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Start It Up: The Complete Teen Business Guide to Turning Your Passions Into Payby Kenrya Rankin
Chapter 1: Entrepreneurial You
If youre like most teenagers, youre being pulled in a million directions.
Between keeping up your grades, joining clubs to make your college apps
look good, and holding down a job so you can actually afford to do the fun
stuff, it can be a bit much. But what if you could combine a couple of those
things and make money by doing what makes you happy? And even better,
never again have to work at a clothing store at the mall or while away the
hours serving fries at the fast food spot on the corner. What if, instead, you
could design your own brilliant fall line of clothing and sell it to your
classmates? Or bake your world-famous chocolate chip cookies for a profit
instead of giving them to your freeloading friends for nothing? Turns out
you can—by becoming an entrepreneur.
What Is an Entrepreneur?
An entrepreneur is basically someone who comes up with a great idea for a business
and then makes it happen.
The recipe is simple:
1. Find something you love to do.
2. Figure out how to make money on it.
3. Work hard to pull it off.
Theres no better time than the present to start your own business. And the
best part is that the skills youll learn from running your own company
could keep you from ever having to work a 9 to 5.
Starting a business means taking notes—lots of them. So as you read, have a
notebook or computer nearby. Every time you see this icon , you need to take some
notes or do some brainstorming. The info you jot down is essential to shaping your
vision and helping you to create a business plan (more about that in Chapter 3).
Are You an Entrepreneur?
First things first: Do you have what it takes to run your own business? There are as
many different types of entrepreneurs as there are companies, and part of the fun of
doing your own thing is figuring out what methods work best for you. Listed here
are ten traits that many successful entrepreneurs share. The more of them you
possess, the easier things will be in the beginning. If youre short on these qualities
but still want to have your own business, know that owning a business can actually
teach you some of these things.
You have a passion. Whether its making your own jewelry, cutting hair,
playing video games, working on old cars, or something else completely, theres at
least one thing you love to do in your free time. The most successful entrepreneurs
find a way to do what they love for cash so they actually enjoy their work.
Youre not afraid of hard work. Yeah, it might suck a little, but you know that
if you dig in, you can accomplish any task, whether its banging out an essay for
English class or getting up at 5 am each and every day for swim team practice. The
ability to work hard will help you handle all the difficult things that can come with
starting a company.
You have an independent spirit. While you probably work well in groups, you
also thrive when working alone. No matter how many people eventually join your
staff, there will be plenty of things that you have to handle yourself, which might
mean spending late nights designing websites in your room after you finish your
homework. But thats cool because you enjoy the feeling of completing a task on
Youre good at planning. You are excellent at setting goals and figuring out the
steps you need to take to get there. At school, you know that turning in an A+ paper
means picking a topic, researching it, writing it, and proofreading it. So you start two
weeks before the due date and put yourself on a step-by-step schedule to get it all
done in time. Youll use this skill to plan all the specifics of your company.
You manage money well. Youre not rich by any stretch, but you do know
how to stretch a dollar. When you get $50 in a birthday card, you spend half and
save the rest, rather than blowing it all on video games and who knows what. Plus,
you know how to get the most for each buck you do decide to spend, so youll be
great at handling your companys finances and reinvesting in your business.
Youre a good communicator. You enjoy (at least somewhat) talking to other
people—in person, on the phone, or online—and youre pretty good at getting your
point across in writing, too.
Running a company means maintaining open lines of communication with people,
whether its with your employees and clients or potential customers and investors,
so its important that you feel comfortable doing that.
You multitask with ease. If juggling a million things effortlessly were an
Olympic sport, youd win the gold. Meet with your chemistry study group? OK. Load
the dishwasher? No problem. Talk your friend through a family crisis? Youre all
over it. You can do it all and do it all well. And thats a good thing because running a
business means that youll have a lot of things to manage each day.
You can ask for help. While youre quite capable of making things happen on
your own, youre good at recognizing when you need to bring in the reinforcements,
and youre not afraid to raise your hand for assistance. Being able to lean on your
parents and friends will help you get around the barriers that will inevitably pop up
on your road to success.
Youre not too modest. You know how to talk up yourself and your pursuits
when the time is right. That doesnt mean youre an arrogant jerk—that wont get
you anywhere. But whether its in a scholarship essay or on a phone call with your
rich aunt, you can speak up about what makes you amazing when it counts most.
This quality will help you tell prospective investors and clients why they need to
give you their money and would-be staffers why they should work for you. No one
will know just how great your product or service is if you dont tell them.
You know how to take charge. You dont automatically have to be in charge of
every group project at school or run your crew of friends, but if youre put at the
helm of something, you have the uncanny ability to take the lead and bring people
together. You rock at inspiring others to work toward a common goal, and that will
be key in gathering support for your company and managing a staff, should you
choose to hire one.
