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Good Summer Business Ideas for Kids 11-17

06/09/2011 10:28 am ET | Updated Aug 09, 2011

Co-written by Spencer Mariotti

Are your teenagers having trouble finding a good summer job? With the unemployment rate hovering around 10% and the youth unemployment rate over 30%, it's tougher than ever for an inexperienced teen to land a job and earn extra cash. Here are some of my suggestions in approaching this serious global employment issue.

Start your own business! Become an entrepreneur!

The benefits are substantial. Young people learn about opportunity recognition. Their business will give them a huge self-confidence lift in themselves and their accomplishments. Their math, reading, writing classes will help them learn basic business skills such as marketing, advertising, and product development.

Under adult supervision, I focused on these five basic businesses: a lemonade stand, a dog walking service, a lawn care business, a clothing business, and a cleaning service. These five enterprises can be launched anywhere in the world.

The initial steps:

1. Call your local courthouse to see if there are any licenses or permits your child requires to start the business. In many cases your child can operate the venture just with adult supervision and the amount of money in sales is small.

2. Research your market. Then identify your targeted clients. Conduct four or five interviews ahead of time to see if the product will sell.

3. Buy and keep a simple record-keeping book. Available at any stationary store, it will show you how to keep track of your money including all sales and expenses.

4. Do the economics in one unit, perhaps the most important lesson in your business. The sale of your one unit, minus the cost of goods and services sold will determine success or failure. Selling a dollar item for 99 cents is not sustainable.

5. Plan for failure. Be flexible. If your venture doesn't work, start something else. Be ready to learn from any experience. Reflect on it. Then start again. In short, have a backup plan!

6. Find an older relative to help you with all of the following businesses.


Basic Businesses

My 12-year old nephew Spencer developed a list of good basic businesses for a young person:

1. Lemonade Stand

Materials: Lemonade mix, water stand/table, spot on sidewalk, pitcher(s), heavy foot traffic, jar, cardboard, markers, folding chair, plastic cups

First, stir together the mix with the water to make a refreshing pitcher of lemonade. You will probably want to make several of these. Then make a bright sign out of cardboard offering cold lemonade with price on it. Next, choose an area with high traffic. A busy street with substantial foot traffic would be ideal. On a hot day, set up a simple stand by placing a table with a bright cloth on the sidewalk (the bright colors will catch a passerby's eye and draw them to your stand). If you are up for a challenge, you can even make your own stand with wood planks and nails. Next, attach the sign to your stand and place the jar on the stand. Just sit back and relax in your chair until a pedestrian comes by. You may even want to vocally advertise your product by suggesting how hot it is and shouting 'lemonade!' whenever a person comes by. When you make a sale, place the money in the jar. A reasonable price for the lemonade would be 25 cents, 50 cents, 75 cents, or 1 dollar, depending on the amount in each cup. On especially hot days, you may want to raise YOUR PRICE a bit.

2. Dog Walking

Materials: Leashes, neighborhood full of dogs, schedule, dog bags

First, find a neighborhood close by that is highly dog-populated. Once you find a perfect area, meet with the dog owners of the area. Create a schedule with all of them. Find out when your clients will be away or at home and make sure it corresponds with your own schedule. Every morning, wake up at a reasonable time such as six o'clock, seven o'clock, or eight o'clock (normally hours when people don't fancy being awake). Grab as many leashes you will need, and then set out to the houses of your clients. You might want to make a map and a route to take each morning. At every house, pick up the dog (with the permission of the owner) and head to the next house. When you have all the dogs, you walk for 5-15 minutes and let the dogs 'do their thing,' making sure to clean up after them responsibly. You then go back down the route and return the cuddly canines to their owners. You could do this just in the morning, or later that same evening depending on your clients' instructions. Make sure to charge the clients weekly according to how many times you walked their dogs.

3. Lawn care

Materials: Lawn mower, transportation, weed whacker, gloves, goggles, proper lawn care tools, map,

First, walk or drive around your town, observing the lawns and flowers at every house. On a local map, you can mark down the areas of town where there are many unkempt lawns. Later, follow your planned route. Then, knock on the doors of houses that have poor lawns and ask if you can provide service for them. State your hourly price. Then make a schedule of when to do the work. Keep repeating this until you have all your clients. When the designated time comes, find transportation to take you and your supplies to your destination. Ask your customer pay half at the beginning and half at the end. Then tend to your various tasks: mowing the lawn, pulling out weeds, planting new seeds, trimming bushes, etc. Once you finish, receive the other half of your pay and load your tools back onto your van, wagon. Before you go, you might want to place a sign on the lawn stating that it was cleaned up by your business, which could attract more business.

4. T-shirts and attire

Materials: T-shirt press, drawing equipment, many blank t-shirts, table/stand, jar

This is a good way to make money and make people happy with a stylish design. First, invest in some drawing supplies. Then create a simple design or a phrase. Make it bright and colorful. If you are creative, draw an elaborate, detailed picture with lots of color and lines. If drawing isn't your thing, find an interesting picture off the internet and print it out. Be careful you don't violate copyright laws. After that, ask around if people would want to buy a t-shirt with this specific design on it. Once you have perfected your design, find out if it is popular or not. Use a simple t-shirt press to press the design onto a t-shirt. Repeat this over and over on all of the t-shirts, or make another drawing and start putting those on shirts. Next, set up a stand or table on a sidewalk with heavy foot traffic, just like with the lemonade stand. Display your shirts all over the table and start selling them at a reasonable price ($6-$10, depending on the quality) and put your income into a jar. Choose the colors on the shirt wisely, for some will catch your customer's eye, while others may overwhelm them. A really good thing about this business is that if you don't succeed in selling many shirts, you can give them to a homeless shelter to help others and make yourself feel accomplished.

5. Cleaning

Materials: Transportation, strong arms, patience, cleaning tools

This is a very simple business. First, put up flyers in the neighborhood asking if anyone needs a good cleaning job in their attic, basement, or any room. State your name, number, and hourly price. You will soon start getting calls requesting your services. At a mutually convenient time, head over to their house. They should give you instructions on what to clean or organize. Your tasks may vary such as: carrying things to the curb, scrubbing walls or floors, arranging items, etc.

Note: All of these businesses will be much easier and faster with multiple people which would teach the important skill of teamwork as well.

This list should now give you a good idea of what summer businesses your son or daughter might start and make a extra money. And don't forget to read my next upcoming article on some more sophisticated and complex summer businesses your child could start!