath bombs to their own clothing lines and everything in between. If your kid is especially crafty or full or ideas, you may want to help them come up with a list of possibilities.
Apparently, a lot of amazing products have been invented or conceptualized by children — inventions like Makin Bacon (a product that cooks bacon), crayon holders, ear muffs, and even popsicles. If your kid is always full of new concepts or product ideas, encourage them to pursue them and help them figure out how.
Katie Davis, who now works as an educational psychologist in private practice on the Upper East Side, says she started a tutoring business when she was in high school then continued on to tutor other students in college and graduate school. Davis believes the value of working as a teenager cannot be understated, and starting a business provides an even bigger feeling of ownership and accomplishment.
If your child is especially good in a certain subject, tutoring other kids is a great way to earn money while keeping their own skills sharp.
Kids who love to read devour books by the dozen, but there’s no reason they can’t write books of their own. Thanks to websites like Create Space, it’s easier than ever for anyone to write and illustrate their own book online and sell it on Amazon.com. You no longer have to work with a publisher, nor do you have to struggle to get your book in stores. All you need is a computer, some basic online tools, and an idea, and you’re good to do.
#7: Lemonade Stand
A lemonade stand is another business idea kids can start early, but they don’t have to limit themselves to selling lemonade alone. JC Matthews, founder of Simply Insurance, started his journey to entrepreneurship by selling candy at school. This was his first taste of what business would be like, he says, because he had to focus on inventory, not eating his own product, and paying his expenses.
Children can sell pretty much anything provided they have a spot on your driveway or an audience somewhere, so there’s no reason for them to limit themselves.
#8: Pet Sitting or Dog Walking
Pet lovers can make pretty easy money dog walking, pet-sitting, or both. This gig is fairly easy to start up, too. You can connect with pet owners via your neighborhood Facebook page, by hanging flyers in your area, or by putting up an ad on craigslist.org.
You can also set up a profile to watch pets on Rover.com. While you need to be 18 years old to register as a provider with the service, a parent can open an account and share pet-sitting duties with their child. While most people charge between $19 and $50 per night to watch a pet, some people who use the service claim to make six figures per year.
Child care is another solid business idea kids can utilize to get their feet wet, provided they are old enough — and mature enough — to watch other kids. If you’re worried your child isn’t ready, many local hospitals offer a “safe sitter” program that can teach your children the skills they need to care for children, including CPR.
According to a 2017 Care.com survey, babysitters earned an average of $14 per hour in 2016. That’s quite a bit of money for a job with a fairly low barrier to entry and high demand. And, who knows? Babysitting children at a young age could lead to a career with kids as a daycare owner or teacher.
The Bottom Line
This is just a small sample of the businesses kids can start while they’re young. Thanks to technology and the innovation of the next generation, the sky really is the limit.
If your child is entrepreneurial, the best thing you can do is nurture their natural curiosity and encourage them to explore their ideas. The possibilities for our children are limitless provided we have the courage and wisdom required to help them pursue their passions without getting in the way.
Holly Johnson is an award-winning personal finance writer who is obsessed with frugality, budgeting, and travel. She blogs at ClubThrifty.com and teaches others how to write online at EarnMoreWriting.com.