With summer jobs in short supply, it's tempting for entrepreneurial parents like us to encourage our kids to do what we've done -- start a business and make some money.
After all, doesn't the saga of every successful entrepreneur begin with a smiling youngster at the side of the road with a pitcher of lemonade in one hand and a plastic cup in the other? What better way for kids to learn about sales, marketing and the importance of location, location, location.
But is a lemonade stand -- or any other retail operation -- really such a good business for your kids to start this summer? Think about it: Before they can even make their first sale, your kids are going to have to go to the supermarket and buy lemons (or lemonade mix), sugar, cups and napkins. And, because they're paying retail, those supplies won't come cheap. And what if your house is located on a suburban street where very few people walk by? Then your kids are going to have to find a better location -- and that may cost money, too. By the time the summer is over, your son and daughter may end up making less from their own business than they could have made earning minimum wage at McDonald's.
Hardly the lesson you want to teach them.
That's why, if you want your kids to take the entrepreneurial plunge this summer, you'd be better off advising them to start the kind of business that makes a profit from dollar one -- a service business with no overhead, cost of goods, marketing expense or start-up costs. While businesses like these may not be the stuff that legends are made of, they'll teach your kids the most important skill they'll need to succeed as entrepreneurs -- how to make a profit.
Here are three no-cost businesses your kids might want to consider:
1. Pet Care. If your kids already take care of their pets at home, encourage them to go around the neighborhood and offer dog walking, cat sitting and other types of pet care services to friends and neighbors who might be going away on vacation. Whatever your kids decide to charge will be a whole lot less than the cost of boarding those pets at the vet or a kennel.
2. Lawn Care. If you've got a lawn mower under your porch, your kids can use it to take care of your neighbors' lawns this summer. True, they'll be competing against professional landscapers who service the larger homes in the neighborhood but they may be able to win the business of people with smaller homes who've been cutting the grass themselves. Your kids could offer pool care and "pooper scooper" services as well.
3. Social Media Consulting. Technology has always been a young person's game, and nobody knows Facebook, YouTube and text-messaging the way today's teenagers do. Now that social media marketing is all the rage in the business world, your kids could charge $50 an hour or more to teach your friends, neighbors and business associates how to build community on the Web.
Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that lemonade stands aren't a good way for kids to learn about running a business. But, at the end of the day, entrepreneurship is about turning opportunities into money -- and, if you're going to teach your kids anything this summer, teach them that.