Starting a small business over the summer is a great way for kids to learn about the world of work and develop an entrepreneurial spirit. Whether it’s babysitting, washing cars, or setting up a lemonade stand, it can teach them the value of money and how to work around problems.
This article is a guide for parents who want to help their children make the most of their summer businesses. Your job is to encourage their creativity and play a supporting role as they lead the way and make their own decisions. Here’s some tips on how best to do that:
7 top tips for supporting child entrepreneurs
1. Find out what your child wants to do
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Your child will get the most out of the summer if you let them take the lead. Encourage them to use their imagination to come up with some things they’re passionate about as a starting point and don’t turn any ideas down flat. Where you can contribute is by helping to turn these rough ideas into a realistic project.
Even if an idea doesn’t immediately sound like something you can do in a summer, there’s usually a way of creating a little business out of it. Maybe you can’t learn to be a chef or a vet in a couple of months, but you can set up a cupcake stand or become a neighbourhood dog-walker.
2. Help them develop a business plan
Once you’ve decided on an idea, help them transform it into a more formal business plan. Get them to think broadly about the financials, including their expenses. Perhaps they only need lemon, sugar, and water for lemonade, but what about the jugs, cups, and utensils to store it? How does that affect what they need to charge for every drink?
It can be a good idea to set some specific goals here that you can revisit at the end as well. If they want to buy a new phone in the fall, it could help them focus on how to earn enough money to do so.
3. Make sure it is compliant with local laws
Before you start, check there aren’t any local laws you might be breaking. This might only be relevant if you’re going to sell food or drink, but it’s best to be sure. Similarly, be safe and make sure there’s going to be someone to supervise if they’re going to be outside your home.
4. Guide your child through some market research
Help them to think like an entrepreneur and develop a business sense. Who are they going to sell to? It might be other kids at summer camp or families in the neighbourhood. Are there other people doing similar things in the same area? How much do they charge?
Discuss how they’re going to promote the business and the unique things that make it stand out from the competition. Again, encourage them to think creatively: they could spread the word through social media, by knocking on doors, or putting up posters.
5. Plan out the amount of time it will take each day
The point of a summer business is to develop professional skills and learn discipline. Get them to plan out how much time they’re going to dedicate to the project every day. Within that, you can introduce them to the importance of preparation. If they want to spend two hours selling cupcakes, how much time needs to go on buying the ingredients and making them first?
Always remember though that the summer shouldn’t be about business alone. Part of managing time is about leaving themselves some to enjoy with their friends as well.
6. Always remember it’s their project
Let them take the lead. Even if you see them making a mistake, remember that this is for them and mistakes can be a great learning opportunity. It’s something you can revisit at the end, always encouraging them to work out the problems for themselves first.
Remember that creating a summer business isn’t about setting up the next Amazon right now, it’s about giving your child the skills that might help them succeed in the future.
7. At the end of the summer, help them assess how it went
To make sure they learn as much as possible, dedicate some time together to review the project at the end. This is the point where you can talk about what they enjoyed. You might find they’ve discovered a new passion, or that you’ve learned something about how they work that will help them at school or elsewhere.
You can also review the goals they set at the start. If they didn’t meet them, help them understand that failure is ok and that you can learn from it. Get them to think about what they might do differently next time.
And, after it’s all over, remember to let them spend the money they earned from all their hard work.
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Give your child lasting life skills
A project like this can help your child discover their passion. It’s a cliche that every entrepreneur was once the kid who set up a lemonade stand on their porch, but it has a ring of truth to it.
Even if they didn’t enjoy everything about the project, you can be certain the skills they picked up will set them up well for future success.