I have a lot of hopes for my daughter. First, I want her to grow up to be a kind, empathetic, and loving person. I want her to be a person who enjoys life to the fullest while helping others. I also want her to make money hand over fist through passive income as a serial entrepreneur who never gives up. Last, I want her to know that it’s never too early to be your own boss.
These goals aren’t at odds with each other. They all involve helping people by solving problems. She’s a teen, and kindness and empathy are evolving traits that she’s exhibiting more and more. Plus, it’s never too early to start teaching entrepreneurship to kids.
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It’s the entrepreneurship that I want to get working on with her, starting with building a website that she can earn money from.
I don’t consider myself to be one of those dads who lives vicariously through his children and pushes them to do activities that they don’t enjoy, though trying out soccer, piano, and other activities can be good.
By getting my daughter to start a website, my goal is to have her see the value in solving problems with an online business that can reach the world. I also want to teach her how to come up with many passive income streams throughout her life.
She could go start a lemonade stand or sell something door-to-door like I did as a kid. Those are easy ways of teaching entrepreneurship to kids and showing them how to work on their own. But I want to encourage her to take a bigger step.
One great thing about the internet is that setting up a website is relatively easy and inexpensive. It allows her to try a few ideas to see what works.
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A few years ago, Mira Modi of New York City, then 11 years old, started an online business selling secure passwords for $2 each.
She has since raised her prices, and now sells a bundle of two passwords for $8. Modi uses a method called Diceware to create strong passwords with random words from the dictionary after rolling dice. A five-digit number is looked up in the Diceware dictionary, which contains a numbered list of short words. She writes the passwords down on paper and mails them to buyers.
The difficult problem of how to thwart hackers was solved by a smart young woman with some dice and a codebook. Genius.
In 2016, Natalie Hampton, then just 16, of Sherman Oaks, California, created an app called Sit With Us. The app helps students find someone to sit with in their school lunchroom so that they don’t have to eat lunch alone. It’s a way to combat bullying in middle school and to make people feel welcome and included.
The app won the 2017 Appy Award, and Hampton has since given a TEDxTeen talk titled “All It Takes Is One” on the subject of bullying, and has successfully raised $40,000 in funding for the Sit With Us app.
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Those are just two examples of problems that kids are trying to solve online. I don’t know if Hampton’s app earns her any money, but even if it doesn’t, it’s a great way to spread empathy. What’s more, it could lead to her becoming successful at other online ventures.
Before my daughter started school this year, she took a short summer class in computer coding. She learned how to write some code for a web page and designed a few simple web pages.
I don’t expect her to become an engineer someday, though it would be fantastic if that’s what she wants to do. But the class was enough to pique her interest. Hopefully it will encourage her to continue with an online business.
I own four websites, and I’m always on the lookout for services or products to sell online. Even if my daughter is only vaguely aware of what I do for a living, I hope that some of my entrepreneurial skills as a freelance writer help to show her the possibilities of working for yourself.
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Okay, so your kidpreneurs have ideas, and you want to help get their businesses off the ground. But where do you start?
If your child is passionate about the product or service, help in any way you realistically can. Do you have tech knowledge? Help build an app or website. Or if you’re creative, design a logo.
Teaching entrepreneurship to kids is often a relatively hands-off effort.
“You may have an idea for a better way to do it, or see where they’re making a mistake, but let your children figure it out for themselves,” Adams continues.
“If you’re right and they’re heading down the wrong path, they’ll learn a valuable lesson. There is also the possibility that you may know your field very well, but they know theirs better, and you’re actually the one in the wrong. That will be a valuable lesson for both of you!” Adams adds.
Great, you’re an involved parent. You also need to help iron out what your child will realistically need to get her idea off the ground.
If she wants to start a lawn mowing business, your child will need money for a lawnmower. If candlemaking gets her lit up, you will need to help research suppliers, watch how-to videos, and go to trade shows. Write it all down so you — and your child — are fully aware of how much work will be needed before starting.
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How much money does your kidpreneur expect to make, and in what time? Does she want to “hire” friends or family members to help? If so, when will there be enough money to do so?
By getting your child to think realistically early, you’re helping in the long run as the business grows. You’re also helping your child understand the sacrifice that starting a business requires. This can help you both decide if this is a legitimate business or a hobby.
“Set some strict ground rules about how much time this project can take away from their schoolwork and other family obligations,” Adams says.
“You might say they can only work as long as their grades stay above a certain level. It’s great to be committed, but you should both decide ahead of time whether needing to work is a valid excuse for missing family dinners, holidays, or other occasions, like school events, trips, or tests. The same goes for money. If you’re expected to contribute, set a number and stick to it. This shouldn’t turn into a money pit!”
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Gross profits and overheads should be common words when your child wants to start a business. If she’s old enough to have an idea, she should learn the basics of funding a venture, even if it’s just adding up total sales at the beginning.
If you’re an “acting venture capitalist,” charge interest.
You’re doing no favors by giving away “free money.”
Learning how lending works in the real world will help your child value each penny.
When teaching entrepreneurship to kids, stress the importance of customer service in sales or services.
“Some of my son’s earlier emails were less than business appropriate or customer service friendly,” Adams says. “I offered some tips on how he could sound more genial, but he dismissed them, arguing that things like tone and congeniality didn’t matter.
“I kept my distance. Eventually, he started showing me some of his emails and we were able to talk about what made good business communication. Once again, though, I stood back and let him make his own mistakes. Failure is a much better teacher than lecturing can ever be.”
There’s only so much you can reasonably expect your child to do here. Since young entrepreneurs are subject to the same laws as adult business owners, this is one part where you can take the lead.
Check with your local city or county clerk’s office for any permits you may need. If your child’s business makes more than $400 in a year, a tax return should be filed.
This is a great opportunity to teach kids about income tax.
On average, the small business tax rate is around 20 percent. Get them to set at least that much of their income aside to account for tax time. Don’t worry, though: You can still declare your child as a dependent on your tax return!
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Yep, you read that right. Some colleges and business institutions offer an entrepreneur summer boot camp for kids and teens. The University of Nebraska, Camp Biz Smart, LaunchX, and Aspen Entrepreneurial Institute are just a few. These camps share a multitude of skills that you may not be able to single-handedly teach.
By sending your budding entrepreneur to one of these programs, you’re helping her cultivate business skills with other youngsters early.
It’s also important to determine early on if your child is going through a phase and isn’t willing to put the hard work in to run a business. Make sure it’s a business and not a hobby. Either is okay, but it’s essential that everyone is clear.
There is a multitude of resources and communities to help teach entrepreneurship to kids. For instance, Raising a Mogul, TED Talks, and Raising an Entrepreneur are just some of the amazing communities and tools for you to hone your skills. And if you or your kid needs some inspiration, here are 50 small business ideas for you both to do together.
Additional reporting by Kelly Meehan Brown.