Have you seen the cost of tuition lately? This hit home for me personally as my oldest child is heading off to college this fall. While the options vary on how to pay for tuition, it is certainly a challenge when a college degree can be equivalent to the cost of a new home.
You may have heard of the proverb, "Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime." We have the perfect opportunity to implement this powerful concept in helping our children pay for their own college, rather than flipping for the bill ourselves.
There is a huge opportunity to involve your children in a business to help pay for the cost of college, as well as teach entrepreneurship and responsibility. In my practice over the years, I have helped many clients start businesses with their children.
Unbeknownst to my son -- until he reads this article -- I have been planning for this fateful day when he leaves for college by having him work in my business. Over the years, Dillon has been my videographer and edited hundreds of my videos for YouTube, Vimeo and my website.
With this special skillset this summer, we have been taking the necessary steps to launch his business at BYU-Idaho this fall as a wedding videographer. If things proceed according to plan, he will:
- Learn the steps to implement a business, even if he fails
- Take responsibility serving clients and meeting deadlines
- Experience the basics of entrepreneurship
- Help pay for tuition or at the very least, earn some spending money
Here are 10 basic steps we can take with our children to make starting their own business a reality:
1. Choose a business concept. Choose something with your student that he or she has a passion for and feels confident they can handle. If you don't know what "business" to start, Enterpreneur.com is consistently packed with home-based business ideas, franchise opportunities and plenty of articles on how to start the process of finding the perfect business for you and your budding college student.
2. Nail down your product, services and pricing model. Obviously, developing a business plan would be a good idea, but don't let it stall the enthusiasm of your student. Sometimes demanding a business plan before you move forward can overwhelm your child. If you're going to require one, create it together.
3. Give it a name and reserve your URL. It's critical you decide on your company name and web presence at the same time. The first thing your customers will do is Google your business and want to find a description of it.
4. Develop your budget. Plan to keep the business running for at least one semester and see what sales your student can drum up during that time. This gives you a testing period and can also limit your financial exposure. If you see success, you can create a second phase for the next semester.
5. Create your logo and website. Brand yourself: define your colors, logos, images and themes for your marketing material.
6. Make your social media presence known. Start spreading the word immediately. I say this before even developing the full marketing plan. It will help create a groundswell of interest and support from your student's friends. This will also help hold them accountable to follow through when their friends ask, "How is your business coming?"
7. Develop a full marketing plan. You may be able to skip a business plan if you are in a time crunch, but you can't skimp on a marketing plan. This will need to be a detailed list of all the ideas, strategies and concepts to create sales. It will be fluid and evolve during the school year.
8. Design your strategic plan. I talk about this extensively in my book What Your CPA Isn't Telling You. This is the detailed plan with steps, deadlines and weekly and monthly goals to accomplish during the semester.
9. Establish a schedule to follow at school. It will be easy to get distracted with parties and fun, not to mention class and homework. Without having a schedule to help your student succeed, you are setting them up for failure. Remind them it will be easier to get a job working for tips and minimum wage at the local pizza joint, but being an entrepreneur can have greater rewards and flexibility if they are self-disciplined.
10. Create your accounting system and possibly a legal entity. A sole-proprietorship will probably be sufficient unless this is a high-risk business like bungee jumping. However, an accounting system will be critical and it's a great time for your student to learn the basics of QuickBooks.
I can't explain in words how rewarding it's been for me working on this project that past two months with my son. Getting him and his business ready for college has truly brought us closer together in a different way. We have had so many exciting and fun conversations about business ownership and talking about my college days when I owned a small business.
Be confident and explore this idea with your child as soon as possible. Time is of the essence. I have seen many parents and children bond through the experience of starting a business and having an activity that brings a common vision and purpose.
In my opinion, these are the real classroom experiences of college: being out in the community doing business.
By the way, if you're planning a wedding in southern Idaho this fall, I may have the perfect guy to video your reception. I promise the proceeds will go towards tuition.
The author is an Entrepreneur contributor. The opinions expressed are those of the writer.
Mark J. Kohler, a certified public accountant in Irvine, Calif., is a partner in the accounting firm Kohler & Eyre, and the law firm Kyler, Kohler, Ostermiller, & Sorensen LLP, specializing in business, estate and tax. He is the author of What Your CPA Isn't Telling You from Entrepreneur Press.