Kids running their own business? Yes they can!

Aquila kids’ magazine, October 2014.

Screen Shot 2014-09-27 at 14.20.30Kids running their own business? Yes they can!
If you could have your own company and work for yourself, what would you do? Running a business is challenging, but if you’re ambitious there’s no reason you can’t start something now.

There is no age limit to having your own business, as long as you start small and are willing to go through a bit of trial and error as you learn. Working any job would teach you so much about life, such as being creative in ways that don’t follow set rules, and maybe even taking a few chances. Working for yourself also teaches you a lot of practical things, like how to handle money, dealing with customers, and figuring out what people want.

These things are true regardless of what kind of work you want to do – it could be babysitting, cutting grass, running errands, washing cars, or walking dogs. Kids can also earn money from make greeting cards, tutoring younger children, making baked goods, or offering lessons in sports or music – or maybe you could even teach social media to people who are less computer savvy? In any case, start by taking a moment to think about some things you enjoy doing or making, and how this could be turned into a business. Henry Patterson from Buckinghamshire got the idea for his business after hearing his parents and grandparents tell stories about the kinds of sweets they used to eat as kids. This led to Henry starting his own sweets company, “Not Before Tea”, when he was just nine years old.

It’s probably a good idea to ask your parents or guardians if they can help out a bit with your business. Even kids have to pay tax if they earn more than a certain amount of money per year: at the moment this limit is £10,000. Of course, this won’t be an issue for a small babysitting business, but even if you earn just a little bit of money, it may be fun to have a separate bank account where you can watch it grow. With a bigger business, having an adult involved could be useful when it comes to checking if the company needs to be registered or needs any special permits – this may be the case if it involves food.

Getting help from mum and dad has been very important to Ally Mollo from California, who started her own dolls business when she was just eight years old. Ally used to draw pictures of angels to watch over her and her friends, and decided to make them into dolls. Now her business, “Guardian Angel Rainbow Division”, sell angel dolls that come with their own stories. Part of Ally’s earnings go to charity, and Leanna Archer from New York even set up her own education charity foundation with some of the profits from her company. Leanna was only eight years old when she started “Leanna’s Hair”, where she sells hair products made from recipes that have been used in her family for many generations.

Like most kids, Ally didn’t know anything about business, so she had a lot to learn when she started. One thing was how to register intellectual property, which was necessary so nobody else could copy her dolls. One of the most surprising things for Ally was just how long it took to get the business up and running: it took over a year of going back and forth with the factory to get the first dolls made. She also needed her parents to help pay for the first round of products, so she would have something to show to people interested in buying them.

When it comes to technology businesses, kids may even have an advantage over adults: you grew up using the internet. The World Wide Web wasn’t even invented until 1989, meaning most people who are adults now had to learn how to use the internet, instead of it being something that’s always been around. Thomas Suarez from California was just 11 years old when he started “CarrotCorp”, a company that makes smartphone apps. Now 15, Thomas also makes apps for Google Glass and 3D printing, after having taught himself how to write computer programming code. This was also how James Gill from Kent started software company “GoSquared” at 15 with two school friend – they would get together in the evenings and teach themselves how to make the computer do what they wanted it to do.

While you should definitely pick something you like doing when you start a business, it’s also important to pick something that people are willing to pay money for. Before you start, do a little customer research: ask people what they think about the idea. Would they use your product or service? How much would they be willing to pay for it? It’s also very possible that your first idea won’t be your best one. When James and his friends first started GoSquared, their main product involved selling advertising. Then they made a software programme that analysed how people were using their website, only to realise that this was a much better idea for a product to sell. Now, as GoSquared has moved to London, this is their main business. Similarly, Henry started “Not Before Tea” as an old-fashioned sweets business, but has since expanded to selling things like books and clothes in the same style.

Chances are, your first business idea won’t be a job for life. But it could certainly teach you a lot of things that will be useful later, both at school and in your future job. Having a bit of extra pocket money isn’t too bad either, whether it’s to save up for something special, or to help someone else through a charity. In any case, working for yourself is a great way to figure out what you want, what kind of thing you’re good at, while also providing some practice for the things you’re not so good at. Because there are plenty of things we can learn from books, but there are lots of things we learn best by doing.

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Published by Jessica Furseth

Journalist; Londoner.