My son approached me some time ago, with a feverish desire to make some cash. He had recently come home from an incredible week at summer camp, and was all ready to sign up for a second term. He came to me with a plan, to have the world’s most awesome lemonade stand, to make and sell dog biscuits, granola, and dog toys made from reclaimed strips of fabric, and to put some of his original photography for sale on my Etsy shop. Honestly, I was a little taken aback by this passionate onslaught of entrepreneurial energy. I knew I needed to harness and nurture this spirit very carefully, and find a way for him to find fulfillment without fizzling out. This excellent TED talk (please go watch it, right now. I’ll wait until you get back!) explaining the importance of nurturing entrepreneurs really triggered something in me when I first saw it. I saw myself in Cameron Herold’s depiction of himself as a child. Also, as a teacher, I fully appreciate how important it is to develop these talents in our â€œout of the boxâ€ thinkers. So when my son came to me with this passion in his eyes, I knew what I needed to do. I just wasn’t sure how to go about it. A year, and many trials and tribulations later, we have had some learning experiences and advice worth sharing with other young entrepreneurs and their parents.
1. If you are an Etsy shop owner, consider allowing your child to offer up some handmade wares in your shop. While it is legal for minors to have their own shops, under the supervision of a parent, I think this is only a good idea for very responsible older teens. I personally recommend using your own shop for younger children, so that you can ultimately be in control of who has access to their personal information. My son always has one or two photographs at a time offered up in my shop. It is very easy for me to email the photo to buyers, along with his personalized note of thanks, and then transfer the money to his piggy bank. It is not a huge stream of money, but he feels incredible each time a stranger buys his work. Because of this, and as an added bonus, he has become highly motivated to learn all he can about photography as art, now that he has an authentic audience. It has also become a very special hobby his father and he share together; they can often be found huddled over some small wonder, each with a camera in hand. Even if he never sold a single print, that makes it worth every minute!
2. I also asked other Eco Etsy team members for their experiences with helping kids with an etsy shop. Many members shared experiences about helping their children build etsy shops for themselves, while others shared wisdom about selling a few child-made items in their own shops.
- Rain, of Remainewicked, allowed her son to make and sell items in her shop, as long as they went along with her mission of using only reclaimed materials. His wooden button business, while not overly lucrative, was a great learning experience. “My son learned a lot from his experience (he wants to be a stock broker) and my next youngest still holds a grudge from me not allowing her to sell duck tape wallets in my shop (she was using ‘NEW’ materials!).”
- Lynn, from Rakubuttons, had a wealth of good advice for parents of kids ready to set up their own shops. â€œI’d have rules in a written contract: Like about how much “up front” money I could advance or donate toward their intital listing fees. How often they must check their shop for convos and sales (they tend not to look if it’s slow). A rule about timely getting an item ready to ship. Having their own bank acoount maybe.(It makes it ‘real”). There would be a rule about how much time can be spent on the shop so it doesn’t get in the way of homework or chores (I sound so old, but I think the family unit only works if all are involved and responsible). He should also do some research in his category, studing presentation of other successful and maybe unsuccesful shops.” Thinking through all of these details can help set your child up for success before experiencing pitfalls.
- Tammy, of Tamdoll, explains the importance of separating your child’s shop from your own reputation, both for your own protection, as well as the development of your child’s sense of responsibility and independence. â€œWhen my daughter was 14, she had been making bracelets, giving them as gifts and even sold some at a craft fair. I encouraged her to open her own Etsy shop since I wanted her to be responsible for everything – sales, promotions, packaging and shipping. Not only to be responsible for herself, but I didn’t want to be accountable for her items or customer service. Of course I helped her out, setting things up online & photography – but essentially I wanted her to get the emails and process everything. At that time, I opened up a joint bank account with her & signed her up for her own PayPal account, too. Her shop: http://www.etsy.com/shop/bubblywater. At the start, encouraged by a class in school, she made a spreadsheet for herself outlining costs & labor so she could price her items according to real expenses. We mentioned in her info- that she’s a “teen” – I felt that was enough information for buyers to know that this was a start-up business for a young person. There is an Etsy team for young adults – http://www.etsy.com/teams/6219/etsy-teens-and-young-adults – she joined that, too, for support.” For an older child, joining a team of like-minded peers is a wonderful way to get support.
3. For those not ready to open their Etsy shops to their children, a lemonade stand is another great place for any kid to start learning the basics of earning a bit of extra money. Additionally, many lessons carry well beyond the cul-de-sac, including budgeting, pricing, advertising, and either territory boundaries or teamwork! Alicia, of LaAlicia reminisced on her own experiences growing up: â€œWhen I was a kid, my cousins and I always pooled our piggy banks to make a lemonade stand. It was so much fun to have my uncle explain about start up costs, profit margins etc. Since it was totally hands on — we learned SO much! I still remember it…â€
4. Many printable resources are available for those who wish to spruce up a basic lemonade stand, including this lovely printable set we found on etsy. My kiddo recouped the cost in about an hour, and can reprint replacement signage each time it rains or gets too tattered.
5. An old kids’ bike trailer can easily be tricked out by a clever kid, or with some adult help, to make a really sweet mobile lemonade stand. A cart like this is easily modified to fit the season. Try stocking it with hot chocolate on a snow day and watch the profits roll in!
6. Before allowing your children to move forward with lemonade stands, check your local regulations. Some recent news reports kids getting fined for selling lemonade without a permit. Crazy, but true. You might fare better selling other handmade wares, such as dog treats and toys. Try parking your lemonade/dog treat stand near a dog park to find a ready market!
7. If you have a booth at a craft fair, consider allowing your child to sell their wares in your own booth. Cory, of AquarianBath, allows her daughter to sell baked goods, jewelry, or freshly squeezed orange juice at her craft fair table. One summer, my son made bunches of daisies collected from his grandparents’ property, and sold them at my farmer’s market booth in Winter Park, Colorado. He educated visitors about invasive species in exchange for tips. I think there were days when he sold more pests than I sold soap!
8. In Denver, there is a dedicated financial organization especially for children, called Young Americans Center for Financial Education. It is a full service working bank, just for children. In the summers there are workshops and entrepreneur fairs to support young businesses. See if your hometown has a similar program for young investors and businesspeople.
9. Remember, every child is unique, and while one may be naturally compelled to find a way to make a buck, her siblings may not. Mary Ellen, of Mary Zoom, reminds us of the interplay of nature and nurture with this anecdote: “Now that the boys are grown, and looking back over what they have chosen to do for a living and how they approach their jobs, the main observation is that an entrepreneurial spirit is part natural gifting and part nurture. To me, the key is to provide lots of opportunities for kids to try their business wings and get a taste of earning their own money on their own, and then learning to save and invest it. By earning their own money, they can learn to save up for something as well as learn to give of themselves if they see a need.”
Do you think it is important to create opportunities for your children to develop an entrepreneurial spirit? Please share your ideas and opinions in the comment section.
This article was written by Tiffany Norton, of PicnicBasketCrafts.Etsy.com, who continues to benefit from the support and encouragement for her creative and entrepreneurial endeavors by her wonderful mother and business partner, Joan.
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