How to Help Your Kid Launch Their Own Small Business
Do you have a budding entrepreneur in your brood? Here's how to help get those youthful business dreams off the ground—with insights from one of the wealthiest teen entrepreneurs in the world.
When most of us think about kids starting their own business, it's likely we're envisioning a quaint lemonade stand, perhaps a bake sale or two, or maybe mowing lawns for neighbors to help earn some spare cash.
Sixteen-year-old Alina Morse had her sights set much higher. At age 9, she began what has now become America's fastest-growing candy company—Zolli Candy. Her bio since venturing into the candy-making business is enough to make most adults, and perhaps even Bill Gates, feel like underachievers.
Here's a brief snapshot of some of the most notable highlights: Morse is the youngest person ever to appear on the cover of Entrepreneur Magazine. Not to be outdone, Inc. Magazine named her company the Fastest Growing Candy Company in America in 2020, after the candy maker had reported a staggering growth rate of 865 percent. For Easter 2021 alone, sales were up more than 200 percent.
Hollywood has also come calling; Morse recently partnered with NBC Universal's Dreamworks' on the film Boss Baby: Family Business. She's delivered a TED Talk, was the youngest ever keynote speaker at Advertising Week, and InStyle Magazine named her one of 50 Badass Women Changing the World—alongside the legendary First Lady Michelle Obama (who by the way, invited Morse to the White House twice for the annual Easter egg roll).
Now a high school sophomore, Morse considers her business merely an after-school activity. But in Morse's case, that little extracurricular has made her one of the 10 richest teenagers in the world. Her company recorded $6 million in retail sales in 2018, $10 million in 2019, and $12 million in 2020.
Ok, feel free to take a breather after all of that. It's a lot.
Not all children have Morse's drive and determination, of course. But should you want to help your child start a business of their very own, we've rounded up a few tips from those who have been there and done that—including Morse herself.
Write it down
Have your children write down their goals. Doing so is key to finding success in any industry, but especially for aspiring entrepreneurs, Morse tells Parents.
"When you put pen to paper and write down your goals, you are way more likely to self-motivate and achieve your dreams," says Morse. "This also gives you a sort of road map to know where you're headed."
The business should be based on your child's interest.
Your child will need to be passionate about their business to ensure that they will enjoy the experience and not feel like it's work. To help ensure this is the case, consider beginning your efforts by having them make a list of their favorite things to do, says Atlanta, Georgia mom T. Renee' Smith, author of The CEO Life, and president of iSuccess Consulting, whose own son Anthony created an online t-shirt business at 13.
"If they like cooking or baking, a small catering business could be an option," Smith tells Parents. "If they have a love for dogs or cats, a pet-walking business may be a fit. If they love writing, they could write and self-publish a book. If they are smart and love helping other kids, how about a tutoring business? If they are an artist or a painter, they can sell their artwork online or at shows… The list goes on and on, the goal is to match your child's business with their interest."
Create a thorough business plan.
Two years ago, Jen Bradley's five children (ages 13, 11, 8, and 6 at the time) started a lemonade business called The Lemonade Way. The business, which they operated in front of a local Walmart, was inspired by nationwide Lemonade Day, says the Texas mom and founder of Jen Bradley Moms. For that one day, the kids sold lemonade and chocolate chip cookies—and not only did they receive an overwhelmingly positive response from the public, they were also able to donate $200 to the Autism Research Institute thanks to their earnings.
After national Lemonade Day came and went, however, Bradley's children wanted to keep their business at the local farmer's market. But before Bradley would allow them to make a commitment to the local market, she asked her children to develop a game plan detailing exactly how the business would function.
"It was really important to my husband and I that our kids took responsibility for their work—this wasn't going to be mom and dad's lemonade stand," Bradley tells Parents.
When New York City mom Karen Aronian's children, Jack, and Laurel, wanted to start a homemade raisin business (Miners Rasins), as well as a homemade popsicle business (Miners Popsicles), she too required that they come up with a detailed business plan.
"A business plan will hone your young entrepreneur's objectives and should outline what products or services the business will offer and how it will make a profit," Aronian, a Ph.d, who's a parenting and education expert, tells Parents.
