Although elementary-aged and tween children might seem too young for entrepreneurship, it pays to remember that Mikaila Ulmer of the multimillion-dollar brand Me & the Bees got her start before entering kindergarten.
Of course, not every small-business idea is a good fit for a 12-year-old or younger child. Some are too risky to try until high school. Others would put them in contact with strangers far too often. Still others are too complex to manage while growing up and going to school.
But a few — like one-third of the beds, chairs, and porridge in the old story — are just right. They’re great business opportunities for kids of all ages who want to explore this side of personal finance.
Why Kids Should Start a Small Business
Starting a small business at an early age helps kids learn the value of money. Earning their own video game and treat money helps them appreciate the funds more personally.
Beyond that, there are other important benefits for children of starting their own business:
- They Can Start Earning Earlier. In most states, it’s illegal to have a job until a child is 14. But enterprising kids can begin earning on their own at any time.
- It Teaches Multiple Skills. Managing a small business requires young people to learn skills beyond getting better at making or doing what they sell.
- There’s No Earning Cap. If your child wants more money, they can sell more or find ways to improve their business. That’s not true of an allowance, or of most kid jobs.
- It Introduces Startup Thinking. Learning to think like a startup founder can prepare kids for adult entrepreneurship or to work well with an exciting employer later in life.
- It Shifts Their Thinking About Money. Kids go from relying on others to providing money to finding ways to make it happen themselves. This may be the most important lesson on the list.
7 Kid-Friendly Small Business That Make Money
With those benefits in mind, here are the best business ideas for entrepreneurial kids.
1. Garage Sale Arbitrage
Thrift stores, Craigslist, OfferUp, and eBay run ads every day for people selling collectibles, books, clothes, furniture, and electronics, and people buy from those ads. Even Amazon retailers do business with used and refurbished goods. Yard and garage sales sell those same items, often for lower prices than they get purchased for on those sites.
A child, especially a child passionate about a certain hobby, sport, or toy collection, can make decent money by taking advantage of this difference in price.
To successfully engage in yard sale arbitrage, your child first needs to complete market research about what some items typically sell for. Armed with that, a few Internet accounts, and some stake money, they can begin turning a profit.
- Easy to scale up or back down in real time without harming the business.
- Can mesh well with something your child is already interested in.
- Teaches negotiation and web savvy.
- Can be a good gateway to a more expansive online business as your child gets older.
- High risk of losing money if your child isn’t very knowledgeable about what they’re buying and selling.
- Requires interacting with strangers on the Internet. It’s likely you will want to closely supervise or manage much of this side of the business if you have younger kids.
- Choose a niche, at least at first, so your child trades in just a few items they know well. It reduces risk.
- Use this model to teach bootstrapping — being able to buy progressively more expensive items and reach proportionally growing profits as their success builds momentum.
2. Babysitting, Pet Sitting, or Housesitting
Babysitting, housesitting, pet sitting, dog walking, and even plant sitting have long been jobs held down by kids too young to get a regular job. For most, these gigs are one-off opportunities that happen when a parents’ friend goes out of town. A kid with hustle and a large enough contacts list can turn this into a regular practice, bringing in money week after week.
The trick to getting started here is developing the list of contacts. It can be a challenge for a fourth grader to convince adults outside their parents’ immediate circle to trust them as a babysitter or pet care provider.
To get started, they just need one client who can recommend them, and a willingness to ask for referrals. Parents can help give their kids a start by getting the word out to neighbors through the Nextdoor app. After a couple of successful jobs, the referrals will start.
- The work is fairly simple, and usually in line with experiences kids have had at home.
- The work gives practice at independent responsibility in a safe environment.
- The contacts they develop often need other work as your child ages out of these more basic tasks.
- The stakes are higher if your child makes a mistake.
- Not all children are ready for unsupervised responsibility.
- For babysitting and pet sitting, consider getting your child certified at your local Red Cross or community center.
- Develop a script for your child to ask for referrals, and practice it with them until they’re confident enough to use it.
3. Lawn Care With Perks
Any kid can run around the neighborhood raking leaves or mowing lawns, and most kids can turn a few bucks each year making that happen. Consider, though, some of these add-ons to that reliable trope:
- Gathering lawn clippings and other debris, then composting them over the winter and reselling the result at garden season each spring
- Rotating between mowing lawns in the summer, raking leaves in fall, and shoveling snow in the winter
- Weeding gardens, flower beds, and walks
- Watering on schedule while people are on vacation
- Harvesting fruits and veggies
- Preparing yards and lawns for special events like graduation or birthday parties
By adding some of those services to their repertoire, a child can create an age-appropriate landscaping empire in your immediate neighborhood.
Starting this sort of operation requires equipment, although rarely equipment most homeowners don’t already have on hand. It also requires training on how to use the gear safely, and how to properly do the jobs the kid is offering to do.
Once they have that in pl
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