About a year ago, I offered my teen a business.
She’d been heavily into hip-hop and dance at the time. She’d flown around Canada to attend workshops, had landed an instructor job at a studio and was very enthusiastic about this hobby. I wanted to encourage her and help her reach her ambitions.
So I casually dropped the offer.
If my teen did the homework of scoping out a place to hold classes and drafted up a business plan that looked fairly viable, I’d help her plan, promote and start her own dance studio business. I’d give her a website to help her market and take registrations, and she could do the rest. It wouldn’t be hard to get a good start-up going… a little décor, some dance accessories to sell, a good marketing plan and she’d be set.
Here’s what I was thinking: My teen could learn how to operate and manage an income-generating business based on something she loved to do anyways with a complete safety net (me) at her back. She could benefit from a wealth of valuable experience, tools and lessons that would set her up for life.
It wasn’t a crazy idea, either. I’d thought it out and figured it would cost about $4,000 to start her up, which really isn’t that much when it’s spread over several months on a credit card. She could even start paying me back within just a couple of months through sales and the income her students would generate.
I didn’t think much of the offer at the time, though – it just seemed like a logical thing to offer. I thought it only made sense to want my daughter to have business skills that would help her learn, grow and be self-sufficient later in life.
But I realized that not many people tend to think the same way I do. They don’t realize that they could offer their teens a great opportunity through letting them have the experience of planning and starting a small business.
Why not? If you have a son who loves guitar, he could probably turn his hobby into paying gigs with a good website that helps him market for weekend events around town. Your daughter could turn her makeup obsession into a consulting blog and suggest colors and styles to others.
Why do we wait so late in life to give our children beneficial learning experiences? We expect them to choose a career and go for it… but we don’t expect them to want their own business. Why is this? Entrepreneurship can become the basis of a successful future, if we’d encourage it more with our children as a viable career path.
Learning entrepreneurship can definitely give teens a valuable advantage for the future. They get a savvy edge that comes from figuring out how to attract customers or manage money. They learn how to create business plans and marketing campaigns. They learn how to find opportunity, how to recognize it and how to take advantage of it. They learn that with a business comes responsibility and that their hard work has a direct relation to their success.
And they learn pride – pride in the effort that goes into creating something and working towards its success.
Will they make mistakes? Of course. That’s expected. We all make mistakes and screw up, no matter how old or experienced we are. But our mistakes teach us persistence and determination. Resilience. Flexibility. And of course, what not to do next time and what we could’ve done differently.
Will they fail? Maybe. Investing in your teen means taking a risk, and you need to be ready to lose the money you put in. But it’s a calculated risk, not a whim. And it’s one worth taking because it could set your teen up for life.
It’s also no different than you taking your own business risks. You allow yourself those, right?
The experience of planning, preparing and starting a business teaches your teen important lessons that carry forth through his or her whole life – and that happens even if the business doesn’t work out or your teen loses interest. It’s a win-win either way, the way I see it. Successes, mistakes, failures and life lessons are the foundation of what makes us who we are as adults.
And the more we face life and meet it head on, the better we become as people.
I’m sure you’re wondering if my teen took advantage of my business offer – and the answer is that no, she didn’t.
But she thought about it for months. She wrote up a business plan and thought about what she’d do for promotion. She had marketing strategies in place and we had some great business discussions on ways to help her studio be successful. She had nearly everything ready to actually open up shop and turn a profit within just a couple of months.
Instead, she decided on another path, one that fit her future life goals even more. But she’d learned a great deal on how to plan, prepare and market her eventual services when she reaches the moment when she’ll be ready to do business.
I’m interested in your thoughts on the subject of teens and entrepreneurship. Would you give your teen a business? Do you think it’s beneficial for teens to learn business skills before becoming adults? How best would you prepare your teen for the future?