Looking for a Business Partner?

Some teen entrepreneurs say success runs in the family--so consider bringing them on board to help with your business.
This story appears in the July 2003 issue of Startups. Subscribe »
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Being a 'trep is an exciting adventure. It starts with recognizing a money-making opportunity and creating an innovative business concept. Then comes research, planning and lots of decision-making.

One of the most important decisions you will make is whether to run the business alone or find a partner or partners to share the work. So where do you start looking for those special people?

From the moment Chad Kennedy decided to start Teen Scene, an online teen magazine, he knew it would take a whole staff of dedicated people to accomplish his goal. "We hope to be the number-one teen Web site by early 2004," says 16-year-old Kennedy, who has operated his site from his home in Wheatfield, Illinois, for the past three years.

Realizing he needed help, Kennedy's first step was to call a family meeting. Five people showed up--two cousins, his parents and his sister, Trish. "I wanted a print magazine, but since I had no funding, an online magazine was my best choice," says Kennedy. "My family thought it was a great idea, so we spent most of the first meeting discussing what to put on the Web site. Then we decided how each person would help and how we would structure the staff."

Kennedy's teenage cousins and sister volunteered to start writing articles. His parents would act as "sounding boards" for ideas. Kennedy, everyone agreed, was the editor in chief who would handle the responsibility of enlisting more staff, overseeing the writing and launching the Web site when it was ready. Everyone would report to Kennedy with their assignments.

Planning for the e-zine began in late 1999. On May 10, 2000, the premiere issue went live; now the site attracts 150,000 unique visitors each month, and it takes 16 people to do all the work. However, Teen Scene remains a family-operated business with all staff positions on the business side of the magazine filled by family members.

Avoiding Sibling Squabbles
Although many young entrepreneurs like Kennedy choose family members for business partners, working with a sibling or a parent isn't always easy. Nick Skolness, who several years ago founded Gourds Galore with his sister, Lindsay, has this advice for other family business owners: "You can't fight while you're working," says Nick, 15, whose Lakewood, Colorado, company sells home décor items made from gourds. "It's just not the right place." Disagreements should be settled in private after the work is done, he says.

A strong friendship is necessary to do business together, adds Lindsay, 17. "You can't let little brother-sister things get in the way."

Alicia and David Templin, another successful brother-sister business team, agree with the Skolnesses. "We have learned that we always need to be there for each other," says 17-year-old Alicia. She and her brother, David, have operated an award-winning graphic arts business in Arlington, Texas, for more than four years.

David, 15, believes they work well together because each respects the other's strengths and abilities. "When we work at parties, I do the face painting and clay, and my sister does caricatures of the children." Although they often enter the same art contests, competing against one another for prizes, Alicia and David help each other by brainstorming ideas together, offering advice and support.

Structuring Success
Kennedy believes the key to successfully working together with family is a solid structure. "Every person on the magazine staff has a specific job description that tells exactly what they do," explains Kennedy. "I e-mail or call them, explain their responsibilities, and give them a list of deadlines." To make sure everyone understands the structure of the staff, Kennedy posts the staff box on the site where it is easy to see.

"I enjoy talking with my sister about new ideas and plans for the Web site," says Kennedy. "I believe we are right on track for achieving our goals for 2004, and I'm glad my family has been with me all the way."

Are you looking for the right person to help launch your venture? Don't forget to consider the fact that success just may run in your family.

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Edition: October 2016

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