Determining such things as costs upfront with your children can help avoid pitfalls and allow for setting forth objectives to keep on track.
Assemble a team.
Many kids like sports and begin playing them very early in life, so this tip should be easy for young minds and budding entrepreneurs everywhere to absorb: Business is also a team sport. And whether you're a parent helping your child get started, or a kid already drafting up a business plan, you'll want to pull together the right team of people to support your business efforts.
"Finding supportive and well-rounded team members is very important in creating a balanced company and work environment," says Morse. "Find people that believe in you and your dreams."
While on the subject of assembling a team for a child's business, it may also be a good idea to include a mentor among that team, says Aronian.
"Seek out mentors who may have experience in the specific business area to coach your kids on how to start, and consider all aspects of the business," she explains. "Bring in mentors who can weigh in on their seasoned experience. You may know people who have worked in the field—relatives, friends, teachers, or go to your local social media and post requests for help."
Your Chamber of Commerce can also be a great resource for mentors. You might also consider asking town, city, and district officials for their input. While you're at it, scour your LinkedIn and alumni networks.
"Ask for help, and surprisingly, people are generous with their time and connections, especially with young, ambitious, precocious self-starters," says Aronian.
Give kids help, but don't enable. Let them do the work.
Helping your children launch their business is great, but you'll also want to know where to draw the line when it comes to providing assistance and support. In the case of Bradley and her children's lemonade business, she and her husband were happy to assist their kids in getting the business effort off the ground, but the couple also made conscious decisions about what not to do along the way.
"We helped them shop online for supplies, finding the best deals for paper straws, cups with lids, and gloves—but they needed to use their own income to purchase them," she explains.
Bradley and her husband also taught their kids good customer service practices and drove them to and from the farmer's market every Saturday. But after that, the kids needed to pull their own weight.
"Once they were all set up, my husband and I backed away and let them do all the selling and serving," Bradley explains. "This was also a legal matter because only kids are allowed to operate a lemonade stand in our town."
Teach your kids how to think like an entrepreneur.
There are many traits that successful entrepreneurs all have in common. Start teaching your kids about these traits at a young age, so it can become a way of life for them, says Smith, of The CEO Life.
"Encourage your kids to be creative and think outside of the box," explains Smith. "Teach them goal-setting and how to break goals down into small, bite-size chunks. Allow them to take risks so they can learn failure is a huge part of success. Show them how to be a problem-solver, and brainstorm about the pros and cons of situations."
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You'll also need to teach them about flexibility, persistence, and patience because it's required for longevity in business, adds Smith.
"Talk to them about financial literacy so they can become a good financial manager," she adds. "Allow them to volunteer and help others so you can instill a love for serving and helping others, which is an essential part of great customer service."
All of these character traits will help teach your child how to take responsibility for their own actions, as well as become a critical thinker.
In the case of Bradley, the Texas mom, Letting the children be responsible for their business— including making key decisions and managing the finances independently—had a very positive result, in the end.
"It really empowered them to make their choices carefully. They also learned how to communicate well with others, and market their own products," says Bradley. "All in all, it was a fantastic experience for all of us. Not only did our kids learn huge lessons in responsibility and decision-making, but they were also able to earn $1,000 for a trip we're going to take to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios in Florida after COVID subsides."
Don't be afraid to ask questions.
This tip from Morse is aimed specifically at the kiddos: Asking questions all along the way during your entrepreneurial journey is one of the most important (and easiest) ways to learn and grow—not only as a person, but as a businessperson.
"I initially learned to make candy by watching YouTube videos," she says. "YouTube, Google, and social media are all incredible resources filled with trusted experts to learn about anyone or anything."
Find a mantra.
One last gem of advice from Morse, the teenage dynamo: It's never too early for kids to learn about mantras and their ability to provide daily motivation. Morse is a big believer.
"Find a mantra that inspires and motives you," she says. "Mine is a short and simple way to remind me that I can do anything and so can you: 'Work hard. Try. Believe, and never give up.'"
There are a variety of educational platforms designed to help kids stretch their business acumen and find coaching, camaraderie, and more when embarking on an entrepreneurial journey, says Aronian. Here are a few places to get started.