Monday, October 31, 2011

Giving Your Kid Business Ideas

I read an article, that I now can't find, about how the author's father taught him the basics of a business with a vending machine. Basically, the father rented a vending machine, stopped giving the son an allowance, and had the son stock it with soda. The father would subsidize the kids expenses at first but then gradually lower what he would cover for his kid. The author said he had to eventually get rid of grape soda because of lack of demand, find a place to keep his extra soda and other great basics of running a business. I wanted to share some ideas that could help someones child (I have no children!) learn some basic skills like the author learned.

Lemonade Stand

It's a classic. Name one person who hasn't heard of a lemonade stand? I feel this is still a great way to teach a kid money skills. Here are some skills you can teach your child:

1) Inventory management. Lemons, Sugar, Cups and other miscellaneous items will need to be bought and counted for. The kid will learn quickly about not buying too much or too little of his lemons real fast!

2) Pricing. You can help your kid with this depending on his grade level and grasp of math. Make sure he or she is selling the cups at a high enough price to make money but low enough to attract people at wherever they may be selling.

3) Government regulation! Who doesn't love this? Be prepared for needing a license. There have been stories (google!) of kids getting fines from the local health board for not having a license. Don't look for trouble and call your local chamber of commerce or health board for any license requirements for a lemonade stand.

4) Location. I lived in the country as a kid. If I set up a stand there, I would obviously fail. Help your kid find a great local park they might be able to put a stand in. Contact a local business, maybe they won't mind.

Window Washing

When I was a manger for a store, I had to contact a window washer to come by each week to clean our outside windows. We had five windows and paid, if I can recall, around $6 or $7. It took little time for them to do. What benefits can this idea have?

1) Sales tactics. The kid is going to have to actively go after each sale. Bring them downtown and have them introduce themselves at a business and make a bid for selling their service. You can work with your kid on a sales pitch so they can best sell what they are doing.

2) Manual labor. If your kid knows they won't be receiving an allowance then putting in some labor might be very beneficial. Will they like it? Probably not but they might learn to appreciate it later in life.

Be on the lookout for businesses where presentation is key. Diners and banks would be great places to bring your kid for this.

Lawn Mowing/Landscaping

Another classic for kids or teenagers. Everyone needs it and most people hate doing it. Depending on the age, you might have to haul your kid to locations. If they have a license, they can do this on their own of course. Depending on where you live, this might be a summer only type of job.

One major advantage is that you can target homeowners. One of my jobs would pay a mowing company $55 to come cut the grass. Depending on the size, you could easily charge $20 to mow a lawn. One drawback is that a lawn mower can have high maintenance costs with it being used a lot.

Pet Walking

Many kids love animals, I know I did! This is a low expense business with good potential. Run an ad on Craigslist (pretty common), put up flyers and go door-to-door and talk with people if possible. Great for the animal lovers but probably a better option for higher density populations.

With all these options please make sure to find out any licenses your city might require. Best to play it on the safe side and not incur the wrath of the local government looking for their cut.

Afraid of making a small investment for your kid? I look at it this way, make a small investment, get your kid familiar with running and business and he or she will have a very positive learning experience. Worst scenario is your kid fails and you're out a little bit of money. Best scenario is the kid builds a small business that is successful and can now buy whatever the hell is popular these days. Once your kid has gone broke you can teach the value of investing!

If you have any other good ideas, let me know!


  1. Hmm interesting article. One day when I have kids, I'll make sure to pass on my business knowledge to them ^_^ Maybe drink lemonade while playing some NES games!! har har har !

  2. Haha. I wish I had the original article, it was very good. I'm very bad with creative ideas but I feel giving your child some business skills is important. Maybe that's because I have an accounting degree >.>