Forget the clichés: Turns out a sizable number of young people would rather start their own business than simply lounge around watching TV and or check status updates on Facebook. Four in 10 people between the ages of 8 and 21 dream of starting their own businesses one day, according to a survey conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. In fact, 26 percent of all young people agree that starting a business is much more desirable than other career opportunities they might have down the road. "Kids have a mental edge because they don't know what they can't do," says Steve Mariotti, founder of the New York-based Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship, which provides entrepreneurship education programs to young people from low-income communities. "While young entrepreneurs might lack the experience and net worth of adults, the younger they start, the more wisdom and experience they'll accumulate over time."
According to Michael Simmons, co-founder of the Extreme Entrepreneurship Tour, a New York-based entrepreneurship advocacy and education group focused on inspiring students, the best business ideas for teens typically involve:
Low cost businesses that require very little startup capital. Fortunately, many service-based businesses or Internet ventures require little investment. For example, a lawn care business could be started using a parent's existing tools, while an Internet business could be started up for less than $50, after adding up line items like the $10 domain registration fee and the $5 monthly hosting charge.
Businesses that leverage teens' strengths. There are many businesses that teens are more suited to pursue than adults. For example, today's teens have grown up with computers, tech gadgets, and the Internet. This is valuable knowledge that can be used to create innovative products and services. Teens are also skilled at creating products and services that target other young people, since they have unique insight into the evolving opportunities and needs in that space.
An ability to compete on price. Teens are at a unique point in their lives when, since they live at home with their parents, they have very little costs to account for. This allows them to charge very low prices and still make enough money to take home some profit.
Mariotti stresses that young entrepreneurs should take the time to do their research -- thinking, reading, and writing a business plan before taking the leap in starting a business. As far as some specific business ideas that might appeal to young entrepreneurs, consider the following:
Web development or creating websites for local businesses. The great thing about Web development skills, unlike medical or legal skills, is that anyone can learn them from reading a book, as opposed to paying for an expensive college education. Plus, with so much development talent around the world, there are also opportunities in outsourcing work that might be more complex. That means for a modest investment of money and time, a young entrepreneur could make $50 to $100 an hour creating websites for local businesses.
Online marketing. Tech-savvy teens can also use their Facebook and Twitter knowledge to help local businesses market themselves online. Those with more skill and experience can also charge more for helping companies optimize their search engine hits. Pay can vary from an hourly rate to tying compensation to a percentage of an increase in sales that result from the new marketing efforts.
Computer repair. Let's face it: There are still plenty of adults out there who can barely boot up their computer, let alone tackle sticky issues like spam and anti-virus upgrades. Running a service business where you simply help diagnose problems -- like when the CEO can't connect to the Internet or figure out why his or her computer is running slow -- can be lucrative, because startup costs are essentially zero.
Print-on-demand publishing. The publishing world is going through major changes -- many of which spell opportunity for young entrepreneurs. Teens are using print-on-demand websites like Lightningsource.com or even FedEx Office locations to produce and sell everything from novels to poetry books and magazines.
Lawn mowing and lawn care. One of the more time-tested business ideas for young people, often boys, is to start a landscaping business using his parent's tools. Working seasonally and after school, it's not uncommon for them to pull in big money.
Babysitting. Like lawn care for boys, babysitting has long been a go-to option for young women looking to make extra cash in the $15-an-hour range after school and on weekends.
E-Commerce. Many teens excel at selling stuff online -- anything from jewelry and fashion items to software and computer supplies. With the rise of sites like eBay and Amazon, teens can easily both buy and sell their products online. At the same time, there are also opportunities to sell to their friends offline at local flea markets or even at the school lunchroom.
The original version of this article appeared on AOL Small Business on 5/10/10.