I think I may have been born with the entrepreneurial gene–or at least it bit me at a young age. I was fortunate to be raised in a family where my parents were willing to encourage teens to be entrepreneurs.
As a result, besides babysitting, my first teen job was making macramé pot hangers for friends of my parents.
It was a good job for a 13-year-old. I could work around my school schedule. And the pay was much better than the 75-cents-an-hour that was the going rate for teenage babysitters back then.
My macramé career was only the beginning. Next I taught private swimming lessons both in my parents’ backyard pool and at the homes of my customers. It, too, was a well-paying job and cemented my entrepreneurial leanings well before I finished high school. I was fortunate to grow up in a home where my parents encouraged their teens to be entrepreneurs.
My Teen Entrepreneurs
Not surprisingly, my own children expressed entrepreneurial tendencies as teens. During her high school years, my oldest started a housecleaning business with two of her closest friends so they could earn money for a school trip to Washington D.C. They ended up keeping their business until they all went away to college.
My son took a different entrepreneurial route, selling snacks to his classmates to earn money to buy his first laptop (also earning him the nickname “the Poptart King”). Later he started a business fixing computers for friends and neighbors. While he didn’t continue as an entrepreneur, his career choice was encouraged by his early entrepreneurial ventures.
Another one of my children is a talented performer and on her way to a career in the arts, inspired not only by high school music classes and private music lessons, but also a summer job as a Renaissance musician, and a band she started with other teen musicians.
The job market for teens is tough these days. Many teens have a desire for income of their own, whether it’s to help their family, save for college or simply fund their teenage lifestyle. With many traditional teen jobs being taken by adults, it can be almost impossible to find a job, especially if it’s a summer job or there are school schedules to consider.
Working at a traditional job isn’t the only way for teens to make a paycheck. Entrepreneurship can be an excellent path for teens who want to work. Encourage your teens to be entrepreneurs, to take their skills and create their own jobs instead of struggling to find a part-time job in a fast-food restaurant or as a stock clerk at the market. So how do you encourage teens to become entrepreneurs?
One of the benefits of teenage entrepreneurship is the opportunity to explore different career fields before it’s time to decide about college majors or post-high school training. Starting and running their own business, no matter how small, encourages teens to take calculated risks and to acquire different skills that will help them no matter what career path they choose. It can also help them to develop their creativity, think beyond traditional teen-age expectations, and communicate with both their peers and other adults.
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Here are four simple ways you can encourage teens to be entrepreneurs.
Encourage Teens to Be Entrepreneurs by Developing Their Talents and Looking for Ways to Monetize Those Talents
I learned to macramé in seventh-grade art. I learned because it was a school assignment and financial gain never crossed my mind. But it turned out to be something I was good at and when a friend of my parents saw my handiwork, I was offered a commission, which turned into more commissions, and created a nice income one summer. During that summer, I learned how to value my time, how to price my work and how to calculate the cost of goods. All important lessons in any business field.
If your teens show an interest in entrepreneurship, help them to explore their talents and how they might use them to make money. Do they bake? Are they good at yard work or gardening? Are they ace housecleaners? Do they know how to fix computers and other electronics? Can they work on cars or machines? This list could go on all day, but if you’d like some ideas for teen entrepreneurship, check out the US Chamber of Commerce. For every talent, there is an opportunity to become an entrepreneur.
Allow Teens to Take Reasonable Risk
Should your teen cash in his college savings to fund his lemonade stand? It’s not something I recommend. But most entrepreneurial ventures do require some kind of start-up capital, whether to purchase supplies or to advertise the business. Teach your teen how to calculate costs and help them to make an appropriate investment, whether it is for advertising flyers to distribute around the neighborhood or their initial inventory of snacks for schoolmates. Guide them through the process of figuring out whether a product or service can be profitable for them.
Teach Teens Business Principles
Since this may be your teens first venture into the world of work, they are going to need some guidance and help to learn to be a good entrepreneur. They may need help with realistic expectations, both of what their business can earn and with what they can do. One of the problems many new entrepreneurs have is biting off more than they can chew—overpromising and under delivering.
Help your teen learn how to accurately calculate the time needed for a project and how much time they will need to devote to their business for it to be profitable. They may also need help learning basic bookkeeping and customer-service skills. One great resource to help encourage teens to be entrepreneurs is the Teen Entrepreneur Toolbox. It’s a guide to all aspects of entrepreneurship, written specifically for teens.
Your example, your encouragement, and your involvement may do more than anything else to encourage your teens to be entrepreneurs. If these aren’t skills you possess, perhaps the two of you can take a class together, or maybe you have adults in your circle who would be willing to act as a mentor.
Teach Teens Integrity
To me, this may well be the most important thing for teens to take away from their entrepreneurial adventure. Teach them to conduct themselves with integrity. This means having realistic expectations (we all know about the exuberance of youth). It also means dealing honestly with customers and suppliers (and investors, if mom and dad are helping fund this venture), keeping accurate records, getting the necessary government licenses (if needed for their job and your area). And finally, it means keeping promises and conducting themselves maturely.
Encouraging teens to be entrepreneurs can give them great insight into finding their career path. Entrepreneurship, even when it doesn’t go as well as expected, can help teens build confidence. It can teach them about risk and reward, and how the business world works. It can also help them develop leadership skills and empower them for success. Oh, and it certainly doesn’t hurt on a future job application, college admissions essay, or on their resume.
Were you a teen entrepreneur? What did the adults in your life do to encourage you and other teens to become entrepreneurs? Do you encourage teens to be entrepreneurs?
What has your experience with youthful entrepreneurship been? What advice would you give a teen-age entrepreneur? I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences in the comment section below.