Whats Your Goal?
People have different reasons for starting businesses. Whats yours? Figuring out
exactly why you want to start your own business will go a long way toward making
it happen. Do you want to earn enough money to pay for college? Just want to clear
enough cash to finance your video game habit? Or are your goals more career
oriented? Perhaps you hope to get experience rebuilding computer systems so you
can work for a major tech company as an adult or you think that starting a
photography business now, even if you dont make big bucks, will help you secure a
great gig down the line. Or maybe you need a creative outlet to channel all the
thoughts bouncing around in your head or you see a need that you can fill.
High school friends Josh Abramson and Ricky Van Veen created CollegeHumor
.com in 1999 because they wanted an easy way to keep track of all the funny
pictures and videos their friends were sending each other while everyone was away
at college. Their site became one of the top comedy websites on the internet, and
they went on to launch two MTV shows and various other related businesses. Pull
out your notebook and brainstorm all the things youd like to gain from running
your own company. Later on, in chapters 6 and 9, youll revisit these notes to see if
youre on track.
Whats in It for You?
Running your own business—as opposed to working for someone else—can be
challenging, but it has amazing rewards. Here is a short list.
• More independence. Running a business is really about running your life.
Most teenagers spend a good portion of their time being told what to do by
everyone they know—parents, teachers, coaches—but when you run your
own business, youre the boss. You set your hours, you call the shots.
• More money. Who doesnt want more cash? When you have your own
business, you have the potential to make more money than at a minimum
wage job because you price your product and you decide how many hours
you want to work. So you can take on as many clients as you can fit around all
your other stuff to make the extra cash to, say, download a ton of music.
• More fun. Rather than suffering through abuse from the shin-kickers at the
shoe store and coming home smelling like synthetic leather, you can make
money doing what you actually enjoy. Why waste time doing something you
hate just to bring home a paycheck?
• More experience. Owning a business is an amazing way to prepare for your
future. For instance, cutting your friends hair after school will get you
ready to run your own salon. And even if you decide to do something
completely different after college, the skills that you develop while
managing a company—project supervision, marketing, dealing with
finances—will help you succeed in any field.
What Will Make It Tough
Of course, having your own business isnt all fun and games. It does come with some
obstacles, especially for young people. Here are a few of them.
• It can be hard to find the time to get it started. Youre probably already super
busy. Starting and running a business takes no small amount of time. Youll
have to adjust your schedule to make it work. But hey! If you can squeeze in
15 hours slinging smoothies at the mall every week, you can use that time to
work on your own stuff.
• You might need help. Sometimes you might have to go to the adults
in your life and ask them to help you open a bank account, loan you money,
or assist you with legal documents that you cant file unless youre over 18. It
might be a little annoying that you cant do it all on your own, but asking for
help isalso a great way to get your parents involved in your life (or at least
thats what you should tell them when youre pleading for a fifty).
• Old people dont always trust young people. Because of your age, there is
always going to be someone who doesnt take you as seriously as he should.
Its not a reflection of your skill or ability; it just means you have to work a
little harder to get some people to patronize your business. And if there are
adults—or even people your own age—who refuse to do business with you,
forget about them. There are other potential customers out there just waiting
to give you their money. Concentrate on building your product, and the
people who were initially down on you may even come around.
• You could be broke for a little while. While youll get a paycheck after flipping
burgers for a week or two, it could take months before you see a profit from
your business grilling burgers for outdoor events. Hopefully, your parents
will be so proud of you for taking initiative that theyll help you out until you
start raking it in. If not, make sure to save up some money before taking the
Figuring Out Your Biz
As you consider what kind of business you want to start, you should first ask
yourself: “How can I get people to pay me to do the things I love to do?” The best
way to figure that out is to identify those things. Start now by writing down all of
the things you are passionate about.
Now look at your list. Which of those things do people really need? You may need to
be creative in your thinking. For instance, you might be the fastest texter around,
but thats not going to make you any money. However, you might be able to work as
a freelance blogger or a typist. And while youll never get paid for petting the dogs at
the park, you can totally start a business walking them for your busy neighbors.
Now go back to your list and, next to each passion, jot down an idea or two of how it
might make you money. As long as you can see someone digging crumpled dollar
bills out of their jeans and handing them over, youre on the right track.
Quiz! Finding Your Niche
Already got an idea for the company you want to start? Great! If you need a little help
figuring out what type of business is right for you, take this quiz.
