“Kidpreneur” Moziah Bridges’ bow tie business is the stuff of legend. He started by trading his homemade bowties for rocks on the playground, and by nine years old (and with a little help from Grandma) he began selling online. Since that time, he has been to the White House, been a fashion correspondent for the NBA, and authored a book for youth who want to open their own business.
Some of this may seem so far out of reach, but the fact remains that during these uncertain times, more students than ever have been looking for new, fresh opportunities to earn extra income.
Generations past have relied on the staples of babysitting, yardwork and lemonade stands; students today have had to adapt to our collective new reality. While some time-honored jobs are not available to our youth in the current environment, a great many K-12 students have successfully pivoted toward other prospects. There is no single prescriptive method for guaranteeing entrepreneurial success, but there are a few ways we can help them navigate our current reality.
Buy-in from youth starts with great ideas. What are their passions? What fills a need? What specific skills do they possess? Recently, my 10-year-old told me he wanted to start a YouTube channel, but he did not have any ideas. We talked about how the best ideas sometimes present themselves when we are doing something we love and we notice a need or a way to improve it.
A few short days later, he formulated a business idea after watching me lose repeatedly at Fortnite. He decided that No Sad Dad would be a perfect name for a business tailored toward training parents on YouTube so they could master gaming and ‘trounce’ their offspring on the next Game Night. How great is that?
Next, he sketched out a rough idea for his logo, and had an artistic friend round it out in a professional way. We are currently walking through episode outlines, format, length, etc.
If your students are interested in selling artwork on Etsy, you could help them navigate the ins and outs of setting up a new shop. Another option is to write and publish both print and e-books with Amazon publishing. Another opportunity could be building an app with Marvel or Buildfire.
If your child has a specific area of knowledge (such as 3D printing, rare toy collecting, vintage comic books, etc.), those skills could be a viable option for a new micro-enterprise. Depending on what activity sparks passion in your teen, the possibilities are practically endless. Remember to encourage them to see areas of need along the lines of their passions, interests or hobbies.
Many students today are not only drawn to concepts aligned with their specific interests, but also want to affect change in the world around them. If we can create value at the same time we generate revenue, it is a near-certain recipe for small business success. The J. Orin Edson Entrepreneurship + Innovation Institute has quite a few resources on this exact topic on the Training and Development Resources (TDR) site, which could be an effective tool to help students get started, maintain passion in their project, or answer common business questions.
Many schools are already heavily invested in STEM education, so connecting business ideas back to their curriculum is clearly advantageous. After all, real-world experience tends to reinforce learning in a way that nothing else can.
Your primary role is to encourage and support your child’s entrepreneurial spark, and you might be surprised at how little work this actually entails. Other than cheering them on, the most common things that children need help with are working through a few paperwork hurdles and understanding how to grow from constructive criticism.
After several hours of conversations with various governing agencies in my area, it became clear that business regulations can vary greatly based on locale. In some cities, lemonade stands require permits; in others, they do not. In most cases, babysitting is exempt from taxation, but in others, it’s a bit murkier. In all cases, please check your local regulations before beginning a new micro-business venture. Even if they do not need a permit, helping them track their expenses, sales, etc. can be a big help and a valuable learning experience for our budding entrepreneurs. Some older students may be interested in outlining their goals in a business plan format. The TDR website has a resource for that.
Overcoming the Biggest Obstacle
As anyone with a business can tell you, the road to success is filled with numerous obstacles. In addition to those commonly faced by small business owners, one of the biggest obstacles adolescents may also face is negative feedback from their peers. This is so common among young entrepreneurs that many social media influencers deal with the topic regularly. Multiple successful YouTube personalities encourage would-be influencers to “have iron skin,” while Elon Musk asserts that business owners should listen to all negative feedback and use it to make changes. Negative feedback can certainly be discouraging for some fledgling businesspersons, but if we can help students use design thinking techniques to refine and improve their offerings by considering the negative feedback, they can turn something negative into the very fuel that empowers them and helps them refine their goods or services.
Many major cities have hosted business fairs for children; it may be worthwhile checking with your local Chamber of Commerce for information on events in your area. Also, ASU has several learning spaces to foster the spirit of entrepreneurship and innovation specifically designed for youth.
To further inspire educators to continue engaging students in 21st century STEM skills, our Youth Entrepreneurship team with the Edson Entrepreneurship + Innovation Institute here at Arizona State University partnered with Verizon to make the Verizon Innovative Learning Lab program curriculum, which is focused on design thinking, open access through Verizon Innovative Learning HQ.
This free next-gen K-12 online learning portal enables students and teachers by providing access to the latest in augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) education materials, customizable standards-aligned lessons and research-backed professional learning.
Here at the Edson E+I Institute, we have curated resources available on the Training and Development Resources website to meet entrepreneurs at various stages where they are.
In short, starting and running what is effectively a micro-business may seem daunting to families at first blush, but there are countless ways we can help adolescents discover their entrepreneurial spirit if we can spark their passion for business, assist them in their endeavor and encourage them through the tough times.