You don’t have to look too far these days to find someone under eighteen with a business. Entrepreneurs are getting younger all the time and there are more of us than ever, which is a good thing. This doesn’t mean that we will all grow up and still be entrepreneurs or not go to college but having a business background and experience is good for any career.
In 2005 I started my business, Pencil Bugs. I was only nine at the time but it’s not like I was planning on becoming an entrepreneur. It happened because my mom suggested I come up with my own idea for a craft fair instead of helping her with her project. So I did. One thing led to another and with a lot of help from my parents, especially my mom, I had a real business, was winning awards, and getting a lot of media attention. I wasn’t getting rich by any means but I was making more than most kids and I was also donating a portion of my proceeds to children’s charities. In 2010, I also published my first book, “Bitten by the Business Bug: Common Sense Tips for Business and Life from a Teen Entrepreneur.”
I have met a lot of other young entrepreneurs and most of them have supportive parents also. So what do parents need to know if their kids want to start a business? Here are the top five things to keep in mind.
- Support them. This may sound simple and obvious but think of how many times a parent tells a kid that an idea won’t work or that it’s dumb? No one should squash ideas because sometimes the silliest things can become the next big product or business. Plus if a person, especially a kid, gets rejected or shot down too many times, that might crush their creativity not to mention their self-esteem.
- Let them decide. The idea has to be something the kid is interested in. It’s great to brainstorm with them but if parents try to push their own ideas on the kids or live out their dreams through the kid’s business, problems will most likely develop down the road because of that.
- Find other help. Parents may be supportive and 100% onboard with helping their kids start a business but if the parents don’t have a clue about the details, they need to find help. There are a lot of resources but a good place to start is by talking with other entrepreneurs and parents who have been there, done that, or better yet, are still doing it. My mom and I frequently coach other biz kids and their parents.
- Let them be a kid. While it’s fun to have a business, there is a lot of work even in the idea stage. Childhood is really short but we have a long time to be adults. Parents should always remember that a kid needs to be a kid first no matter what they are involved in.
- Let the ideas flow and change. Don’t expect that the first idea a kid has will be the one that they stick with. Even if they turn their idea into a business, allow them to try other ideas also or stop altogether. Notice I didn’t say “quit” because there is a big difference between stopping and quitting. One of the greatest things about being a young entrepreneur is that it gives us the opportunity to try lots of things without the financial responsibilities that come with being an adult. It’s much better to experiment with different ideas now than to grow up and still be trying to figure out what we want to do.
These tips will get you started but there are a lot of other things parents will need to know about young entrepreneurs and how to help them in business. Starting a business at any age is a challenge but minors have unique challenges because of their age. The only guarantee is that doing nothing guarantees nothing. Try your ideas. You might be surprised at what can be accomplished.
Entrepreneur, Speaker, Philanthropist, Author of “Bitten by the Business Bug: Common Sense Tips for Business and Life from a Teen Entrepreneur”
Pencil Bugs Plus
Photo: By Kiii Yu from Flickr