1. Its time to join a homecoming committee. You pick:
a. Decorations. You cant wait to turn the gym into a winter wonderland!
b. Cleanup. You like to put stuff back in order.
c. Entertainment. You can make the schools sound system sound like Madison Square Gardens.
d. Setup. You can build the platform for the homecoming court with your eyes closed.
2. Its Saturday, and you finally have time to hang out. You:
a. Grab your camera and hit the park to look for something Facebook worthy.
b. Help your friend plan a killer date for later that night.
c. Set up the new HDTV you picked out for your family.
d. Go to the gym and lift weights, enjoying the burn.
3. Your dad is yelling for your help. He wants you to:
a. Pick out a tie to go with his outfit; you always know which colors pop best.
b. Babysit your little sister; who always has so much fun with you.
c. Help him program the DVR; youre the only one who gets it.
d. Put together the new bookcase since youre so good with your hands.
4. When you were little, your favorite toy was a:
a. Plastic microphone. You couldnt wait to sing in sold-out venues.
b. Doll-sized stethoscope. Fixing your stuffed animals boo-boos made you feel good.
c. Microscope. You loved the idea of this whole other world that you couldnt see without a slide.
d. Kickball. Even then, you liked to be in constant motion.
5. Your favorite cell phone app is called:
a. Artists Touch. It lets you turn your pics into a work of art.
b. LifeTimer. It helps you keep up with all of your volunteer commitments.
c. Code Sleuth. On the off chance that you dont know what a particular Mac error code means, this app fills you in.
d. Virtual Trainer. You can get your workout on anywhere.
6. If there were a book about your life, it would be called:
a. Fabulous! A Creative Mind is a Wonderful Thing to Flaunt
b. Help! The Story of the Teen Who Loved to Take Care of People
c. Ping! A Digital Life is a Life Well-Lived
d. Move! How Far I Got by Refusing to Stand Still
7. Your favorite class is:
a. Drama. You enjoy creating new characters every day.
b. Social studies. You love to learn about the world and how we can make it a better place.
c. Computer lab. You feel like youre actually learning something!
d. Wood shop. You love showing the class how its really done.
8. In your favorite daydream, you are:
a. Moving the world with your art.
b. Winning the Nobel Peace Prize.
c. Proving that life exists on Mars.
d. Completing construction on the countrys tallest building.
9. Your favorite color is:
a. Wait, do you have to pick just one?
b. Green. Its just so soothing and mellow.
c. Gunmetal gray, just like all your gear.
d. Black or white. Theyre straightforward.
10. When your parents want to do something special for you, they:
a. Pass you the credit card and let you go crazy at the art supply store.
b. Make a donation in your name to your fave charity.
c. Give you the cash to update your operating system.
d. Give you free rein to track down the source of that grinding sound under the hood.
If you got mostly As, youre ...
Forget marching to the beat of your own drum: Youre simultaneously playing the
drum, wearing a uniform you designed yourself, singing your own lyrics, and taking
pictures of your journey. Whether you deal in words, beats, colors, fabrics, or
something no one else has ever dabbled in before, your creativity turns everything
you touch into a work of art. You find inspiration in everything, and you know how
to use it. You can channel your love of all things artsy by considering a business in:
Clothing design. Do you make one-of-a-kind threads? Stop being stingy and share
your designs with the masses.
Magazine publishing. Are you in love with the written word? Put together your own
online zine and tell the world about your fondness for indie movies or old school
Photography. Have you got an eye for a great picture? Be the official photographer
at your friends b-day parties and get a contract to take shots at school football
Jewelry making. Is everyone always asking where you get your funky earrings?
Create a few more pairs and make a killing.
Comic book creation. If you have a knack for writing and drawing, creating graphic
novels could be your thing.
Room decorating. Everybody knows that your room is the most fabulous one in the
neighborhood. Bring your knack for decorating to your classmates abodes.
Card design. Do you never see just the right card at the store? Create your own line
and sell them online and at school.
Graphic design. Put your artistic talent to good use and create flyers and posters for
the bands in your school.
Baking. Your red velvet cupcakes are too good to keep all to yourself. Bake them for
your friends parties and family functions.
DJing. Turn a buck off your hot iPod playlists; no one should enjoy all that musical
goodness for free!
If you got mostly Bs, youre ...
Calling you a “people person” doesnt do you justice. Youre a rockstar when it
comes to assessing the needs of others and finding ways to assist, and the people in
your sphere trust you with their lives. Your spot-on advice is invaluable to those
around you. So whether someone is asking how to plan an amazing birthday party
or how to get to the other side of an argument with their BFF, they know you can
help. It only makes sense to build a company that incorporates aspects of service.
You should consider a business in:
Babysitting. Why should your parents get to keep all of your yummy meal-making,
ankle biter-taming babysitting skills for themselves?
