How to Raise an Entrepreneur
If you have a child who has wanted to have his or her own business to run from home, I have some good news for you. It is not only possible, but it is also exciting! I would like to talk about how you can help your child begin his or her own business. When I talk about a child, I will be referring to children ages ten and up. Through prayer and careful consideration of your child’s interests, passions, strengths, and weaknesses, your child can begin today to explore the possibilities of and potential for beginning a home business.
Our family has become very entrepreneurial-minded. About nine years ago we bought our first computer, including a printer, and we quickly learned that printing in color was very expensive! “Thou shalt not print in color” became our rule for the children. Shortly thereafter I stumbled across a site on the Internet that offered bulk refill ink to refill one’s own inkjet cartridges. Immediately I perceived that our family most likely was not the only family that couldn’t afford to print in color. Perhaps we could offer refill kits for sale on a Web site. I immediately sensed that this was what my husband and I had been praying for. Once my husband, Tim, had time to think the concept through and to pray with me about this possibility, he agreed.
The result was the birth of Encore Ink. Keep in mind that nine years ago hardly anybody was offering this type of service however commonplace inkjet refills and compatible cartridges are today. We started from scratch, and I remember pouring over the phone book, searching for suppliers for plastic bottles, plastic bags, syringes, labels, etc. I had no formal business training, but my nickname is “Joe Average,” due to my uncanny ability to think like everyone else in the marketing realm. (So much for individualism.)
January of 2007 saw the happy sale of our “baby,” as Encore Ink changed hands. We made a tidy profit on the sale of the company that had grown to be more than we wanted to continue to handle. In the meantime, I had started a publishing company, my oldest son had had an online business called Sticker Avalanche, and my oldest daughter was making more money than she had been making at her part time job in the restaurant business simply by selling little beads on E-bay.
Just for means of background information, Nick, our oldest son, decided at age 12 that he would like to have a mail order business online. With minimal help from his parents, he got one up and running. He taught himself basic Web design skills, decided what he wanted to sell, found a supplier, and went from there.
Lauren, at age 15, found that making jewelry was a passion. She taught classes on jewelry design, and soon she found her niche. She bought supplies from a wholesale company, and then she decided to put some auctions up on E-bay for the items she didn’t need for her classes. Soon she realized that she could take her earnings and buy more bulk items and open up an E-bay store. The rest is profitable history. (Oh, and her parents helped her not at all!)
I am going to assume that you have a child who is very interested in having some sort of business, some way to make money. (I firmly believe that the first person to come up with an alternative to the word “entrepreneur” is going to make money hand over fist.) Let’s talk about what this means for you, the parent. You want to start with a child who is self-motivated, a child who is going to see the idea through until it is time to close the business or to hand it to someone else. You do not want to be the one who is doing all the work if your child loses interest. I advise against pushing a child into something because you think it would be “good for him.” (Please don’t ask me how I know….)
The very first step to helping your child develop a home business is to pray, pray, pray. Bathe everything, every step in prayer. Pray for inspiration for your young adult. Pray for confirmation when you feel as though he has hit upon the “right” idea. Then keep praying. What seems incidental is often the Lord’s pathway for your child. (Example: our need for color ink.)
Secondly, for inspirational purposes, observe with your child his strengths and weaknesses. Does this child enjoy working outside? Does she enjoy animals? Is she good with plants? What are this child’s passions? Chances are good that a business idea will center around one of these passions. Is the child a good organizer? Is your student good with children, and would you be comfortable with this child being responsible for other people’s children?
Does he or she have a driver’s license and could be free to provide his or her own transportation? If not, bear in mind that you may be required to shuttle the new entrepreneur from here to there and from there to here. Encourage your child to take his or her passion and turn it into something that glorifies the Lord. Doing one’s job with excellence is a surefire way to please the Lord.
Once you have hit upon just the right idea for a home business, the next step is to develop a business plan, no matter how simple. For example, if your daughter wants to start a neighborhood babysitting service, she will need to plan out what she will charge per hour, per child, or both. She may want to take a CPR course. Make up business cards to hand out in the neighborhood. Brainstorm for other marketing ideas if needed.
Let’s say your son wants to start a neighborhood lawn care business. He’ll need a business plan as well. Inventory the costs and come up with a price for his services. There will be gas to purchase for the machinery, as well as sizes of yards to consider as variables in setting prices. As news spreads of his excellent work, the customers will come knocking on his door.
