Teach Kids Business Lessons Early

I read an article a couple weeks ago encouraging parents to use lemonade stands as an early lesson on how businesses function (sorry I can’t find the link). It got me thinking about my Dad and the ways he encouraged my entrepreneurial spirit from an early age. He’s started two companies in his lifetime, one successful and one less so, and seeing he’s always been my biggest role model (except when I was 12-16, when everything he did embarrassed me, sorry Dad it was just puberty) I always viewed owning your own business as the ultimate success.

Coincidentally, the first way he got me interested in and taught me about running a business was by helping me set up my own lemonade stand. I was instantly hooked. Between the ages of 8-11, I was somewhat of a lemonade stand mogul; I would go over to friend’s houses and convince them that we should spend the day running a stand (my house was in a terrible location for the cutthroat lemonade business, so I had no choice but to have business partners). I can even remember doing some very basic A/B testing: trying different prices, different cup sizes, offering discounts for bulk purchases, selling other drinks besides lemonade as well as having food and even trying different lemonade brands. Its pretty funny looking back at it but there is no denying the profound impact these early experiences had on my views about how to make money.

As I got older I continue to pursue avenues of self-employment. After I felt I had conquered the lemonade stand world (only joking, I probably ran ~10 lifetime) I decided it was time to move onto bigger and greener pastures. My next idea had no costs, so everything was pure profit; “The Golf Ball Club”. Not the most original name but it made sense, as my friends and I would collect lost golf balls at our local course and then re-sell them in the parking lot to players.

We would charge anywhere between $1-$5 dollars a ball depending on the condition and the brand. Unfortunately we were taking business away from the course pro shop and after about a month they told us we had to stop or they would permanently ban us from the course grounds. Looking back at it now we should have made a deal with the pro shop and sold directly to them, but the thought didn’t cross our minds because we were so young, and apparently the owners didn’t have the business sense to notice an opportunity.

Between the lemonade stands and “The Golf Ball Club” I realized that I enjoyed making money probably more than I enjoyed spending it, and so I continued to devise moneymaking avenues as I got older. Rather than write a whole bunch about them I’ll just create a short list:

  • Used Kazaa to burn and sell CD’s to friends [middle school]
  • Taught private tennis lessons using local courts [middle school]
  • Setup Diablo 2 script allowing game to play while I was AFK, and then selling the items found on Ebay [high school]
  • At summer sports camps I would buy Gatorades in bulk at home and then sell them for less than the camp store to the other campers [high school]
  • Would cook meals for special occasions (valentines day, anniversaries, birthdays etc.) [college]
  • Buy items for cheap at end of year, store them and resell at the start of the following year [college]

The point of this post was two fold: first, I enjoy reminiscing about this stuff because it amuses me to reflect on the various ways I’ve made money. Secondly and more importantly, I want to encourage parents to think about ways that they can teach their children about how running a business works. I believe that my Dad’s encouragement to run that first lemonade stand and his unwavering support and enthusiasm for my other hustles was instrumental in shaping my views about making money and cultivating my entrepreneurial spirit. I managed to avoid working traditional “jobs” until college because I found creative ways to earn cash. As an added bonus, I found these alternative paths more enjoyable and rewarding for me.

In todays world of collaborative consumption there are more ways then ever for people to earn some extra money and the potential to empower themselves to be their own bosses. The sooner people become familiar and comfortable with that idea, the sooner they can take advantage of it. As always please share your thoughts in the comments section!