Hair styling. Your friends benefit from your haircutting skills. Why wouldnt
Sickie services. Who makes better chicken noodle soup than you? No one! Deliver
homemade soup—and DVDs, books, and cough medicine—to sick people in your
Tutoring. Help your classmates ace their finals or teach kids at the elementary
school how to navigate the peril that is Miss Schumakers fifth grade English class.
House sitting. Water the plants, take care of pets, and collect the mail when your
neighbors are away.
Closet organizing. Use your Zen gift to declutter your friends spaces.
Wardrobe stylist. You always look like you just walked off a runway;
help your less stylish peers get their game up.
Party planning. Your birthday party is consistently the most ridiculous one of the
year. Spread the love!
Errand running. Do the old and infirm in your area a favor; run their errands and
handle their shopping when they cant.
Pet walking. From little dogs that look like cats to the occasional iguana, you can
walk them or care for them when the owners are too busy.
If you got mostly Cs, youre ...
You can take a complicated concept like molecular physics and break it down like a
hip-hop remix. Your web page has the hottest layout this side of the Mississippi
(from scratch, none of that cut-and-paste stuff for you), and youre both a Mac and a
PC. So its no surprise that when the adults in your life need help putting music on
their iPods or your best friend needs the code to unlock unlimited lives on the latest
hot Xbox 360 game, youre the one they call. Use your technical prowess to make
your fortune and consider a business in:
Website creation. Use videos and blogs to design amazing websites for your friends
bands, zines, and photography galleries.
Video editing. Help your friends
turn their random video moments into viral masterpieces.
Computer repair. Replacing hard drives and adding memory may
freak other folks out, but its all in an afternoons play for you.
Video game tournaments. Organize contests for your die-hard gaming friends and
charge an entry fee.
Software installation. Upgrade operating systems for people with outdated
computers—and computer skills.
Tech lending library. You buy the hot games, CDs, and DVDs as soon as they hit the
market. Lend them out for a fee and recoup your investment.
Software tutorials. Teach kids and grandpas to use word-processing programs and
Data backup. People always say theyre going to back up their data, but no one does.
Do it for them—and charge a fee.
System installation. Youve never seen a sound system, car radio, or intercom you
Equipment rental and sales. You have more computer mice and RCA cables than you
know what to do with. Rent them out (or sell them) and rake in the dough.
If you got mostly Ds, youre ...
The Handy One
Youre no stranger to hard work, and youre happiest when youre using your hands.
It started even before wood shop; you were the kid who built a fort in the backyard
with stuff scavenged from the garage. If your uncle is moving, he knows you will
happily help out. And that entertainment center your mom bought that came in a
million pieces? Thats all you. You love seeing the concrete results of your labor.
Even if youre not amazing at every sport, it just feels good to move your body every
day, and youre not afraid to break a sweat or get a little dirty to do it. Itll be easy to
start a business that capitalizes on being physical. You should consider a business
Landscaping: You love being outdoors, and youve been doing yard work your whole
life. Take this show on the road.
Moving service: You do it for your loved ones; why not get paid for schlepping
around all those boxes? (Remember: “Thank-you pizza” doesnt count as pay!)
Personal training: Perfect form in the gym comes easy to you. Help your less toned
friends get it.
Furniture assembly: Put together countless pieces of Scandinavian-made fake wood
using one little Allen wrench. No problem.
Personal coaching: Use your crazy football skills to help young folks make the teams
at their schools.
Snow removal: Hat? Check. Gloves? Check. Shovel? Check! Youre ready
to go clear some walks and dig out some cars for cash.
Cleaning service: You have an affinity for making stuff sparkle. Put
it to good use.
Car repair: You know youre good with cars, so make your friends cough up some
dough when you get their clunkers running.
House painting: Inside or out, give you a bucket of paint, a few rollers and a ladder,
and you can make a space look like new.
Skateboard and bicycle repair: Your skater and BMX friends are always busting their
equipment, but you can put it back together better than it was before.
More Than One Type
If you read all the descriptions, youll notice that there is some overlap among categories. Dont be afraid to cross lines. There are no hard rules; just do what will
make you happy. Maybe you got mostly As, but youre actually more of a creative
helper. Instead of designing your own clothing line, your best bet might be to help
homeless women get back into the workforce by putting together snazzy interview
outfits for them using clothing donations and thrift store finds. Or maybe the quiz
says you should be a helper because its something youre good at, but youd really
rather run video game tournaments. Do it! (Just because youre good with your little
siblings doesnt mean you have to devote your career to changing diapers.)
Before we go any further, take a second to cement the idea for your company. Then,
write down your company concept. Be as specific as possible; youll be referring to
it throughout the book.
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