A nice thing to do is to offer some sort of a bonus service. I know of a young lady who cleans one room of the house where she is babysitting. She gets the children she is watching to help her with this, and it is done with the parents’ consent. She is in great demand, as the children love her friendliness and the moms love coming home to a surprise…a clean room! This young lady will also clean out a refrigerator! I bet you would like her phone number, right?
The young man who cuts grass could offer to provide a free first-time mowing of a customer’s yard. He could also offer a free last cutting as well. Everybody loves a free service!
My son, Nick, who set up his own Web site called Sticker Avalanche at age 12, would always include “extras” in the order he was shipping. Aside from his mom insisting that Sticker Avalanche was the best name on the planet, Nick put the business together on his own. He found a supplier for stickers, airplanes, super balls, temporary tattoos, craft kits and other such things that children hound their parents to buy for them. He loaded all the pictures of his items onto his site, added a shopping cart, and priced out his inventory. Interestingly, some of his best customers were corporations who wanted to buy items by the thousands. One of his hottest items, oddly enough, was ladybug erasers.
Nick had his own business phone line and took his own business calls. He packaged orders and shipped them out. He made up business cards to tuck into each order. (He even lent his parents money from time to time.) Nick decided to close the business down when he became a soccer referee. He made much more money at this pursuit than he did hawking ladybug erasers.
Lauren provides “extras” in the orders she ships out to her customers. She is a stickler for shipping out orders the very next day after they have been received. People love both of these services. Lauren’s Ebay store is doing very well. Today she received a shipment of new beads that she ordered from a wholesaler, and right now she is taking pictures of them since she has tagged them with a price, and she will upload the images to her store site.
Writing out descriptions for both her store items and for mixed lot items for an auction takes quite a bit of time. Lauren works diligently at the tedious task of listing every single type of bead in every package up for sale. She puts a little humor in her listings as well, and her feedback is excellent. She shut down her eBay store when she went off to college this fall; however, if she needs some quick cash, she just lists some of her leftover inventory online, and in a very short time, the money appears in her Paypal account. She plans to open her store again come summer break, as she enjoys the process so much.
Some ideas for businesses suitable for children to young adults might include small vending machines placed in business locations, pet sitting, car detail service, clowning, videotaping events (such as birthday parties), house cleaning, raising nursery plants, Web site building, selling items of interest online, tutoring service, hosting yard sales for people who don’t want to have their own, organizing consignment sales, consignment book sales, mother’s helper, candle-making, closet organizing, house painting, and the list goes on and on. The library is always a good place to start when looking for ideas.
Finally, it is important to provide encouragement and support to your child, as he or she is likely to encounter obstacles along the way to developing a stable home business. Realizing that things seldom go as planned is an important lesson to learn on the road to maturity, but discouragement is likely to set in. Praying for guidance with your budding entrepreneur will hopefully be an immediate reaction to discouragement.
Finding the Lord’s will in a business situation is the same as seeking Him in any situation; we must lay everything down and ask the Lord where He wants us to go from the point in which we find ourselves. The same is true for our young adults, and we can provide excellent guidance as needed. Sometimes our job as parents is to be the encouragers, and sometimes we must help our children to see when something isn’t working and perhaps a new direction needs to be taken.
What are the benefits?
There are many important benefits to raising children who are entrepreneurial minded. Children who grow their own businesses learn valuable business and life skills such as money management, risk assessment, planning and organizational skills, and people skills. Customer service often is the only thing that differentiates one business from another, which is why I recommend that anyone with a home business offers a value-added product. (Those “extras” I was talking about earlier.)
Children who own and operate a small business learn how to use resources such as time and money wisely. They also gain a sense of accomplishment from doing something themselves. They may start off with adult assistance, but once the business is in their hands, the feelings of confidence and even surprise at how well they can do on their own are unparalleled. This sense of confidence will spill over into other areas of students’ lives as well. Watching a young person grow his or her own business is akin to watching a butterfly as it emerges from a cocoon. Struggles are likely, but once they are overcome, the young adult is ready to fly!
In closing, I hope you can see that it is not only possible, but also beneficial for children ages ten and up to plan, organize, and run their own businesses with minimal help from mom and dad. All your child needs is a fitting idea, a strategy for implementation, and the determination to overcome obstacles that may arise. All you need is to set the stage with prayer, and give input as needed. Oh yes, and have fun!